The Calgary Flames currently boast one of the strongest youth movements in the NHL.
They may not house generational stars like future first-overall pick Connor McDavid, but the Flames have had two straight seasons featuring impressive rookie seasons from their young contributors. Sean Monahan started things off with his 22-goal campaign in 2013-14, followed by Johnny Gaudreau‘s Calder nominee-worthy effort last season.
Calgary’s rookie run is sure to continue in 2015-16 as Sam Bennett – who excelled during his first 12 NHL games, almost all during the postseason – will almost certainly suit up for his first full campaign.
With a strong young trio of forwards and plenty of depth around them, the Flames seem content to simply sit and wait as their stars continue to mature, adding necessary pieces here and there to help push them forward.
However, the Flames boast a couple more promising forwards well on their way to the NHL.
While Calgary has already reaped the rewards of the 2013 draft in the form of Monahan and his 53 combined goals, the team’s two other first-round selections are poised to make an impact in the near future as well.
The Flames used the 22nd-overall pick – received in the trade that sent Jay Bouwmeester to the St. Louis Blues – to draft Gatineau Olympiques winger Emile Poirier.
Calgary took the podium again just six selections later, using the 28th-overall pick acquired in the Jarome Iginla trade with Pittsburgh to tab Regina Pats winger Morgan Klimchuk. Both wingers have posted strong numbers as of late, and seem to be on the cusp of breaking into the big leagues.
After leading Gatineau in scoring with 87 points during his final season of juniors, Poirier had a strong first go as a professional, finishing his first AHL season with 42 points in 55 games – the second-highest mark on the team, despite playing 12 less games than leading scorer Kenny Agostino.
The total was even more impressive considering it came after Poirier spent the offseason recovering from shoulder surgery.
His strong performance in 2014-15 earned the 20-year-old AHL All-Star honours, making him the youngest participant in the festivities.
While Poirier is known for playing a hard-nosed style and bringing physicality without hesitation, he’s certainly got the chops to excel offensively.
His blend of skill and energy seems to mesh perfectly with the Flames’ current identity, positioning Poirier as a leading candidate to fill out the team’s bottom-six over the coming seasons.
Klimchuk is an entirely different animal.
A pure finisher, Klimchuk racked up a combined 34 goals 80 points in only 60 games last season, splitting time between the WHL’s Regina Pats and Brandon Wheat Kings after a midseason trade.
His combination of tenacity, size, and offensive skill earned Klimchuk the chance to skate alongside McDavid at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship. The two looked lethal together, helping guide Canada to a gold medal at the tournament.
After increasing his points-per-game pace in each of his four WHL seasons, Klimchuk looks poised to enter the professional ranks very soon, with his sights set on suiting up for his hometown Calgary Flames.
Some developmental time with AHL could serve the young sniper well, but it’s clear he already has a head-start when it comes to natural skill:
With Poirier and Klimchuk in tow, the Flames’ forward group figures to be dangerous for quite some time.
They already boast a talented top-six that includes Monahan, Gaudreau, Bennett, Joe Colborne and Mikael Backlund (assuming the restricted free-agent is re-signed this summer) – not too mention a few hard-nosed young grinders in Lance Bouma, Micheal Ferland, and Josh Jooris.
With Poirier and Klimchuk possibly joining that group, presumably within the next two to three seasons, Calgary could soon be enjoying an extremely well-balanced forwards roster – a suitable long-term foe for the promising group housed by the rival Edmonton Oilers.