Perhaps predictably, the talent pool in the Calgary Flames' organization is becoming a little shallow. That's what happens when you are consistently one of the top 10 teams in the National Hockey League.
Center Dustin Boyd, a fourth liner at this point, is the only significant prospect, developed by the Flames, to make an impact on the club's line-up in 2007-08. In fact you have to go way back to 1992 and Cory Stillman for the last time Calgary drafted and developed a legitimate offensive forward.
What's left is one legitimate top-six forward prospect, a goalie of the future that seems to be stuck in neutral and some talented youngsters who need a lot of time to develop.
Here are the Fantasy Hockey Network's top 5 prospects in the Calgary Flames' system heading into the 2008-09 season:
1. Mikael Backlund, C- The talented Swede was one of the most impressive players at the 2008 World Junior Championships, but only managed a puzzling 13 points in 37 games for Vasteras in the Swedish second division. Still the Flames' brass are high on the 20-year old and think his combination of skating and play-making ability will make him a legitimate top six forward in the future. Needs ice time and improved strength to reach his potential.
2. Leland Irving, G- The Flames' goalie of the future had a disappointing 07-08 season, failing to make Canada's World Junior team and falling off slightly from his dominating performance the previous season. Still Irving is technically sound and has the type of mental make-up required to succeed as a number one NHL goalie. Luckily for the Flames, Mikka Kiprusoff's long-term extension means there's no rush. Look for a couple of years in the AHL and a couple more as Kipper's apprentice before he assumes the number one role.
3. Greg Nemisz, C- The Windsor Spitfire center is big (6'3") with an NHL calibre shot and goal scorer's instincts. His 34 goals in his second OHL season give an indication of the type of player he could become at the next level. To get there, Nemisz must work on his skating and show more energy. A bit of a gentle giant at this point, the native of Courtice, Ontario will have to improve his physical play if he's going to make it in "the show".
4. Jusso Puustinen, RW- The Finnish winger has decent size and can be expected to pack some more muscle onto his 6'1" frame. While he definitely needs to be more consistent, he has shown flashes of offensive brilliance and has great skating and puck-handling ability. To succeed at the next level, Puustinen needs to work on his physical game and learn to bring his best to the rink every night.
5. Mitch Wahl, C- Wahl is smalled but very skilled. A good skater and play-maker, the 48th pick overall in the 2008 draft is also defensively responsible and is a solid penalty killer. If he can overcome his physical limitations and become more willing to go into high traafic areas, the Spokane center has a chance to a solid two-way center at the NHL level.
Next we'll look at the top fantasy prospects in the Carolina Hurricanes' organization.
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