Friday, 2 September 2016

Flames Add Depth

The AHL is a league that, like the NHL, is trending towards younger players where development is placed as the highest priority. It's hard to understand for fans at times because every team should have winning as one of its top priorities, but there are several teams who refuse to sign veteran players in order to keep roster spots open for young players. That's the prerogative of those respective teams, but it's difficult to build a winning program and have players develop into true professionals without a few veteran players who have walked that path. The Flames may have addressed a veteran need with five signings today.

Of the five players signed today by the Heat, the most notable would be former Maple Leaf Matt Frattin. Frattin has seemingly been around for what seems to be forever, but the 28 year-old has been a key contributor for the Toronto Marlies while chipping at the NHL level when called upon. Frattin has amassed 62 goals and 55 assists for 117 points in 174 AHL games, and he'll be counted on as a key contributor this season for the Heat.

However, Frattin brings a unique skill set that the Flames can utilize if they run into injury problems. He's a smaller player, but he brings the tenacity and doggedness required for a checking role while still being able to contribute on the offensive side if given the chance. He's never going to be a Gaudreau with his skills, but he's always been on the cusp of being an NHL player. Frattin provides a veteran call-up if the Flames so desire, but will be an excellent leader in Stockton.

The Heat also brought in Mike Angelidis who spent last season with as captain of the Syracuse Crunch as part of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. Angelidis spent five season as captain of the Lightning's AHL affiliate, so he'll be an immediate leader in the locker room for the Heat. The 31 year-old has certainly been around long enough to know the game inside and out, and he'll be vitally important as a leader for the youthful members of the Stockton Heat.

Joining these two men are 25 year-old Jamie Devane who played last season in Milwaukee, defenseman Roman Dyukov who spent last season with Yunost Minsk in Belarus, and re-signed Ryan Lomberg after he split time between Stockton and Adirondack last season.

Devane brings a physical element to the rink and will most likely compete for a bottom-six role with the Heat. The 25 year-old notched six goals and five assists in 62 games last season, but the 6'5" winger has shown flashes of his former junior self where he was a scoring power forward. The Heat will look to continue to develop that scoring touch to go along with his size.

Roman Dyukov is an interesting signing. At 6'2" and 200 lbs., the 20 year-old Belorussian defenceman scored one goal and seven assists in just 32 games with Yunost Minsk, but did help his club to the league championship. He recorded no points at the most recent World Championships, but it appears that he's interested in starting his North American career. Will he be on the Heat blue line? It's hard to say with some of the talent the Heat currently have, but Dyukov certainly looks intriguing as a project. We'll see what happens out of training camp.

Ryan Lomberg spent some time with both the Heat and the ECHL's Adirondack Thunder (yes, formerly the Stockton Thunder), and he's coming back to the Heat to continue his climb up the professional hockey ladder. The 21 year-old was a rookie last season, but still managed to record three assists in the AHL and 18 goals and 17 assists in 43 games at the ECHL level. He's no blue-chip prospect, but he's a serviceable player who appears to be headed for a start of the season in Adirondack, but his off-season will determine where Lomberg will finish his sophomore campaign.

It appears that more and more teams are bringing aboard a handful of veterans like Frattin and Angelidis to help guide their young prospects in the right direction, and I believe this is the right path to having capable contributors once those prospects make the step to being NHL players or very effective AHL players. In either case, it will make those teams stronger in the end.

If leadership is one of those vital intangibles for a team, developing good leaders is done by example.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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