Friday, August 17, 2012

One To Watch: Calgary Flames

Most analysts have hammered the Flames for their drafting over the last decade or more and while it has been unconventional at times, That doesn't mean that Calgary has nothing on the way. I wrote early on last season that the Flames had more talent in the system than most gave credit for and the last couple of drafts have only added to that pool. 

Obviously big things are expected from Swiss junior star Sven Bärtschi after his successful 5-game emergency recall late last season. Not only did Bärtschi not look outclassed but he contributed three goals to the cause and has Flames fan excited for his debut this year. 

Therer was a lot of criticism lofted Calgary's way after the selection of Mark Jankowski this past June. The 43 ranked player was taken 21st overall which everyone considers a reach but look at it this way; The team has stated repeatedly that this was their player and had the Flames taken him 14th overall the outcry would have been way worse. Instead, the got their guy and added another pick which turned into Pat Sieloff, a quality defenceman. 

Forwards like Ryan Howse, Michael Ferland, Akim Alui, Max Reinhart, Coda Gordon and Bill Arnold all bring good things to the organization although none are, in my opinion, slam dunks to be NHL regulars. The real gem in the lot is pint sized collegian Johnny Gaudreau who fans will get to see much more of in the 2012 WJC playing for USA.

Patience may yet pay off with goaltender Leland Irving. While the position has been plugged at the NHL level for years by Miikka Kiprusoff, Irivng has been steadily getting better and better on the farm. Sooner or later he'll get his chance and the 24-year-old might finally be getting close.

The guy I took for this series is another masked man who, if not for being a Flames prospect, might be hated by Calgary fan because of where he's from and where he currently plays. 

Photo: Andy Devlin

Laurent Brossoit (G)

Edmonton Oil Kings
6'3, 200 lbs
Drafted 164th Overall in 2011

Born and raised in Southern B.C. and playing a key role for the WHL champion Oil Kings in Edmonton, Laurent Brossoit has strong ties to two arch-rival Calgary cities.

Brossoit was the first goalie chosen in the 2008 WHL Bantam draft and expectations have been high for him ever since that day. There is a fine line between confidence and cockiness and it would be fair to suggest 16-year-old Brossoit was more of the latter. He arrived in Oil Kings camp not only looking to earn a spot but believing that by mid-season he would supplant both Torrie Jung and Cam Lanigan.  He was sent back to Cowichan Valley of the BCHL where he was the back up and played 21 games. 

He returned to Edmonton in 2010-11 a little more subdued, maybe a bit humbled, and basically split time with Lanigan who was later traded for Jon Groenheyde. By the end of his rookie season he'd posted below average stats but showed flashed of potential.

Photo: Andy Devlin
It was enough for the Flames who selected him in the 6th round that June. It was considered a relatively weak class of goalies, especially out of the WHL, but the value of Calgary's choice has already greatly increased a year later. 

The Oil Kings began the 2011-12 season poised to make noise but much of their expected success road on the shoulders of Brossoit. I wrote last August that Brossoit was the key player on the roster and if he faltered, so would the team. But not only did Brossoit rise to the challenge, he became one of the top netminders his age in Canada. 

Edmonton went on to win the WHL title and along the way Brossoit, named as obvious playoff MVP, had performances that were hard to believe. It got to the point where if he allowed a goal on a breakaway or a deflection, pefectly good goals, it was almost a surprise that he had somehow not made the last second miraculous stop. 

Photo: Andy Devlin
Unfortunately, the Oil Kings did not play as expected at the Memorial Cup and were the first team eliminated. Brossoit was far from the only disappointment but his unexpected challenges stood out the most because any mistake ended up behind him. 

Despite his struggles in May Brossoit was still tagged by Hockey Canada for their summer goalie camp. He was one of three netminder chosen for the Canada-Russia Challege and should be considered a strong candidate for the 2013 WJC team. 

But like in Shawinigan, Brossoit's play on the big stage didn't go as planned. His one game in the series against Russia ended in a 6-5 loss. One goal bounced in off a defenceman and others were not his fault, but there are those based in other parts of the country who only know Brossoit from his play in Halifax and at the Memorial Cup.      

Photo: Andy Devlin
This will be a very big year for Brossoit. Edmonton is once again a favourite to defend their WHL crown but also to challeneg for the Memorial Cup. He'll need to re-instill confidence in Hockey Canada through strong play between now and December to insure his WJC camp invite. Then he'll have to outplay at least two other invitees to claim a roster spot and head to Ufa Russia. 

I may be a bit biased because I cover the Oil Kings on a regular basis but I have zero doubt that Brossoit will regain his form this year. The cocky 16-year-old is gone and replaced by a more mature goalie that exudes cool confidence in the net. 

It's for these reasons that I have singled out Laurent Brossoit from Calgary prospect as "One to Watch" in 2012-13.  

No comments: