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Old 09-16-2018, 02:59 PM   #1
TheScorpion
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Flames A discussion of depth up front

The Flames are an interesting team for a number of reasons. They've made a number of personnel changes across the lineup. Most fans are intrigued by the additions of guys like Noah Hanifin, Elias Lindholm, and James Neal -- and that's not to say that I'm not. However, while it'll be fun to watch those guys alongside the Flames' pre-existing core, I'm much more interested in tracking this team's depth.

Why?

Well, look at the Flames from last year to this one. The following forwards played "depth roles" on this team last season -- that is, regularly outside the top-6:

Sam Bennett
Mark Jankowski
Troy Brouwer
Matt Stajan
Curtis Lazar
Garnet Hathaway
Kris Versteeg
Jaromir Jagr
Tanner Glass

Over half of those nine players are just outright gone. Only Bennett, Jankowski, Lazar, and Hathaway remain, in addition to -- as of now -- Derek Ryan, Austin Czarnik, and former top-six forward Michael Frolik, who will likely slide down into the bottom-six thanks to the acquisitions of Neal and Lindholm.

These new depth acquisitions are intriguing and have lots to like, and I think most Flames fans would agree with me on this. Ryan and Czarnik have already impressed in their brief showing thus far and I think it is safe to say that they will hold down bottom-six roles, as will Bennett, Jankowski, and Frolik.

Now, nobody knows how the season will go. Perhaps Derek Ryan finds a ridiculous spark next to Gaudreau and Monahan and has a miracle season, pushing a guy like Mikael Backlund into the bottom-six. Perhaps James Neal falters and is forced onto the fourth line, allowing a guy like Frolik to reclaim his old spot. There is endless room for speculation, and a lot has already been said about the merits of placing certain players in certain situations. However, in terms of discussing depth, it makes sense to project a lineup similar to this one:

Gaudreau - Monahan - Lindholm/Neal
Tkachuk - Backlund - Neal/Lindholm
Frolik - Ryan/Czarnik - Czarnik/Ryan
?/Bennett - Jankowski - Bennett/?
? - ? (extra forwards)

You'll notice that three spots have yet to be filled in that lineup. (Bennett will occupy one of the wing positions on the "fourth line," although it can safely be called line "3B.") The purpose of this discussion is simple, then: who occupies those spots?

Here are some candidates. For the purposes of this discussion, there will be two different kinds of roles available: 12F, and EF (extra forward, of which there are two.)

Curtis Lazar
Possible roles: 12F, EF

Lazar has toiled in relative mediocrity since being acquired at the 2017 trade deadline. I'm not sure if that trade has ever made sense, and there's a feeling that this is Lazar's last chance to change that. I say that Lazar could possibly fill that 12th forward role, but that chance seems ever-so-slim after a full season of recurring ineptitude. While he seems to be a great guy in the locker room by all accounts, Lazar is a far-below-average puckhandler and his underlying numbers leave a lot to be desired.

That might be all right if his counting stats made up for it, but they do not. Recording only 2 goals in 65 games last year, Lazar managed to be the Flames' single worst offensive forward, which is saying something. Matt "Mr. Clean" Stajan had a better scoring season. Lazar's one saving grace used to be his youth, but he'll be 24 by the end of the season and there's a good shot that, if he doesn't improve, he won't be qualified as an RFA.

Lazar requires waivers to be sent down to the AHL, and his expensive acquisition cost and high draft pedigree has stopped Brad Treliving from utilizing that avenue in the past. However, the cost of keeping other high-profile guys out of the lineup might outweigh Lazar's "potential" very soon. Perhaps even by the end of training camp. Lazar could be a decent option to munch on popcorn in the press box, but is he really the guy you want to bring into the lineup when the likes of Gaudreau and Monahan need a rest?

Garnet Hathaway
Possible roles: 12F, EF

One of Glen Gulutzan's most head-scratching tactics as Flames coach was his repeated insistence upon keeping Garnet Hathaway with Sam Bennett and Mark Jankowski. Ever since that duo was united, it has been clear that they require a good-quality offensive NHL winger beside them to find success. Jaromir Jagr did well enough with them. Garnet Hathaway was... wildly inconsistent. His 2017-18 season was like a microcosm of the Flames overall from 2014-15 to 2015-16, but heavily slanted in pace towards the latter. He started off surprisingly hot, showing great wheels and chemistry with his linemates, but quickly tailed off, failing to impress in the slighest and honestly looking very disappointingly slow.

However, in Shenzen, Hathaway once again slotted in beside Bennett and Jankowski. Why??? While he has shown otherwise in the AHL, Hathaway has never shown any capability to produce consistent offense at the NHL level, and he is now nearing his 27th birthday. It is befuddling that he still has a place on this team while other players possessing far more dynamic or complete games toil away in the AHL. However, Hathaway still has more hustle and consistency in his game than Lazar, and also features more physicality. He also requires waivers, and in his case, I feel like he will not be exposed to them by management. He's a good bet to sit in the pressbox for the majority of the season.

Andrew Mangiapane
Possible roles: 12F

Mangiapane is an interesting case. He tore it up in the AHL last year but lost the end of his season due to shoulder surgery. However, before that, he made his NHL debut with the Flames and looked... fine. Perhaps it was the relative lack of quality of his linemates, perhaps it was jitters, but Mangiapane looked rather unimpressive at the NHL level. However, he clearly oozes skill and, despite his diminutive stature, plays with a lot of tenacity.

Already 22 years old, Mangiapane is a really solid bet to start the season on the 4th line. However, depending on who he plays with, he might not be an ideal choice due to his lack of size. If Bill Peters decides to play Bennett and Jankowski with a more veteran player in Frolik, the 5'10" Mangiapane would be left to play with the likes of Ryan and Czarnik, neither of whom sniff 6'. But in a league ever-dependent on speed and skill over size, there's a good chance that Treliving will overlook this potential disadvantage.

One thing's for certain: Mangiapane is playing the whole season. If he's not on the ice in the NHL, he's on the ice in the AHL. No pressbox for him.

Dillon Dube
Possible roles: 12F

Dillon Dube's career trajectory can be described as "meteoric." After a few decent seasons with the Kelowna Rockets leading up to his draft year, Dube exploded in his D+2 season, recording 84 points in 53 WHL games and being named captain of Team Canada at the World Juniors. Not only that, but he barely missed the cut for the big club in Calgary last year, with star Johnny Gaudreau expressing surprise when Dube didn't make it.

He still looks to be on the same track. Dube was enormously impressive in the Flames' prospect series against the Oilers last week and already looks like the team's most complete forward prospect. He just turned 20, however, and the question remains of if he has had enough seasoning. With only 7 professional games to his name (and 4 points, all in 6 regular season games with the Heat last season), Dube has had but a brief taste of hockey above the junior level. However, that hasn't stopped the Flames before. Sam Bennett, Sean Monahan, and Matthew Tkachuk all went straight from junior hockey to the NHL before they turned 19 and Dube now has over a year on all three of them. If he continues to impress, there's no way he'll be without an NHL job for long.

Morgan Klimchuk
Possible roles: 12F

The question of seasoning does not apply to Morgan Klimchuk. Among the Flames' eldest prospects, the 2013 first-rounder has finally shown signs of putting it all together in the last two seasons. With 83 points in his last 128 AHL games, Klimchuk clearly has an offensive side to his game, but that pales in comparison to his fantastic 200-foot sense. Relied on heavily as Stockton's top penalty killer last season, Klimchuk had very little support on special teams. In Calgary, Klimchuk would not have the same problem. The prospect of uniting him with the likes of Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik on the penalty kill should have Ryan Huska salivating.

Huska knows Klimchuk well from his time in Stockton, where he relied on him heavily. That connection alone bodes well for Klimchuk's hopes of making the Flames, as does the fact that he was chosen to accompany the team to China for the O.R.G. China preseason games against Boston. While some may argue that this means little for his chances -- he sat out the first preseason game while the likes of Mangiapane and Dube will get prime minutes back in Calgary -- his seniority in the organization and the opportunity to bond with his potential teammates overseas could indicate that Klimchuk is being groomed for a spot on the roster.

Familiarity with his new assistant coach and his ability to contribute to both special teams could make Klimchuk the Flames' 12th forward this season. He certainly seems due. While he isn't the flashiest player, he certainly is complete and seasoned.

Spencer Foo
Possible roles: 12F

Spencer Foo took a while to get going last season, but he turned on a torrid pace in the second half and narrowly avoided edging out Klimchuk for second on Stockton's scoring list. Perhaps consistency is an issue for the former collegiate star, or maybe he needed some time to adjust to pro hockey. At age 24, he is actually a whole year older than Klimchuk, and seems to have more offensive firepower to offset his relative lack of completeness in his game. His stat-line doesn't tell the whole story. If his pace from the end of last season is to be believed (it was far closer to a point-per-game than what his 39-in-62 line would indicate) he has a great deal of offensive potential.

Foo held his own in 4 games with the big club at the end of last season, scoring his first 2 NHL goals while playing with the likes of Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. Chances are he won't see those linemates for any extended amount of time if he makes the Flames out of camp, and it remains to be seen if his largely offense-oriented game is a fit in a more bottom-six role. However, with the Flames' concerted effort to offload most of their "grinders" in the offseason, Foo will likely play with skilled linemates wherever he slots in on the NHL team, if he makes it. However, his pro sample size is still smaller than most, and it is still up in the air regarding what he has to offer other than scoring -- if he can even translate that on a consistent basis.

Other options for an extra forward spot:

Anthony Peluso -- also making the trip with the team to China. Certainly a grinder, which the Flames have shown love for in the past (Tanner Glass, anyone?) but with little offensive upside and few spots available, the only way that Peluso will see consecutive games in the NHL lineup is if, like, half of the top-6 gets hurt at once. Maaaaybe a 14th forward.

Alan Quine -- Quine has played a full season of hockey at the NHL level, along with parts of two others. Notably scored a playoff overtime goal against the Panthers in 2016. He's only one year older than Foo and could be a Marek Hrivik-type for the Heat this year. He's average-sized and not physical at all, though. Probably a better option than Peluso.

Buddy Robinson -- Robinson is a curious case, to say the least. He's on his fourth organization in the last four years. He signed as an undrafted free agent with Ottawa back in 2012 and never really established himself as a consistent AHL scorer until five years and two teams later, with the Manitoba Moose (Jets farm team) this past year. It's still unlikely he sees any time as he's only played 7 NHL games, whereas Quine has seen 94 and Peluso 144. But there's some intrigue. He's definitely big, at 6'6".

Tyler Graovac -- Graovac is kind of like Quine, except without the AHL production. A member of the 2018 Stanley Cup Champion Capitals -- albeit barely -- Graovac is 6'5" and played his lone semi-full NHL season with the Wild in 2016-17, recording 7 goals and 9 points in 52 games. He only recorded 29 points in the AHL last season at age 24, though -- not exactly awe-inspiring, even if Hershey didn't find much success.

Kerby Rychel -- I don't really know why Marc Bergevin traded this guy for Shinkaruk, but alas, he did. Strange, because Rychel is actually a pretty productive AHL player who has a gritty aspect to his game that Shinkaruk lacks. Rychel is the same age as Klimchuk and it should be interesting to see the two 2013 first-rounders in a side-by-side comparison. They're similar players with similar shots to make the team, although management is likely comfortable with having Rychel in the pressbox.

Ryan Lomberg -- also known as "Jagr's replacement." Lomberg managed to outscore Mangiapane at the NHL level last year which is actually kind of hilarious. He's a ball of energy, but he's also super tiny and it's hard to imagine him having a long NHL career. Did you see what Ross Johnston did to him? He'd better be careful out there. Certainly shouldn't be in the NHL lineup every nighy and there are more energy guys in the Flames' system with multiple facets to their games.

Glenn Gawdin -- Gawdin will play his first professional season this year, and it'll be really interesting to watch if he can replicate his monstrous season in 2017-18. 125 points? Even as an overager, that's darned impressive. Unlike a lot of the Flames' skilled CHL prospects, he's also decently-sized, clocking in at 6'1". Pretty darned impressive for a guy who the St. Louis Blues, usually a pretty savvy organization, wouldn't sign. He'll probably get a look in the AHL to start the year before a potential callup.

Matthew Phillips -- the Johnny Gaudreau comparisons have been there since Phillips played his first game as a Flames prospect. They're probably a little unfair -- Gaudreau is an NHL superstar while Phillips just turned 20 in the WHL -- but the kid clearly has oodles of skill and resembles Gaudreau on the ice in more ways than one. Both players were late-round picks, both are incredibly shifty, both are incredibly short -- but Phillips shoots right. Can you imagine him on the other side of Gaudreau, if he pans out? However, we need to see what he does in the AHL first. Like Gawdin, I could see a callup at some point in the year.

Here's how I'd rank those guys for a 12F spot:

1. Dube
2A. Mangiapane
2B. Klimchuk
4. Foo
5. Hathaway
6. Lazar
7. Rychel
8. Quine
9. Peluso
10. Robinson

And for an EF spot:

1. Hathaway
2. Lazar
3. Rychel
4. Quine
5. Peluso
6. Klimchuk
7. Robinson
8. Graovac
9. Lomberg
10. Foo

Thoughts?
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Old 09-16-2018, 03:37 PM   #2
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Minors:

I want to see Phillips and Gawdin in the minors for a year to prove their AHL scoring
Dube may be ready but I’d rather him have a few months or a full season in the minors as opposed to getting the rare shift
Lomberg was so bad last year I wouldn’t consider him again
Robinson is a career AHLer and that’s what he was signed for
Potential extra forwards but most likely minors:

Peluso essentially replaces Glass. I expect him to play a few games but really don’t want him to, because he’s an old school goon and they can’t survive in the nhl anymore
Graovac has had decent AHL production and I don’t think he was that bad in his 52 games with the wild in 16-17, but there’s not much to him. Most likely a solid AHL Guy
Quine is a darkhorse. I believe isles fans saw something in him and he is pretty fast but again, hasn’t been in the system for long and probably starts the year in the AHL and stays there, being a good contributor

To me we have these guys fighting for 3 spots (12th Guy and 2 extras): Hathaway, Lazar, Foo, Mangiapane, Klimchuk, Rychel

To me klimchuk and Rychel are in the same boat, they were 1st round picks in 2013 and no longer have a high ceiling, but they do have the potential to be quality depth guys. I wouldn’t mind seeing them on the team but my guess is, is that they need to have really good camps to make it and are a victim of the numbers Game

Lazar and Hathaway are in the same boat, and i believe they most likely make this team, as the 2 extra guys. They can sometimes provide energy but other times are non factors and even sometimes bring the team down. They do have their games though, where they provide speed (Lazar) and physicality (Hathaway) and maybe sitting in the press box often will motivate them to bring that.

Mangiapane and Foo are in the same boat and they are most likely fighting for the 12th spot, and one will make the team and the other won’t. They both are skilled and can score and can really help the team out, but due to their potential you don’t want them sitting in the press box often.

My guess on what the flames will do is

12th forward- Spencer Foo
Extras- Curtis Lazar, Garnet Hathaway
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Old 09-16-2018, 03:40 PM   #3
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A couple of thoughts I have on our depth:

1) Peters juggling his lines more often than Gulutzan, and being more willing to adjust ice time based on who's performing will go a long way to getting more out of our bottom 6. Getting the odd shift with guys like Gaudreau, Tkachuk, or Monahan can spark a bottom-6 forward and get them some confidence offensively, and getting extra shifts when playing well should help to maximize their production. I've got no problem with taking a few shifts away from the top 6 if another line is feeling it on a given night.

2) I think it's really important to define what each line's role is, and make sure all 3 players on that line fit the role. You can take your 3rd and 4th lines in a lot of different directions: sheltered offensive line, secondary shutdown line, energy line. What really bothers me is when you mix and match players that can succeed in one or the other, and you end up with a line that has a weak link no matter how you deploy it. I've got no problem with a guy like Hathaway or Lazar in an energy line, and they're decent enough options for a shutdown line, but I don't want them anywhere near a line that's expected to produce offense. On the other hand, Bennett and Jankowski are guys we want to get some production out of.

3) We have a lot more skill in our depth forwards now, which probably necessitates changing the way we think about our lines. When you've got guys like Czarnik, Bennett, Ryan, and Jankowski in your bottom 6, IMO it makes more sense to prioritize skill in the remaining slots so you're not holding them back offensively. I think if you're going to take skilled offensive forwards, and start them in your own zone with grinders for linemates, you're never going to be happy with them, so I'd rather start with 12 skilled forwards and figure out the defensive side from there.
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Old 09-16-2018, 03:47 PM   #4
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I am hoping an upgrade to Peluso or Hathaway appears on the waiver wires. Flames are at 44 out of 50 NHL contracts so taking a player off waivers and burying a Peluso of Hathaway in the minors doesn't really hurt the team right now (assuming the player claimed off waivers has a similar cap hit to Hathaway).

For example, while I think it is unlikely that it actually happens, but if the Lightning waive Andreoff, that is someone the Flames should put a claim on. He would be a significant upgrade on Peluso in hockey ability and can still drop the gloves.

I am sure there are maybe a few other names on other teams that could at least be an upgrade on Peluso.
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Old 09-16-2018, 03:53 PM   #5
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I hope Peluso and Prout play against the Oilers, Ducks and first game against Detroit. Lazar and Hathaway should be replaced by Dube and Foo or Klimchuk. What worries me the most is if Smith goes down we need another Vet imo.
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Old 09-16-2018, 03:54 PM   #6
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I think most Flames fans would agree with me on this. Ryan and Czarnik have already impressed in their brief showing thus far and I think it is safe to say that they will hold down bottom-six roles, as will Bennett, Jankowski, and Frolik.
Not necessarily, I would say Ryan's and Frolik's positions are for sure, for sure safe but anything can happen with the rest of the bottom six forwards. Czarnik could easily be demoted to 13th/14th forward if he is unable to produce and the same goes for Bennett or Jankowski even.
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Old 09-16-2018, 03:54 PM   #7
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I would suspect that the last slots are up from grabs amongst Hathaway, Lazar, Foo, and Peluso. Three guys who bump and grind, and then a guy with a better blend of skill. Dube, Klimchuk, and Mangipane are likely in the mix for the first call up to an injured skill player if Foo can't fill the need.
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Old 09-16-2018, 04:19 PM   #8
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Nice analysis there Scorpion.
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Old 09-16-2018, 04:22 PM   #9
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Not necessarily, I would say Ryan's and Frolik's positions are for sure, for sure safe but anything can happen with the rest of the bottom six forwards. Czarnik could easily be demoted to 13th/14th forward if he is unable to produce and the same goes for Bennett or Jankowski even.
Not to start the season. The Flames signed Czarnik as a UFA to a two-year deal. He is going to be in the NHL on opening night.


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Old 09-16-2018, 04:25 PM   #10
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High class problem that there are too many bodies and not enough spots. Could see a trade happening.
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Old 09-16-2018, 04:31 PM   #11
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High class problem that there are too many bodies and not enough spots. Could see a trade happening.
Me too. The Flames have a curious absence of organizational depth at right defense, with only 4 RD signed -- and one of them, the best one, shoots left. Seriously, if Andersson makes the Flames out of camp, then there will be zero NHL-affiliated RD on the Heat.
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Old 09-16-2018, 06:01 PM   #12
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Great write up. I think we could add PTO Logan Shaw to the list of those battling for the last spots.

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Old 09-16-2018, 06:07 PM   #13
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I would love to see Dube make the team but I wonder if he would better off playing top line minutes in the AHL as opposed to playing on the 4th line.
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Old 09-16-2018, 06:12 PM   #14
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I would love to see Dube make the team but I wonder if he would better off playing top line minutes in the AHL as opposed to playing on the 4th line.
The idea would be playing Frolik in the bottom 6 for this season and trading him on his last year for Dube to grab his spot next season.

The best teams are ones that can fill their bottom 6 with their own prospects when needed. It would be wise for Dube to get AHL time before he makes the big jump.

It would make sense to let Klimchuk or Rychel play that 4th line spot, two prospects that have had tons of AHL time that need a crack at the 12th/13th/14th spot.
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Old 09-16-2018, 06:21 PM   #15
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Great write up. I think we could add PTO Logan Shaw to the list of those battling for the last spots.
I also wouldn't count out Gilbert Brule, still only 31 years old, 17 goals in 47 KHL games last season plus 5 goals in 11 games for Team Canada.

These two tryouts could "potentially" make both Bennett and Lazar expendable.
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Old 09-16-2018, 06:23 PM   #16
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I also wouldn't count out Gilbert Brule, still only 31 years old, 17 goals in 47 KHL games last season plus 5 goals in 11 games for Team Canada.

These two tryouts could "potentially" make both Bennett and Lazar expendable.
No world where Id want Brule playing over Bennett, but it would be pretty cool if he made it
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Old 09-16-2018, 07:05 PM   #17
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If Dube continues to stand out like he has, and show he is a better player than other options, I hope he is given the opportunity to continue his development at the NHL level.

I also like the different element Hathaway brings to the team....more a physical pest dimension than the others.
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Old 09-16-2018, 07:13 PM   #18
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Nice write-up Scorpion. One correction: Klimchuk played his junior hockey in Regina and Brandon, not in Kelowna under Huska.
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Old 09-16-2018, 07:40 PM   #19
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I also wouldn't count out Gilbert Brule, still only 31 years old, 17 goals in 47 KHL games last season plus 5 goals in 11 games for Team Canada.

These two tryouts could "potentially" make both Bennett and Lazar expendable.
Yet another example of how ridiculously underrated Bennett is by some.
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Old 09-16-2018, 07:49 PM   #20
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I think it will come down to Dube, Rychel, Peluso, Hathaway, Lazar for the #12,13,14 spots.

Brule might be able to get himself into popcorn munching duty conversation with a good showing because hes been a league regular and no development time would be wasted.
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