The Calgary Flames are the first Canadian team to be reviewed.
1. Matthew Tkachuk - London Knights
Loved this pick up by the Flames. Tkachuk was the perfect selection when it comes to fitting in with what they have already built on their pro roster. Tkachuk is such a terrific player below the hash marks and he's going to create a ton of time and space for Calgary's quicker skilled forwards. His playmaking ability is just terrific and that will also help to open up ice as he draws defenders in and to give a guy like Johnny Gaudreau room to operate. The big question is, do I think he's ready to contribute next year? I think a lot will depend on the work he puts in this summer. If I was a betting man, I would place it on him needing another year in the OHL. This would allow him to get a bit quicker, continue to explore the dominance of his physical game, and become a consistently more effective player off the rush. Calgary has some great young players already and I don't see the need to rush him. If he's back in the OHL next year, London should still be a very dangerous team and Tkachuk will once again be among the league's leading scorers. If he's in the NHL, it will be for a reason and I think he'll be a 20/20 guy.
2. Andrew Mangiapane - Barrie Colts
Big fan of this young man. Yes, he's only 5'10, but he's worked hard to make himself one of the OHL's premier skaters. Couple that with how well he processes the game and you've got an incredibly dangerous offensive player who's able to beat you in a variety of ways. His OHL career has come to an end and he'll be playing in the AHL next year where I expect him to make an immediate impact. Even with the amount of talent in Calgary's pipeline, I expect him to jump into a top 6 role with Stockton and I think a 50 point year in the AHL is very possible (would have put him in the top 10 of rookie scorers from this past year).
3. Rasmus Andersson - Barrie Colts
Andersson won the scoring race among OHL defenders this year, despite failing to match his draft season output of 64 points. Despite his solid statistical season, Andersson failed to place in the top 3 of the voting for the Max Kaminsky Trophy (OHL Defender of the Year). Harsh, but valid IMO. I think the biggest step forward I saw Andersson make this year was in conditioning and I know from talking to people, he worked really hard to get his weight down and get in better shape. This was noticeable on the ice as he was more consistently involved in the play and was able to eat up greater minutes more effectively. His skating also looked better, adding a bit more explosiveness to his first few strides. This allowed him to do a better job of leading the rush and evading he forecheck. That said, I do have some concerns about how well his game translates to the NHL. I see him as an average defender at the OHL level, but I think some of his skating and defensive awareness flaws will become magnified when having to defend pro players. I also wonder how well his offensive game translates, as I'm just not sure I see him as a dominant puck rusher at the next level. We'll begin to find out next year in the AHL when he starts with Stockton. He should play right away and he could easily be a candidate for a 30 point season.
4. Tyler Parsons - London Knights
Parsons had such a great year, which was capped off with a Memorial Cup victory. He doesn't possess ideal size in the crease, but he's an incredible athlete who never gives up on plays. His mental focus is terrific for a young goaltender. Calgary already has some good young netminders in their system, but adding another is never a bad idea (given the bust rate of goalies). Heading back to London next year, Parsons should be a front runner for the OHL goaltender of the year and I'm hoping he's given an opportunity to be the starter for team USA at the WJC's. Another year with a +.920 save percentage is in the cards.
5. Stepan Falkovsky - Ottawa 67's
Calgary took a chance on this behemoth Belarussian defender who skated with the Ottawa 67's this year. Falkovsky had a very up and down year. He started off very strong, but towards the middle of the year he really struggled (and even became a healthy scratch). But his game picked up again towards the end of the year. He possesses a booming point shot and actually can be a factor in leading the rush, showcasing decent straight away speed. Defensively, he can struggle at times, both with the puck in his own end and in defending off the rush. He needs to use his size more consistently to become harder to play against. Calgary has some options on what to do with him next year. They don't have to sign him right away. He could go back to the OHL as an overager. The Flames could convince Stockton to sign him to an AHL/ECHL deal to see what he's got at the pro level. That decision will probably be made depending on how he looks at training camp. If he's back in the OHL, he'll be part of an Ottawa club that will be trying to move up in the Eastern Conference. He'll be counted on to be a top 4 defender and be an anchor on the powerplay where he should easily eclipse the 10 goal mark.
6. Riley Bruce - North Bay Battalion
Tall, lanky defender who continues to develop in North Bay under the terrific Stan Butler. Bruce remains a major work in progress, but there was some development this year. I thought his skating stride and play with the puck looked less awkward this year and as such he was more effective in his own end. He also has begun to use his size more to be a physical player, especially in front of the net. Again though, he's a work in progress. None of these attributes are NHL ready and he'll look to continue to improve this coming year. Problem is that he's not guaranteed to get more ice time next year, especially if Adam Thilander comes over. If he can get those offensive numbers up (maybe the 20 point mark), and really become a terrific defensive player, he could still earn himself a contract.