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Flames Takeaways: Adam Klapka continues to impress in loss to Kraken

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At six-foot-eight, 235 pounds, it’s not hard for Adam Klapka to stick out.

Anywhere.

But it’s not just his frame that has the 22-year-old Calgary Flames hopeful turning heads.

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In Penticton, B.C., he was heralded by coach Darryl Sutter as the best of all Flames prospects at rookie camp.

In the team’s first scrimmage, he put a sweet move on a defenceman before roofing the game’s prettiest goal.

In his first pre-season game he had his first fight, and on Tuesday night in Seattle he turned on the jets to outrace veteran Vince Dunn to create one of the team’s few Grade A scoring chances in a 3-0 loss to a veteran-laden bunch of Kraken.

Signed to a two-year deal fresh out of the top league in the Czech Republic, Klapka is a year or two away from being able to challenge for an NHL look.

But it’s easy to get excited about the package he brings.

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“Darryl is right, he stood out (in Penticton), not only for his size but what caught our eye is his ability to hang onto the puck and make some plays, and he has a rocket of a shot,” said assistant coach Kirk Muller.

“The combination, let’s be honest, if you’ve got a big winger like that who can hang onto the puck, and make plays and go to the net (and) is willing to go to the hard areas … he’s raw, he’s got a lot to learn about the North American game. But there’s stuff there that gets you excited.”

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Even more so after chatting with the affable youngster who can’t believe the dream he’s living.

“When I flew to Vancouver (for Sunday’s split squad game) it was something – when I came to the airport and saw the plane I was like, ‘wow, what am I doing here?’” beamed the chiseled Czech, who somehow dropped 10 pounds over the last four months while skating in Calgary.

“It’s nice to be here and see where you can play and give you the motivation to work hard.”

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Not surprisingly a fan of Zdeno Chara, his game matches the Flames’ style.

“I should play straight, hit the guys, be in front of the net and be aggressive, protect teammates,” said the right-shot winger.

“My size is perfect for my situation.”

That size earned him an invite to fight Canucks tough guy Vincent Arseneau on Sunday night, which fortunately didn’t go too badly for the gentle giant.

“I wasn’t expecting, but he asked me if I want to go and I am not a guy who says no because I feel a little bit bad when I say no,” chuckled Klapka.

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“I did a couple mistakes I have to work on. It was my first fight here, so I hope there is going to be some other fights.

“In Europe, people are a little bit scared of fighting and when you fight in Europe you get suspended for the rest of the game. No one wants to fight in the Czech, and especially with me because I’m so big against other guys.

“It’s part of my game but I have to be more smart about when I can fight and when I can’t.”

Wranglers fans are sure to enjoy watching Klapka develop in the AHL.

OPENING NIGHT SURPRISE?

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If the season were to start tomorrow, the biggest surprise on the opening night roster would likely be Nicolas Meloche.

Yes, you read that right.

In the absence of Oliver Kylington, due to personal reasons, the 25-year-old defenceman has been slotted from Day 1 of camp to play on the right side of third-pairing anchor Nikita Zadorov.

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The second-round draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche was signed by the Flames as a free agent on the first day of free agency this summer for $950,000 on a one-way deal.

Simply put, the Flames see him as their next Erik Gudbranson.

“With Gudbranson leaving I could maybe take his chair, maybe not this year, but obviously fill his shoes on the penalty kill and being a tough, physical defenceman,” said Meloche, who played 50 games for San Jose last season.

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“For me, that’s the goal I’m aiming for, playing those minutes and playing the way he did last year. He was amazing, and hard to play against last year.”

At six-foot-three, 211 pounds he is almost as big as Gudbranson, who was popular with fans and teammates for his toughness and ability to shut down the opposition.

“When we talked on the phone this summer, (the coaches) said, ‘we could see you taking that role (Gudbranson) played,” said Meloche, who led all Flames with almost three minutes of penalty kill time Tuesday.

“They gave me some film of him for the summer and I watched it closely. I see myself as being capable of doing the same thing.”

On Tuesday he looked solid alongside Connor Mackey, who many originally figured might have been slotted sixth or seventh on the depth chart this year.

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Alas, Meloche seems to have an early track on Kylington’s spot.

RUZICKA ON THE WING

With the addition of centres Nazem Kadri and Kevin Rooney, many have wondered where Adam Ruzicka might fit in as a centre in the organization.

Turns out he might not fit there at all, which is why the six-foot-four, 220-pound, 23-year-old made his debut on the left wing on a solid line with Connor Zary and Sonny Milano on Tuesday.

If he is able to make that transition, it could certainly open up some doors for the youngster, who broke through last season with five goals and 10 points in 28 games.

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“I can play whatever — centre, wing, I don’t really care, it doesn’t matter to me,” he chuckled Tuesday morning.

“If I’m going to make the NHL, I’ll (even) play in goal.”

SEATTLE NOTES

The man who did play net, Daniel Vladar, was perhaps the best player on the ice for the Flames’ young squad Tuesday, stopping 32 of the 34 shots he faced before the club surrendered an empty netter. It was a solid encore performance for the backup, who stopped all 15 he faced in the opening pre-season game … The Flames went 0-for-6 on the power play, with Zary leading all Flames with 7:05 of ice time on the man advantage. The Flames’ first rounder looked comfortable alongside PTO hopeful Milano, who also saw over seven minutes on the PP, recording three shots … The Flames host Edmonton on Wednesday.

LINEUP

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Forwards
Dube-Eakin-Duehr
Ruzicka-Zary-Milano
Pelletier-Jones-Phillips
Gallant-Schwindt-Klapka

Defence
Mackey-Meloche
Gilbert-DeSimone
Valimaki-Kuznetsov

Goalies
Vladar
Dansk

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For USA, the focus now shifts to 2026 World Cup

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The USMNT came up short in Qatar but with a home-soil World Cup looming and more experience, players believe: “The past can only fuel success in the future.”



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20 Fantasy Thoughts: Kadri still searching for offence with Flames

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Cal Petersen ending up on waivers was a bit of a shocker.

I actually drafted Petersen with my final pick in one league, thinking Jonathan Quick wouldn’t be able to sustain the numbers he produced last year and Petersen might be able to overtake him. My projection on Quick is proving true, but I couldn’t have been more wrong about Petersen. He looks nothing like the goalie from 2020-21 that had a .911 save percentage.

The Los Angeles Kings are in an interesting predicament. There’s no question they can ice a very competitive team, but Los Angeles is in danger of squandering their season if they don’t get some saves. You can only lean on a 36-year-old Quick so much and banking on him to recapture some of last season’s form seems like a longshot at this point. Perhaps the Kings will simply have no choice but to consider a trade.

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This is just me thinking out loud, but with the emergence of Pyotr Kochetkov, maybe the Carolina Hurricanes would be willing to move a goalie for cap reasons. Both Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta are pending UFAs and would be an upgrade to what the Kings have been dealing with this season.

It makes too much sense, which likely means it won’t happen.

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1. Matty Beniers was dropped by many after a slow stretch in early November and now he’s making those who did so really regret it. The Seattle Kraken forward has five goals and 12 points in his past six games and even though it’s still early, he’s staking his claim for the Calder. After struggling to score last year, Seattle is surprisingly sitting third in the NHL in goals for and is filling the net with regularity. Beniers is still only rostered in 42 per cent of leagues, so it’s a good time to circle back and see if you have space for him on your team.

2. Other young players haven’t been so fortunate. After an incredible preseason, Marco Rossi has struggled to stay in the lineup and is now down in the AHL. Nick Robertson is also finding it difficult to find a role on the Toronto Maple Leafs, despite starting off with two goals in his first game this season. For every Beniers, there are dozens of other prospects who take much longer to provide any fantasy value. Sometimes you have to be patient.

3. Goals in three of four games now for Auston Matthews. That’s a good sign for those who drafted him, but it still only puts the Maple Leafs sniper on pace for 38 this season. For most players, 38 goals is a really solid showing, though the expectations were much higher for Matthews. Many thought he had a realistic shot at exceeding 60 and even 50 seemed like a worst-case scenario. Of course, Matthews could drop a few multi-goal games in a row and totally flip the pace around. There’s still time, but it feels like December might be a make-or-break month for Matthews in regards to getting back on track to reach the totals we’re used to seeing from him.

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4. Andrei Kuzmenko’s streaky season continues. After posting two points in his first seven games, Kuzmenko then posted nine points in his next five, before going pointless in four. The Vancouver Canucks forward recently dropped 10 points in five games when he was really clicking with Elias Pettersson and now, he’s been held without a point in three straight. Kuzmenko seems like one of those players who is going to be added and dropped all season long. You’ll just have to hope you scoop him up at the right time.

5. Thatcher Demko is set to miss the next six weeks with an injury, so it’s the Spencer Martin show for the time being. Martin’s record has been surprisingly good thus far and if nothing else, he’ll figure to play regularly with Demko out. He’s an option if you’re desperate for help between the pipes.

6. After going goalless for a lengthy stretch that dated back to last season, Alex Killorn now has 17 points in his past 16 games. The Tampa Bay Lightning have a few players like Killorn, Brandon Hagel and Nick Paul getting a boost from that potent top six. See if you can take advantage of it with a waiver wire pickup.

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7. It’s time to be concerned over Vincent Trocheck. The New York Rangers forward fell out of the top six recently and has just a single point in six games. The silver lining here is that Trocheck is still on the top power play, so maybe there’s a chance he can pull himself out of this. Unfortunately, those who were hoping Trocheck could have an offensive renaissance in New York have been sorely disappointed thus far.

8. Tough timing for Anton Lundell’s injury. The Florida Panthers forward had points in four straight games, to go along with eight penalty minutes, 10 shots and 17 faceoff wins. He was really excelling in the Panthers’ top six with Aleksander Barkov sidelined. Hopefully, Lundell’s usage remains similar when he returns.

9. Cam Talbot has a .928 save percentage over his past five games. It’s safe to say he’s claimed the starting job for the Ottawa Senators and Anton Forsberg’s value is diminishing rapidly.

10. Games don’t get much more productive than the one Nathan MacKinnon had this week against the Buffalo Sabres. MacKinnon finished with two goals, three assists, three power-play points, two penalty minutes, eight shots, eight faceoff wins and two blocks. It would’ve been nice if he picked up a few hits, though. All joking aside, that’s one of the more versatile games for category coverage I’ve seen in recent memory.

11. Adin Hill’s value is settling into simply a backup role on a good team in Vegas. I thought there was a chance he could split more time with Logan Thompson, given coach Bruce Cassidy’s history of rotating goalies. Thompson, though, started three straight games recently for the first time all season. He’s undoubtedly the true number one with the Golden Knights.

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12. No goals for Anders Lee in 11 games now. He’s still very effective for hits, but the lack of offence is concerning. Lee is on pace for 26 goals this season, his lowest pace for a full 82-game campaign since 2015-16.

13. Cole Perfetti is starting to catch fire. I mentioned Perfetti as someone to watch in the Winnipeg Jets’ top six in the pre-season, and he’s finally hitting his stride. He’s really connecting with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler to the tune of six points in his past four games. There are also other good reasons to consider Perfetti: the Jets play four times next week, and Perfetti is C, LW, and RW eligible. Great roster flexibility there.

14. It feels like the Buffalo Sabres have a plethora of fantasy relevant forwards this year, and JJ Peterka is the latest to go on a run. Peterka quietly has points in five of six games, thanks to being able to take advantage of Dylan Cozens’ recent strong play. I’m not sure I’d pick him up right now but put Peterka on your watch list.

15. The same goes for promising rookie Jonatan Berggren of the Detroit Red Wings. He’s notched six points in 10 games since being called up, though he isn’t getting as much of an opportunity as Peterka. Maybe if he keeps this up, Berggren will get a shot in the top six at some point with Tyler Bertuzzi injured again.

16. Alex Nedeljkovic got his first start since Nov. 12 this week and promptly gave up four goals in the loss, dropping his save percentage to .880 on the year. He’s played very sparingly, as Ville Husso has taken over the starting job in Detroit. Nedeljkovic isn’t worth rostering at this point.

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17. Seattle’s offence is even trickling down to the fourth line, where Daniel Sprong amazingly has seven points in his past seven games and 14 in 17 overall this season, playing only limited minutes. For a team that couldn’t score at all last year, the Kraken suddenly have a bunch of forwards that are fantasy options.

18. I’ve mentioned Evan Bouchard’s recent surge might give him an opportunity to overtake Tyson Barrie for first power play time and it appears to be happening. Over the past two games, Bouchard has played 7:58 on the power play to Barrie’s 4:21. If this keeps up, Bouchard’s value should soar.

19. Fabian Zetterlund has remarkably picked up a point in eight of the past 11 games. What makes this so impressive is that Zetterlund is only averaging 12:43 per game this season. Talk about making the most of your opportunities. Everything is going right for the New Jersey Devils this year.

20. Nazem Kadri appeared to not miss a beat when he joined the Calgary Flames. He scored 11 points in his first 10 games and looked like he might be one of the best signings from the summer. Since then, though, he’s managed just five points and Kadri has been held to a single assist in his past eight contests. Kadri’s struggles aren’t for lack of opportunities. He’s getting top power play time and is actually starting in the offensive zone more frequently (76.7 per cent) than he did last year (63.1 per cent). However, the Flames power play hasn’t been great, sitting at 24th overall in the NHL. His linemates at even strength also leave a lot to be desired, as Andrew Mangiapane and Dillon Dube are both on pace for significantly lower outputs than they produced a year ago. Even with a pair of goals from Mangiapane on Saturday, he’s on only pace for 20 this season, while Dube is looking at just 13. They had 35 and 18, respectively, in 2021-22. Mangiapane’s trade value isn’t very high right now, so you’ll have to hope he goes on a tear or head coach Darryl Sutter re-works his lines to give Kadri a bump to the top group. If something doesn’t change, I don’t see Kadri coming anywhere close to the totals that made him such a coveted player in the off-season.

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2 Teams That Should Be Calling About Pirates CF Bryan Reynolds

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(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

 

As MLB free agency gets underway, there are still trades that are looking to be made across the league.

One player that has just become available in the trade market is Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds.

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Reynolds requested a trade from the Pirates on Saturday, and most outfield-needy teams should be calling.

The 27-year-old is a perennial all-star and one of the most underrated players in the MLB.

Here are two teams that should be calling about the Pirates’ star.

 

Toronto Blue Jays

One team that needs to be calling about Reynolds is the Toronto Blue Jays.

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After a disappointing season for them in 2022, the Blue Jays have pressure to make a run this year.

But, after trading away outfielder Teoscar Hernandez, the Blue Jays need another outfield bat.

Reynolds would be a perfect addition to their roster.

The switch hitter can slot in anywhere before or after Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette.

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Reynolds would be able to elevate his game with plenty of other good hitters around him in the Toronto lineup.

If the Bule Jays are serious about contending, this is a move they need to make.

 

Miami Marlins

The Miami Marlins are desperate for a star hitter.

They have not had an all-star caliber position player since Giancarlo Stanton in 2017.

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It is time for them to make a splash move to acquire a big bat.

Reynolds would slot into the middle of the Marlins’ lineup and immediately become their best hitter.

Miami has the pitching in place to contend in the National League.

With reigning NL Cy Young winner, Sandy Alcantara leading the way.

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If the Marlins can start to develop a good group of hitters around their pitching staff, the rebuild may not take so long.

This is a big offseason for Miami as they look primed to make some big moves.

The post 2 Teams That Should Be Calling About Pirates CF Bryan Reynolds appeared first on The Cold Wire.





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