Cold openings to end this beautiful and now smoky summer. Today is a look at two choices as well as a rumour involving the Calgary Flames.
Micheal Stone agreed to a PTO yesterday. This is in it’s self a decision that raises a few questions.
Stone, who was simply brought in as an extra body to ease the load on the blue line, ended up outshining several other blue liners during the playoffs. His cannon of a shot in particular was an asset. His 7.16 hits per 60 minutes ranked him seventh on the Flames and second among defencemen — behind only Nikita Zadorov who put up 8.82/60 despite cracking multiple ribs late in the first round against Dallas. The root of his even strength numbers are a bold statement as well.
Playoffs – Micheal Stone
Games Played: 9 Time on Ice/GP: 13:02 (7th among defencemen) Goals For: 8 Goals Against: 2
Is there much more you can ask from a seventh defenseman? How much does Micheal Stone need to do to earn an increased role, or at least a regular spot on that blueline?
Which begs the question: Why has Stone not been offered a contract by any other team?
He must be happy with his situation and content with the the job security that his current situation provides. His knee issues took him from first pairing in Arizona with Oliver Ekman-Larsson to “expendable for a third round pick”.
Interesting note, the puck used to acquire Stone which was eventually acquired by Edmonton from Arizona for a late 2017 third and late 2017 fifth. The late third was the primary return the Oilers got for shipping off Nail Yakupov to St. Louis. The other asset going to the Oilers being ECHL prospect winger Zach Pochiro.
The pick the Oilers acquired was used to draft goaltender Stuart Skinner, who looks very promising.
The other professional tryout contract signed. Cody Eakin.
We have to preface this with the fact that Brad Richardson looked like an absolute burden of a contract when he signed with the Flames last offseason. He ended up being a soulful addition to the Flames.
Most importantly to the topic, Brad Richardson won faceoff at a near 60% rate last season with the Flames – 58.82%. And acknowledging that his spots were well chosen – his percentage went down to 57.28 in his last 17 games after being claimed by the Canucks — but still that percentage almost endears him to the skeptic. 57% is an excellent faceoff percentage.
Long intro, but the Flames signed former Buffalo Sabre to a professional tryout earlier this week. If you follow Sabres hockey, that’s a good thing for Sabres fans.
21-22 Regular Season Faceoff Win Percentage – Cody Eakin
The explanation may be:
21-22 Regular Season Faceoff Win Percentage – Kevin Rooney
Long time fans will remember Darryl Sutter’s deployment of Stephane Yelle. Despite his low skill and advanced age, Sutter would send Yelle out on the powerplay in order to gain possession. Cody Eakin may be utilized in a similar fashion.
Last season, Darryl Sutter swapped players in and out in the past in order to match opposition. Most notably slotting in Brett Ritchie and Micheal Stone against the Minnesota Wild during the regular season. Swapping a strong faceoff man in and swapping out one of the better penalty killers in the league may be a common occurrence in 22-23 if Cody lands a deal out of camp.
Bob Stauffer had this to report last Tuesday during an Oilers Now segment.
“I believe that Calgary is another team, and that’s where Virtanen played with the Calgary Hitmen,”
“It could be a Battle of Alberta situation. I know that there [are] some people [who] don’t want Jake Virtanen in the mix here and there [are] others that think that Jake Virtanen at a $750,000 price point on a PTO coming in to earn a contract might be worth the investment.”
If we choose to ignore the ugly situation Jake Virtanen just found himself clear of – that being his acquittal of wrongdoing in a 2017 sexual assault case by a jury of his peers — there are still reasons Jake might not be an ideal player to bring in.
He hasn’t recorded an assist in the NHL since March 4, 2020. Just to elaborate on that, Virtanen’s play had become more North-South as the 20-21 season carried on. His production and deployment were inadequate, as was his ability to work with his teammates.
This writer hasn’t been sold on Virtanen’s hockey IQ going back to his days with the Calgary Hitmen. The raw tools – a big shot, imposing 225lb 6’2” frame, and powerful stride – were enough to rank him in the top ten, but there were a lot of the same plays leading to his points. Wheeling it into the high slot and firing a slap shot bar down was a calling card. A play that he’s struggled to reproduce at the NHL level.
This all may be for nothing, as there has been no confirmed news on Virtanen signing a PTO with the Flames. Maybe Darryl Sutter could optimize Jake’s skill set as well. Virtanen is big, fast and has a lot of hockey to play still at 26. Here is a bit of tape from his 21-22 season in the KHL. He doesn’t look awful.
Flames hockey is back! Flames prospects will kick off the 2022 Young Stars Classic tournament with a game against the Canucks prospects tonight at 8:30pm MT. You can catch all the action on the Calgary Flames website. You’ll find a post-game piece on here tomorrow to go with pre-game of the Saturday night match against the Oilers prospects. The tournament concludes with a game against the Jet’s prospects on Monday.
The Calgary Flames website reported these Thursday practice lines – very likely what we’ll see for line combinations tonight.
Jakob Pelletier – Cole Schwindt – Walker Duehr
Emilio Pettersen – Connor Zary – Adam Klapka
Jack Beck – Rory Kerins – Lucas Ciona
Cole Huckins/Evan Boucher – Ilya Nikolaev – Lucas Feuk/Cooper Walker
Ilya Solovyov – Jeremie Poirier
Cole Jordan – Yan Kuznetsov
Simon Lavigne – Christoffer Sedoff
Jake Lee – Rhett Rhinehart
Vancouver’s group doesn’t look quite as polished.
Tristen Nielsen – Nils Åman – Danila Klimovich
Connor Lockhart – Michael Regish – Simon Pinard
Max Namestnikov – Carson Focht – Marc Gatcomb
Linus Karlsson – Chase Wouters – Arshdeep Bains / Cole Shepard
Justin Gill – Evan Konyen
Quinn Schmiemann – Jett Woo
Chad Nychuk – Matt Anderson
Jackson Van de Leest – Alex Kannok Leipert
Kirill Kudryavtsuv – Dylan MacPherson