Heading into the 2023 NHL Draft and free agency, the Flames will look to acquire new pieces ahead of next season. It is also a good time to take stock of the talent the Flames already have. There are a handful of young players in Calgary who stand out, as they have shown promise early in their careers. Dustin Wolf, Matthew Coronato, Jakob Pelletier, and Jeremie Poirier have all given fans reasons to be excited about their futures.
Wolf is likely the highest-regarded NHL goaltending prospect at the moment. In each of the last two seasons, he won the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award for the best goalie in the American Hockey League (AHL), also winning the Les Cunningham Award for the AHL’s most valuable player this past season. This year, he posted a 2.09 goals-against average (GAA), 42 wins, and seven shutouts.
Wolf has played in just one NHL game for the Flames, a meaningless matchup against the San Jose Sharks late last season. In that game, he allowed just one goal while facing 24 shots. Wolf has shown enough in the AHL to gain the opportunity to earn a full-time roster spot on the Flames, and fans should be excited to see more of him next season.
Coronato had a stellar two collegiate seasons playing for the Harvard Crimson, putting up 38 goals and 34 assists in 68 games. The Flames selected the forward with the 13th-overall pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft and, like Wolf, he made his NHL debut in Calgary’s regular-season finale against the Sharks.
While his one NHL game is too small a sample size to draw any meaningful conclusions, Coronato did not look out of place in his debut. He played alongside Jakob Pelletier and Nazem Kadri and fired off four shots in his first game. While Flames fans should be excited about Coronato’s potential, it is worth noting that he is just 20 years old and will likely need some time to develop before making a massive impact in Calgary.
The Flames selected Pelletier with the 26th-overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. After an impressive career in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), he has played 101 AHL regular-season games in the past two seasons, putting up 98 points. Pelletier saw his first NHL action during the Flames’ 2022-23 regular season, and he looked comfortable in the action he saw, though only putting up seven points in 24 games.
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Pelletier was given power-play time alongside Jonathan Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri towards the end of the season, perhaps an indication of things to come for the young forward. His development this offseason and into the coming years will be something Flames fans should look forward to.
Poirier, who many projected to be a first-round pick in 2019, was selected by the Flames in the third round at 72nd overall. The defenseman debuted for the Calgary Wranglers in October of 2022, and had a solid offensive season. His 41 points were second amongst rookie AHL defensemen, he was perfect in his four shootout attempts, and he was named to the 2022-23 NHL all-rookie team. While his offensive game stood out last season, Poirier still has some work to do defensively before he can be given meaningful playing time in the NHL; he was benched at one point this season due to his lapses on defense. While Poirier will not likely be a huge part of this coming Flames season, he is a prospect that fans should look out for in the future: if he can improve defensively he could make an impact.
Flames’ Prospects Deserve Your Attention
It is evident that fans should have these four prospects on their radar. Wolf will likely see action in net for the Flames next season. His play will determine his long-term status as an NHL goalie, but in all likelihood, he will start the season off as a backup. Pelletier will aim to improve this offseason and could make a meaningful impact in 2023-24. Coronato and Poirier are likely not going to be impact NHL players in the immediate future, but fans should keep an eye on their development.