The Calgary Flames have a few habits when it comes to prospects, like selecting goalies from Russia. Another tendency is to draft from their own backyard of the Western Hockey League (WHL). In the last two drafts, three of the Flames’ nine selections came from the WHL, including their 2023 first rounder, Samuel Honzek. Let’s take a look at three Flames prospects for the C of Red to watch in WHL action this season.
1. Parker Bell, LW, Tri-City Americans
Age: 20 (2003)
Drafted: 2022, 5th round, 155th overall
The 6’4″ Estevan, Saskatchewan native is plying his trade for the 13-8-2 Tri-City Americans of the Western Conference in the WHL. For the Americans, Bell has been a steady presence in their top six for the past couple of years. Last season, in 2022-23, Bell posted 25 goals and 39 assists, good for 64 points in 55 games, improving on his 49 points in the 2021-22 season. Bell impressed Flames management last season to the point where he even dressed in two games for the AHL’s Wranglers, putting up an assist. So far this season, Bell looks to be keeping pace with last year’s production with16 points in 15 games. There is a bit of deception to those numbers, though, as he has had multi-point games in five of those 15 outings, amassing 11 points of the total 16 in those games – a tad bit of inconsistency.
There are elements of Bell’s game to like including his high compete level, decent hockey IQ, and some soft skill. Much like his point production, the latter two are inconsistent. He also attempts to generate lots of plays with mixed success. There are also parts of his game that make a scout worried, including his slower skating. His skating is often held back by his lack of edge work and ankle flexion, which means at times he struggles to keep up with plays. Another portion of his game is his responses under any sort of pressure often resulting in turnovers. Bell should make a good addition to the Calgary Wranglers next season and there is a possibility Flames fans see him in a bottom six energy role in the future.
2. Samuel Honzek, C/LW, Vancouver Giants
Age: 19 (2004)
Drafted: 2023, 1st round, 16th overall
The 6’4″ Slovak from Trenčín, Slovakia has yet to make his mark this season as he recovers from an abdomen injury suffered in a Flames pre-season game this past September. The Vancouver Giants star should return soon and the team desperately needs him as they sit second last in the WHL’s Western Conference with a 9-14-2 record. Look for Honzek to get lots of ice time and out produce last season’s numbers of 23 goals, 33 assists, and 56 points in 43 games. The Slovak also looks to expand his hockey resume, which includes two World Junior appearances (2022 and 2023), and a Hilinka Gretzky silver medal. Also of note is that Honzek has played two seasons of professional hockey with his hometown HK Dukla as a 16/17-year-old.
There are many elements to like in Honzek’s game, including his fast skating, good positioning, physicality, good forechecking, and hard shot. Some areas for improvement are his proneness for turnovers, offensive play reads, puck handling, and creativity. Some factors to take into account are his team’s struggles to win and lack of support. As it sits, Honzek will be a surefire top nine forward in the Flames’ future. If he is able to unlock more layers to his offensive game then it wouldn’t be unreasonable that he could be more of a middle six/top six player. Only time will tell, but overall, Honzek is one of the most exciting Flames prospects currently in the system.
3. Jaden Lipinski, C, Vancouver Giants
Age: 19 (2004)
Drafted: 2023, 4th round, 112th overall
Lipinski fits the Calgary Flames mold: a 6’4″ player who can throw his body around. The Scottsdale, Arizona native is in his third season in the WHL with the Vancouver Giants. In his draft year, the American put up a respectable 19 goals and 32 assists totalling 51 points in 66 games. Lipinski is off to a slower start this season with only seven goals and 10 assists in 24 games, but expect the return of teammate and fellow Flames draft pick, Honzek, to help in the near future.
The keys to Lipinski’s game are his physicality and his vision. The centreman was also one of the best transitional players of this past draft, as his frame and strength makes him an absolute force on zone entries. Some areas of concern for Flames fans might be his below average puck skills and in-zone facilitation. A major area of concern is his fundamental skating, as his stride lacks power. The next couple of years could be crucial for Lipinski, as he should make an AHL impact, but whether he can translate that to a bottom 6 role for the Flames remains anyone’s guess.
Which Calgary Flames prospect are you most excited about?