Ryan Huska is already proving that he’s willing to give young guys a shot.
That wasn’t necessarily something the Calgary Flames did a lot last season when Darryl Sutter was head coach.
But this season, it does appear like the Flames are taking a new approach.
If you’re playing well in the AHL with the Calgary Wranglers, opportunities are there for the taking with the NHL club.
After giving Connor Zary his first NHL game on Wednesday against the Dallas Stars, the Flames recalled winger Martin Pospisil from the Wranglers on Friday morning. A few hours later, they made another move, calling up defenceman Nick DeSimone.
To make room for the two, Matthew Coronato and Jordan Oesterle were sent to the Wranglers, with Oesterle clearing waivers on Friday to make the move happen.
While the 28-year-old DeSimone skated in four games for the Flames last season, Saturday’s game against the Kraken in Seattle looks like it will be Pospisil’s NHL debut.
“I’m super excited,” Pospisil said. “It was a long journey to get where I’m at now, so super excited.”
The Flames’ fourth-round pick, 105th overall, in the 2018 NHL draft, the 23-year-old Pospisil has developed a reputation for being a speedy and physical presence in the AHL, although his career has been interrupted several times by serious injuries.
He’s healthy now, though, and has scored three goals and added three assists in six games for the Wranglers so far this season.
“He has size, speed and he’s got a bit of an edge to him,” Huska said. “When you talk to the guys, Trent (Cull) and the staff with the Wranglers, they say he’s been their best player to-date. It gives us another opportunity to get another guy with a little more energy into the lineup and we’ll see how that goes there.”
Pospisil was skating on a line with Mikael Backlund and Blake Coleman at Friday’s practice at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Dillon Dube, meanwhile, was playing centre on the fourth line. That’s where Coronato was playing mid-week and, while his assignment to the Wranglers will inevitably be seen as a demotion by many, the Flames want the 20-year-old to get a little more playing time than he would have in a fourth-line role.
“I think Matthew’s done an excellent job in his time here,” Huska said. “He’s played maybe 17 or 18 games if you factor in exhibition and Penticton … as it gets going there’s a tendency to get a little bit harder and we’re here to work him through that and part of that is us not wanting to have him just sit and watch a bunch of games.
“We want him to play, whether it’s one or three or four games with the Wranglers, the message is to go down, play in all situations and continue to work on the things we need you to work on, but it was a positive conversation.”
While it’s surely disappointing to be sent to the AHL after a strong training camp that earned Coronato an opportunity with the Flames to start the season, it doesn’t sound like anyone in the organization expects the young sniper to be with the Wranglers for all that long.
Recommended from Editorial
Despite another loss, Calgary Flames show signs of life against Dallas Stars
With strong debut, Connor Zary offers optimism for skidding Flames
Dube, who bounced between the AHL and NHL a few years ago, said his time with the team that was then the Stockton Heat was invaluable. It can be the same for Coronato.
“I think throughout the time, it’s a rush to get in the NHL but I think for me I could have used a little bit more time in my 20-year-old year, I probably could have stayed in the AHL for the whole time and developed,” Dube said. “I called Matty yesterday and talked to him, you can tell by the way he plays that he’s going to be an elite, elite player in this league and now all he needs to focus on is his mindset and taking it the right way.”
Wes Gilbertson and Danny Austin have been covering the Flames for years and know what makes the team tick. Have questions? They have the answers – or the contacts to track them down. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org