The 2022-23 hockey game is officially launched as the Calgary Flames hockey season kicks off in Penticton at the Young Stars Classic. The Flame Horizons will play their Edmonton, Vancouver and Winnipeg counterparts at the South Okanagan Events Center starting tonight, September 16 at 8:30 p.m. MT.
Calgary sends out a solid list with many top potential clients. This will likely be the first chance for Flames fans to see some of these players in action.
Here are the five most interesting players to watch this weekend.
#49 Jacob Pelletier – 21 years old – 5’10″, 180 pounds – left shot – left
Jacob Pelletier He must be the best striker for Flames in the Young Stars Classic. The 2019 first round pick will be interesting to watch for this tournament as the majority of Flames fans haven’t had a chance to watch Pelletier play since the 2020 World Junior Championships. Pelletier was solid in that tournament and showed his character and leadership by comforting his teammates after their devastating loss to the Americans.
Pelletier has a legitimate chance to make the Flames this year based on how their roster is built as of September 16th. This is why this tournament is so important. Pelletier needs to take control and show the Flames that he’s too good to play in the AHL. Penticton’s strong performance will give him a head start in showing Flames’ management and coaches that he’s ready to be an NHL player. If he fails to dominate this tournament, he may put himself behind the number 8 ball.
#72 Jeremy Poirier – 20 years old – 6’1″, 190 pounds – left shot – LD
Jeremy Poirier He has the potential to become one of, if not the best defensive prospect in the Flames organization. Poirier has all the tools needed to become an advanced NHL defensive man. He’s a good skater, he has great hands and a smart attacking player. Poirier’s key will be to work on his defensive game and decide on his end. He’ll have some great teachers with the Flames organization at Calgary Wranglers, head coach for head coach Mitch Love and Flames Darryl Sutter.
I was lucky enough to witness the brawl at the Flames rookie development camp last July. Poirier was by far the best on-ice player among Flames’ prospects. He separated himself from his competitors. He was controlling the play, making smart decisions, and showing off his high-end hockey brilliance with some dazzling passes through the defender’s sleds and sticks.
Poirier has a chance in Penticton to establish himself as the best defensive prospect in the Flames system. It would be great to see if he can hold his momentum from the Memorial Cup Tour, and take over the Flames Development Camp at the Young Stars Classic.
#79 Cole Schwendt – 21 years old – 6’2″, 180 pounds – right shot – C/RW
Cole Swallows He will make his Flames debut in Penticton after being acquired by Flames in the Tkachuk/Huberdeau/Weegar trade. The right quarterback played in three National Hockey League games last season with the Florida Panthers as their team was dealing with an outbreak of COVID-19 cases.
The reason Schwindt would be great to watch is because Flames fans haven’t had the chance to watch his games when he’s in the Florida organization. There is an unknown factor in his game that is intriguing. Some draft experts and people associated with the game have suggested that there is a possibility that Schwindt could become a National Hockey League player. There is an upright spot open on Flames’ third line on the right wing. Schwindt could position himself to make some noise at Flames’ training camp with a solid performance at Penticton. Could Schwindt be a black horse candidate for making flames? There have been random prospects in the past who took a long look at a training camp like Josh Joris and Walker Dior last season as examples. Could Schwindt be that guy? Playing well at Penticton would be great for him and he would make a strong first impression with Brass Flames and fans.
#47 Conor Zare – 20 years old – 6’0″, 178 pounds – left shot – C/LW
Connor Zary It was a tough first year as a professional. He started last season with a broken ankle in a junior game against the Edmonton Oilers. That led to a rough start, and he wasn’t able to fully recover until later in the season.
It will be interesting to see how Zare views this tournament. He’s 100% healthy, and only one of the nine initial rounds chooses to participate in Young Stars. Zare is expected to be one of Calgary’s best strikers.
This is another player that Flames fans haven’t had the chance to see in action on a regular basis. He played with Pelletier at the 2019 World Junior Championships, but in a lesser role at the bottom of Team Canada’s squad. It’s hard to rate Zary from World Junior’s performance because he was one of the youngest players on the team.
This is a big development year for Zare. Getting off to a good start at Penticton can go a long way in building his confidence in his first healthy full season in the AHL.
#86 Rory Kerns – 20 – 5’11, 186 pounds – Left shot – C/LW
Rory Kerns He is an interesting prospect in Flames as he follows a similar path to hockey’s best baker, Andrew Mangiapane. They are almost identical in stature. Both were sixth picks by Calgary Flames. And they both dominated the OHL level.
The interesting thing about Kerins, like the others on this list, is that we didn’t get the chance to see him play. We know Kerns has skill and offensive flair at his game, but how does he look against better competition and around his peers? Can he continue his rapid development and stay on the same path as Andrew Mangyapan?
Kerens finished the 2021-22 season in second place in the OHL record with 118 points in 67 games. He is a skilled striker with a high IQ in hockey. His skill level can be transferred to the NHL. The only hit with his game is that he’s not currently a top-notch skater. But it’s something he can work on with his figure skating coach, Daniel Fujita.
I know that Flames fans reading this will be pissed off about Dustin Wolf’s omission. The reason why Wolff isn’t on the list is because we already know he’s one of the best goalkeepers in the NHL. There is no unknown or interesting part about Wolf for this tournament. We know he’s the best goalkeeper in the AHL, we know he’s going to start the year at Stockton and that he’ll be the best Flames goalkeeper in the tournament.
Who are some of the potential clients you are looking forward to seeing this weekend in Penticton? Let us know in the comments section!