As expected, the Calgary Flames have officially sent first-round pick Matt Coronato down to the Calgary Wranglers in order to get his feet back under him, and in return, we’ve seen a surprise promotion that few within the fanbase saw coming. With Dillon Dubé returning and the breakout game of Connor Zary, the widely held assumption was that the team would simply slide Dubé back into the lineup with a Dryden Hunt/A.J. Greer scratch likely, but instead, we have the emergence of 23-year old Martin Pospisil.
It was then revealed by Pat Steinberg that at practice on Friday, Pospisil took his spot alongside Mikael Backlund and Blake Coleman on the third line, with Greer coming out to make way for a Hunt-Dubé-Duehr fourth line, indicating Pospisil’s NHL debut is coming on Saturday against the Seattle Kraken.
But that begs the question, for those unfamiliar with the Wranglers or the Flames prospect board; who is Martin Pospisil, and how excited should you be for his arrival?
An overlooked prospect
Standing at 6-foot-2, 173 pounds, Pospisil, a native of Slovakia was a fourth-round pick of the Calgary Flames back in the 2018 NHL Draft, coming in at No. 105 overall, and since that point, he’s developed with the team’s AHL squad between Stockton and Calgary.
Ahead of the draft, Pospisil put together two incredible USHL seasons, notching 100 points (24 goals, 76 assists) in 93 games for the Sioux City Musketeers, but also had troubles staying out of the penalty box, with 253 and 118 penalty minutes in those two years. The biggest positive for Pospisil coming out was his size and physicality and his awareness, all of which he used to dominate at that level, but when he hit the AHL, he had many things to improve upon, including his skating and acceleration.
In the five seasons that have followed, Pospisil has developed slowly but shown great improvement, skating in 113 games for the Wranglers, posting 23 goals and 40 assists, but it’s the development over the past year that’s been most noticeable. Without Matthew Phillips, Jakob Pelletier and Walker Deuhr leading the way, more minutes opened up for him in his six games this season, and he’s taken full advantage of that, with 3 goals and 3 assists to have him at a point per game thus far.
Then there was the pre-season this year where Pospisil stood out quite a bit with 2 assists in four games, and given his size and improved skating ability, he was always going to be on the verge of his debut at the next level this season. Despite not carrying the name that any of the above players do, Pospisil has worked his way through the system, and when given consistent top-six minutes alongside their biggest prospects, he has shined, and with the Flames re-tooling, it’s the perfect opportunity for them to give time to a player not many predicted would play a big role in their future.
While Flames fans are still fired up about the explosiveness and energy that Connor Zary brought to the table in his NHL debut on Wednesday, the expectations on these young names still need to be tempered. Pospisil has the ability to be a bottom-six winger that provides excellent energy and physicality, but just because he’s replacing Matt Coronato, doesn’t mean he has the same type of skill and finishing ability.
Zary brought flashes of the best out of Nazem Kadri in his debut, but the team have opted to place Pospisil with Backlund and Coleman, famous for getting the best out of their young players, and with Mangiapane seemingly tied to Lindholm and Huberdeau atop the lineup, this is Pospisil’s chance to nail down a roster spot. Ultimately, he was never projected to be a key piece of this team’s future, and with the likes of Coronato and Pelletier expected to be back in the lineup later in the year, this could be a short call-up, but this is a player with plenty of potential alongside size and physicality, and if he’s put in a position to succeed, don’t be surprised if he makes this roster spot his own in what many believe could be a re-tooling year for Calgary.