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Bennett heads NHL.com's list of top 10 Flames prospects

Monday, 25.08.2014 / 8:48 AM / Future Watch
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Bennett heads NHL.com\'s list of top 10 Flames prospects
Center Sam Bennett, the fourth pick at the 2014 NHL Draft, is considered the Calgary Flames\' top prospect by NHL.com.

Not since Craig Conroy was scoring in bunches have the Calgary Flames had a legitimate top center in the organization.

Solid drafting and a deep pool of prospects have certainly changed that.

"I am clearly biased so I don't like talking about our pool of prospects, but I do think we have a lot of young skilled offensive guys, and after years of not having a No. 1 center feel we have a lot of depth at the position now," Flames director of amateur scouting Tod Button said. "We hope that one or more emerge as bona fide top guys. We feel we also have depth at every position."

The Flames chose one of the finest centers available in the 2014 NHL Draft with the selection of Sam Bennett with the No. 4 pick. Still, the organization is in no rush to stick Bennett into the lineup as an 18-year-old despite the fact there is an opportunity for many young players to join the club.

"My expectation, quite frankly, is I'm preparing myself for Sam to be a junior player this year," Flames general manager Brad Treliving said. "Sam's going to have to make the team and he's going to have to make a real compelling case to be here. We're looking for players, so don't think because you're a young player that there's not opportunity. You're going to have to earn it, but there's an opportunity."

Here's a look at the Flames' top 10 prospects, according to NHL.com:

1. Sam Bennett, C

How acquired: 1st round (No. 4), 2014 draft

Last season: 57 GP, 36-55-91, Kingston, OHL

Bennett, 18, was named a finalist for the Red Tilson Trophy, awarded to the Ontario Hockey League's most outstanding player, after a breakout 2013-14 season that saw him lead Kingston and finish ninth in the Ontario Hockey League in points. The highest-drafted player in the history of the Flames, Bennett (6-foot-1, 178 pounds) has every intention of turning the heads of the coaches during training camp in September, but will likely be returned to Kingston following his nine-game trial to open the regular season. He signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Flames on July 25.

"We think [Bennett] is a high-end, top-six forward who is going to bring offense," Button said. "The combination of him and Sean Monahan moving forward, with some of our other centers, we think it makes our future bright."

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

2. Johnny Gaudreau, LW

How acquired: 4th round (No. 104), 2011 draft

Last season: 40 GP, 36-44-80, Boston College, Hockey East; 1 GP, 1-0-1, Calgary

Gaudreau (5-9, 150), a native of Carneys Point, N.J., won the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey's best player in his third and final season at Boston College after leading the NCAA in goals, assists and points. The 21-year-old, who signed a three-year, entry-level contract in April, matched Paul Kariya's Hockey East record with a 31-game point streak last season, scoring 29 goals and 61 points over that stretch. Despite his size, the Flames managerial team is confident Gaudreau has the smarts and determination to be something very special down the road for the organization.

"We have no expectations of John this season," Button said. "He is such a unique player with his size and skill set, so it's important we let him develop properly and with the right support and structure. We will let his play determine his status. Of course we think very highly of him, but there are still lots of shark-infested waters for him to cross."

Projected NHL arrival: 2014-15

3. Markus Granlund, C/LW

How acquired: 2nd round (No. 45), 2011 draft

Last season: 52 GP, 25-21-44, Abbotsford, AHL; 7 GP, 2-1-3, Calgary

Granlund (5-11, 185) was an absolute force last season, his first in North America. He finished second in goals and power-play goals (eight) and first in shorthanded goals (two) for Abbotsford in the American Hockey League. He contributed to any line and ranked 13th in rookie scoring.

Granlund, 21, will probably spend a majority of this season in Adirondack, but he might receive a few call-ups. Button said he shouldn't solely be considered a playmaker first or shooter first; rather, Granlund takes whatever is presented to him at that moment.

"Markus had an advantage playing in the Finnish league with men and knowing what he had to do to be successful at that level in Europe and made it an easier transition," Button said. "He's a quiet kid, but determined and knows what he wants to get to."

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

4. Mark Jankowski, C/LW

How acquired: 1st round (No. 21), 2012 draft

Last season: 39 GP, 13-12-25, Providence College, Hockey East

Since hearing his name in the first round of the 2012 NHL Draft, Jankowksi, who turns 20 on Sept. 13, has steadily progressed in two seasons at Providence College in Hockey East. He improved on his offensive numbers as a freshman with the Friars when he had seven goals and 18 points. Prior to joining Providence, Jankowski (6-3, 168) had 53 goals and 94 points at Quebec's Stanstead College over two seasons. He was projected as a second-round pick, but the Flames saw great potential. Button said the organization remains committed to sticking with their long-term development plan for Jankowski and feels it will pay off in the future.

"You look at him now from where he was two years ago [when drafted], you can see there's still a lot of boy in him, but he's continuing to get stronger," Treliving said. "He's developing. He's maturing."

Projected NHL arrival: 2017-18

5. Emile Poirier, RW

How acquired: 1st round (No. 22), 2013 draft

Last season: 63 GP, 43-44-87, Gatineau, QMJHL; 2 GP, 2-2-4, Abbotsford, AHL

Poirier, 19, is one of those rare versatile performers capable of playing right wing despite being a left-handed shot. The 6-1, 183-pound alternate captain for the Gatineau Olympiques in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has 90 goals and 197 points in 195 games spanning three seasons. He was quite productive in two AHL games at the end of the regular season, scoring four points.

"We call him a hockey skater because he's got an incredible quickness and power right off the hop," Button said. "He's got a powerful first step. When you're playing hockey, a lot of the skating is not length of the ice, it's more about what happens in short areas, and he does have that."

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

6. Joni Ortio, G

How acquired: 6th round (No. 171), 2009 draft

Last season: 37 GP, 27-8-0, 2.33 GAA, .926 save percentage, Abbotsford, AHL; 9 GP, 4-5-0, 2.51 GAA, .891 save percentage, Calgary

Ortio (6-1, 185) finished fourth in wins, second in save percentage and sixth in goals-against average as a rookie for Abbotsford last season. The 23-year-old Finn, who was named to the AHL All-Rookie Team, signed a two-year contract with the Flames in July. He hails from the same hometown (Turku) as former Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff.

"The biggest thing for Ortio was the European style of being deep in the net," Button said. "We wanted him to work on his movement in the crease and play more upright and away from the goal line. When he went back to Finland and worked on it, he had success and was able to expand his game."

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

7. Morgan Klimchuk, LW

How acquired: 1st round (No. 28), 2013 draft

Last season: 57 GP, 30-44-74, Regina, WHL; 4 GP, 0-0-0, Abbotsford, AHL

Button believes Klimchuk (5-11, 185) possesses good hockey quickness, has speed in short areas, is effective moving side to side and capable of protecting pucks. In 201 games with the Regina Pats in the Western Hockey League, the 19-year-old has 84 goals, 187 points and a plus-27 rating. He'll likely spend one more season in the WHL before turning professional in 2015-16.

"Our evaluation of Morgan was that he is a well-rounded player that could play in any situation and can play with better players because he can move the puck, has good vision and, most of all, has good hockey sense," Button said.

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17

8. Michael Ferland, LW

How acquired: 5th round (No. 133), 2010 draft

Last season: 25 GP, 6-12-18, Abbotsford, AHL

The 6-foot, 209-pound forward has what it takes to become a prototypical power forward in the NHL. He possesses a big shot and also earned time on the power play during his tenure with the Brandon Wheat Kings and Saskatoon Blades in the WHL. He scored two power-play goals in his first season in the AHL last season. Ferland, 22, is a tenacious battler and will drop the gloves when necessary to defend a teammate. He could serve as a future second- or third-line left wing.

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17

9. Patrick Sieloff, D

How acquired: 2nd round (No. 42), 2012 draft

Last season: 2 GP, 0-0-0, Abbotsford, AHL

There's no question this season can't come fast enough for Sieloff (6-1, 201), who played two games in the AHL last season before sustaining a staph infection that required him to refrain from physical activity for almost two months while being fed through an IV. Sieloff, 20, resumed off-ice training in January 2014 and has been working hard to get back into game shape. The hard-hitting, stay-at-home defenceman is on track to play his first full pro season with Adirondack. Button confirmed to NHL.com that Sieloff has had a good summer of training and is back to 100 percent.

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17

10. Jon Gillies, G

How acquired: 2nd round (No. 75), 2012 draft

Last season: 34 GP, 19-9-5, 2.16 GAA, .931 save percentage, 4 SO, Providence College, Hockey East

A left hip injury kept Gillies (6-5, 216) from participating in on-ice activities during the team's development camp in July, but he'll return to Providence College for his junior season with an eye on helping the team claim the Hockey East conference title. Gillies, 20, dealt with his share of adversity last season. He was tabbed the starter for the United States at the 2014 World Junior Championship and struggled at times, finishing 2-2 with a 2.77 goals-against average and .892 save percentage in four games. In 12 games after the WJC, he went 4-6-2 with a 2.68 GAA and .904 save percentage for the Friars. He closed out the season strong, however, and was considered the team's best player.

"Everything went really well for him in his freshman year and [in 2013-14] he hit a little adversity," Providence coach Nate Leaman said. "Every good player is going to hit adversity at one time and I think the best thing for Jon is learning to battle through that. He's learning that when you do hit adversity, it's back to the basics, working hard every day in practice. When he does that, it carries over to the games."

Projected NHL arrival: 2017-18

Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer

2014 FLAMES PICKS
SAM BENNETT
CENTRE - CGY
Round 1 - 4th Overall
MASON MCDONALD
GOALTENDER - CGY
Round 2 - 34th Overall
HUNTER SMITH
RIGHT WING - CGY
Round 2 - 54th Overall
BRANDON HICKEY
DEFENCE - CGY
Round 3 - 64th Overall
ADAM OLLAS-MATTSSON
DEFENCE - CGY
Round 6 - 175th Overall
AUSTIN CARROLL
LEFT WING - CGY
Round 7 - 184th Overall