Welcome to Bootcamp Week! The Calgary Flames 2022-23 officially hit the ice for the first time on Thursday and play their first pre-season game on Sunday. As one of the most amazing camps in team history, here are five events to watch over the next three weeks.
Does Huberdeau play with Lindholm?
When Calgary acquired Jonathan Huberdeau in July, my initial thought was that we would immediately see him slide into the top slot on the team’s left flank along with Elias Lindholm. That’s still what I would expect two months later, but coach Daryl Sutter mentioned the need to see if Huberdeau is better suited to play for Lindholm or newcomer Nazim Kadri.
I definitely wonder if we see some experiences in the early stages of camp. For example, a year ago, Flames started with Johnny Goudreau on one line with Sean Monahan, while Matthew Tkachuk and Lindholm were on another. In the first game of the regular season, the trio of Lindholm, Tkachuk, and Goudreau were ready to rock for what would have turned out to be a great year.
Did Sutter put Lindholm and Huberdeau together on a streak from the start? Is this something developing around the camp? Or does the head coach decide that Huberdeau is best suited to take on another position? I think the Huberdeau-Lindholm duo has crazy potential, but things don’t always go the way we think.
How do the rest of the advanced groups group together?
With so many new faces up front to line up with a pair of important departures, the intrigue surrounding Calgary’s front groups is as loud as ever. The Flames are deeper in the center as they have been in years, but they have a few things to work on on the wings. That’s why I like the idea of building around a few front pairs.
From there, Calgary will have the ability to plug and play suites like Tyler Toffoli, Dillon Dubé and even PTO as well as Sonny Milano on different lines to see how things fit. But that’s just me. Everyone seems to have a slightly different opinion of what they’d like to see from the front groups, which will make this a fun story to follow during camp.
Is Mackenzie signed and jealous of a pre-season extension?
As Weegar gets used to his new mates in Calgary, his contract status will likely be the biggest off-ice story during camp. I’ve been saying for a while I think a deal will be struck and I’m sure it will. I know Weegar and his camp would like to sign for the long haul, and Flames would like to lock up a key member of a commerce that defines the franchise.
So we now have two questions. What does this deal look like? Sportsnet’s Elliott Friedman suggested somewhere in the eight-year range at $6.5 million last week, so there is your own soccer field. And when does the deal happen? I’m sure both sides would love to do this before the regular season starts, but it shouldn’t be a deal breaker on both sides.
With whom does he play and get jealous?
No team has had the consistency of their defensive doubles like the Flames did last season. The Calgary regular duo ranked in the top ten in minutes played together in five-on-five, something no other team could say. That could happen again, but Weegar’s addition likely means changes are coming in the top four.
Body versus body, Flame is searching in and jealous of Eric Gudbranson. But, with no intent of disrespect, Gudbranson was completely slotted into Calgary’s third pair. Weegar, on the other hand, is a true top four striker and should end up in the first or second pair. This raises some fun and wonderful questions.
Weegar is a right shot that can play to the left side, which makes it a little easier to pair him with Tanev or Andersson. So will that drop Kylington to the third pair with Zadorov? If so, is Calgary comfortable with one of the third pair d-men playing the other side? How much did Taniv support Kylington last year? And how does PTO Michael Stone, right to fire himself, factor in the equation? I can’t wait to see how this will play out during camp and maybe into the regular season.
Does the potential customer pay to play at playtime?
The 2022 Young Stars Classic has been completed, and now we see if either of the potential teams can carry the momentum from Penticton to the main camp. Jacob Pelletier, Cole Schuendt, and possibly Walker Dewhere seem to have the best chance of paying for a place, but it won’t be easy.
After a tepid start, I thought Pelletier put in his best game to wrap up the Young Stars on Monday. On the other hand, both Schwindt and Duehr were quietly effective in all three of their games. But with Milan and Cody Eakin coming to camp on the PTOs and the rumored signing of Brett Ritchie, too, the competition for NHL roster spots will intensify.
ONE PERSON TO WATCH IT: In the first round of 2020, pick Conor Zare. I don’t think there is a way for Zary to get the big team out of camp, but I thought it was the best potential Flames team over the weekend in Penticton. Zare looks like he’s made a move for the season and if he can carry that into the main camp, maybe we’ll see him take a long look before the season inevitably begins with the AHL Wranglers.