Who should the Calgary Flames promote to the NHL next?

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 27: Adam Klapka #43 of the Calgary Flames looks on during the second period of the preseason game against the Seattle Kraken at Climate Pledge Arena on September 27, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 27: Adam Klapka #43 of the Calgary Flames looks on during the second period of the preseason game against the Seattle Kraken at Climate Pledge Arena on September 27, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images) /

The Calgary Flames 2023-24 season is still hanging in the balance, with a 3-7-1 record through their first 11 games, but over the last two games, the team have looked much, much sharper, with speed and creativity leading to nine goals over that time. So, why the sudden improvement? Neither the Dallas Stars or Seattle Kraken prevent easy opposition, so for casual viewers, the turnaround might appear as a strange coincidence, but there’s a very easy explanation: youth.

Last season under Darryl Sutter, the idea of injecting youth into the Flames lineup became almost as bad as the “rebuild” word around the organization, but this season, it’s being embraced. Yegor Sharangovich, Matt Coronato, and Walker Duehr are all playing key roles, but it’s two recent promotions over the past two games that have energized this team greatly.

Two massive inclusions

First, it was Connor Zary, who tore up the AHL this season with 10 points in the Wranglers’ first six games, and unsurprisingly, he made an immediate impact, scoring the first goal in his NHL debut, while greatly energizing the play of heavily scrutinized Nazem Kadri. In his second game against Seattle, Zary came away with an assist and was a +1 on the night. Even with the likes of Dillon Dubé being re-inserted into the lineup, he’s now found a home in the top six. Zary skating alongside Kadri and Sharangovich appears to be the way forward.

Then, last night against Seattle, we saw the much anticipated debut of 23-year old Martin Pospisil, and like Zary, he was lucky enough to score the opening goal of his debut with a lucky bounce going his way before he tucked the puck into the back of the net. While Zary flashed Gaudreau-like qualities in his debut, Pospisil showed he could hang with his size, skating ability, and physicality. There’s a fantastic chance that if he can back up that performance, the youth movement could continue, especially with the return of Jakob Pelletier scheduled for later this season.

Now the question remains, who is next?

The youth movement continues

While there was plenty of good in the Flames’ win over Seattle, one thing stood out as noticeably bad, and that was the cross-check from Andrew Mangiapane to the head of Jared McCannthat has resulted in a one-game suspension for the Flames’ top goal-scorer. While the Flames could opt to go with the boring option of simply pushing Dryden Hunt back into the lineup, they have momentum for the first time this season and the vibes have improved drastically, so now is the time to reach back down into the AHL for yet another debut.

There are many options for this, with veterans like Mitch McClain, Brett Sutter or Alex Gallant, the return of Matt Coronato, or even names such as Lucas Ciona, or Cole Schwindt, but there’s one perfect choice that the Flames should explore, for their future and the present.

A big, physical presence – Klapka

The answer is simple: Adam Klapka.

Standing at 6-foot-7, weighing 230 pounds, the 23-year old Klapka may give some fans flashbacks of the Flames of old, valuing nothing but size and a physical presence, but alongside that, he brings plenty of grit, and thus far, the goal-scoring abilities that other Flames of his size simply did not. In seven games this season, Klapka has notched four goals and three assists for a point per game, taking his AHL total to 17 goals and 32 points in 67 games of action. And as we saw in the pre-season, he has the talent to be a difference maker wherever he plays.

So, where do the Flames fit him into the lineup? It’s more likely than not that a name like Dubé, Hunt, or Sharangovich will simply take their place on the top line, but given what we saw from Pospisil on the third line alongside two veterans, Klapka to partner Huberdeau and Lindholm could be the difference maker that those two need.

That’s likely a bit too much, but with a spot up for grabs and Dryden Hunt not earning big minutes at the NHL level, another reshuffle could be in order, leading to Klapka being a physical threat on the third or fourth line. The team may not be in full-on tear it down and rebuild mode, but they are looking to introduce the future to their audience now, and with the speed the team has played with over the past few days, the more youth the better.

Ultimately, the Flames have taken two big risks lately, and while they’ve paid off, there’s options other than Klapka to fill the void for Mangiapane, even if it’s just for a game or two, but if the team want to win back the faith of their fans and get them excited for what may end up being a disappointing campaign, introducing someone with such size and a knack for goal scoring would be a fantastic move.

Potential Flames lineup if they begin to rebuild this season. dark. Next