Print Edition: March 19, 2014
With the Abbotsford Heat struggling for a playoff position in the tight Western Conference, losing nine of their last 10 games, the team is an example of the other side of what happens when an NHL team begins to try out its next generation, having given up core players to the shorthanded Calgary Flames. The team’s recent freefall in the standings is alarming, but not entirely unexpected considering the current state of their lineup. Injuries and call-ups are always part of the game, and teams certainly don’t like to make excuses, but the situation in Abbotsford is exceptionally dire. The Heat can only look ahead at this point. Though the return of Max Reinhart this past weekend against the Utica Comets provided a momentary boost, the Heat also could receive a more long-term spark from prospects that are finishing up their seasons at the college level.
Johnny Gaudreau — Left wing
Johnny Gaudreau, 20, continues to harness his skills at the NCAA level, as the junior at Boston College is currently in contention for the 2013 Hobey Baker Award, college hockey’s most prestigious honour. At only 5’8, his biggest strength lies with his puck-handling skills. He’s quick on the puck and has a nose for the net, picking up a notable 30 goals and 64 points in only 34 games for Boston College. Gaudreau has one more year of eligibility to improve his size in order to make the jump to the professional level, but management could have other ideas if they feel his play is far enough along to warrant a call-up to the Heat.
Mark Jankowski — Centre
The Flames’ first-round selection in the 2012 NHL entry draft, Mark Jankowski, is a bit of an enigma. Jankowski was drafted 21st overall despite being ranked as a mid-to-late second-round selection, so his development is hard to outline. He plays a well-balanced and two-way game, slotting in nicely as the second-line centre for Providence College this season. Despite somewhat average numbers for a college player (11 goals and 22 points), his play was good enough to elicit an invite from Team Canada for their junior camp for the 2014 World Junior Championships, which is never a bad sign.
Bill Arnold — Centre
Playing alongside Gaudreau at Boston College, Bill Arnold has also played himself into contention for the Hobey Baker Award during his senior year. While he is a long shot to make the top 10 list of finalists, the 21-year-old Arnold put up impressive numbers in his final season, tallying 12 goals and 44 points. Arnold is bound to turn pro next year, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Arnold get a taste of professional hockey with the Heat this spring to prepare him for what’s to come next fall.
Jon Gillies – Goaltender
With the play of Joni Ortio now a feature of the Flames, the Heat’s goaltending situation remains a question mark. That’s where Providence Friars ‘tender Jon Gillies comes in. With no sign of a sophomore slump, Gillies started the season on a tear, finishing with a 16-7-5 record and a .927 save percentage. Gillies is also in the running for the Hobey Baker. With the makeshift duo of former ECHL netminders Oliver Roy and the recently signed Aaron Dell struggling to hold down the fort in Abbotsford, Gillies’ arrival in the near future will be one to look forward to.