At the end of this week, the offseason will be no more for professional hockey. The Stockton Heat kick-off their season on Friday, October 15 in their season opener at home against the Tucson Roadrunners. They have not played since April 29, but that does not mean it has been quiet several months over the summer. Here are some storylines out of Flames training camp you may have missed for this year’s Stockton regulars.
Walker Duehr, The NHLer We Didn’t See Coming?
While most eyes were on Connor Zary, Dustin Wolf, Jakob Pelletier, Adam Ruzicka and Matthew Phillips, unsuspecting prospect Walker Duehr made a surprising emergence fresh out of University hockey. He had an outstanding camp with the Flames and made quite an argument for himself to be on the opening night roster. That didn’t end up being the case, but he’s moved up the list when it comes to calling up players from Stockton this year.
In six preseason games, Duehr was a strong presence on the ice. He got some time alongside Glen Gawdin, Milan Lucic, Blake Coleman, Brad Richardson and Byron Froese. He was assigned to Stockton on October 10 in a cut that also included 2020-21 season standout, Connor Mackey.
#Flames have assigned five players to AHL Stockton:
Byron Froese, Justin Kirkland, Walker Duehr, Connor Mackey, and Adam Werner.
— Pat Steinberg (@Fan960Steinberg) October 10, 2021
After finishing his season at Minnesota State University – Mankato last year, he joined the Heat for five games and did not register any points.
Glenn Gawdin Cracks Flames Lineup
Gawdin was another Stockton regular from last season hoping to make a strong push for the Flames this year. He stayed with the Flames for the whole preseason and now with it complete, he will continue to stay as an opening night roster player. Gawdin got a few opportunities with the big club last year, scoring his first NHL goal and centering some lines lower in the lineup.
He doesn’t play the most flashy game, but Gawdin is consistent and able to keep up with his new NHL teammates. The expectation for Gawdin would not be for him to stay in Calgary all season, but starting there definitely puts him on the right track.
Matthew Phillips and Adam Ruzicka – The Pair We Wanted to See More Out Of
Ruzicka and Phillips were electric for Stockton last season. Both finished on top of team production tied at 21 points, and when they started the season on a line with Zary, the Heat were lights out. Ruzicka got into some NHL games late in the season last year, earning his first NHL point; Phillips got into the last game of the season for his highly anticipated NHL debut.
Unsurprisingly, both got invited to Flames training camp but unfortunately did not have much to show for it. Ruzicka played up in the lineup when NHL regulars had the night off, playing alongside Brett Ritchie, Martin Pospisil, Jakob Pelletier, and Matthew Phillips. Phillips only got into two games before being sent down to Stockton in time for their camp.
#Flames have trimmed their camp roster to 31 players.
Pelletier, Pettersen, Pospisil, Francis, Ruzicka, Wolf to Stockton.
DeSimone, Gravel, Phillips, Welinski on waivers.
Calgary has three goalies, ten d-men, and 18 forwards left in camp.
— Pat Steinberg (@Fan960Steinberg) October 3, 2021
Martin Pospisil Doesn’t Miss a Beat After Surgery Recovery
If you saw the nasty injury Pospisil suffered from a knee-on-knee hit last season, you may worry about how he is going to bounce back this year. Pospisil was already scheduled for surgery following that game, so this injury just added to the medical reasons he was pulled from the lineup.
After his performance in the preseason, it appears there is nothing to worry about.
Pospisil appeared to be the MVP in the Rookie Camp series and in the main camp where he got his looks, as well. He played in three preseason games and earned more of a name for himself (as well as an assist).
Connor Zary Injured in Preseason Game
Zary is in the top three emerging prospects in the Calgary hockey market that fans can’t wait to see in action. He played in the Rookie Camp on the top line, but in the second to last rookie game against the Edmonton Oilers, he appeared to suffer a lower-body injury as a result of a blocked shot. It was an injury hoped to be just a nasty bruise, but after medical examination, it was confirmed to be a fractured ankle.
#Flames @MFradiology Injury Update: Upon further imaging, it has been determined Connor Zary has a fracture in his ankle. It will not require surgery and he is listed as week-to-week. pic.twitter.com/JQJbOLCB98
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) September 24, 2021
His recovery time was listed as week-to-week. Hopefully this will allow him to join the Heat lineup later this year, if not, early 2022. But for now, they will need to go without his refined skill as he recovers.
What to Expect
If the team record from last season (or the last half of the season) put you off of Stockton last year, do not give up hope! This year is definitely going to be one to watch. Not only do they have a plethora of young talent joining their team, but they are also making their return to California after playing last season out of Calgary in the Canadian Division.
Big-name prospects are going to stack the Stockton lineup this year, and even if the top guys get called up, there are plenty of names to fill in the gaps. This season is better than any to take advantage of the full game schedule and make the push for the Calder Cup.
Another key change to mention is the promotion of Cail MacLean to the Flames that brought forth the hiring of Mitch Love. Love spent some time at Flames camp and will take his place as head coach of the Heat in the 2021-22 season. More information about the new Heat Coach can be found in this previous Full Press feature on his hiring.
You can catch the Stockton Heat in their first game of the season against the Tucson Roadrunners on AHLTV’s free preview weekend on Friday, October 15 at 7:00 pm PST.