Welcome back for another edition of the Calgary Flames prospects report. This is a reoccurring segment at The Hockey Writers, following the seasons and storylines of all the prospects in the Flames system throughout the 2021-22 season.
This week we look at Ilya Nikolayev and his season so far with the Tri-City Storm. Jack Beck finally makes his return to the Ottawa 67’s, and Johannes Kinnvall also makes his debut with the Stockton Heat after a battle with injuries. Lucas Ciona has been finding his scoring touch with the Seattle Thunderbirds, while Rory Kerins continues his torrid pace with the Soo Greyhounds.
Nikolaev Finding His Game in Tri-City
Nikolaev was the Flames’ third-round pick in 2019, and this season, he came across the pond to Flames’ rookie camp and then to play with Tri-City of the United States Hockey League (USHL). The Storm has been a force in the league all season, and he has helped in the offense department. In 35 games this season, he has scored 13 times and added 28 assists. His 41 points are fourth on the team in scoring. He is currently sitting just two points outside of the top 10 in league scoring.
Nikolaev spent the 2020-21 season bouncing between Russian junior and pro leagues, collecting 31 points in 59 games before coming to North America. At 20 years old, he is one of the older players in the USHL, but it is a good sign that he has been able to step in and become such a factor on the ice for Tri-City. He has been especially hot in his last 10 games, scoring five goals along with 10 assists.
Beck Returns From Injury
Little was known about Beck when the Flames drafted him in the sixth round of the 2021 NHL draft. He had put up 19 points in 56 games in 2019-20 and then didn’t play for over a year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This season Flames fans were treated to a bit of a surprise when he got off to a hot start scoring 11 goals and adding six assists in just his first 12 games.
The excitement quickly turned to disappointment as he was hurt in a November game against the North Bay Battalion. The injury was never disclosed, but it kept Beck out of the lineup for 97 days and had him miss 32 games. He was eased back into the lineup as he was on the fourth line and didn’t collect any points as the team went on to lose 5-0 to the Mississauga Steelheads last Sunday.
Beck did leave the game early, but his coach later determined that it was just for precautionary reasons, and there was nothing to worry about. His finish to the season will be interesting to watch once he gets into the top of the lineup to see if he can catch fire again for Ottawa.
Kinnvall Finally Makes Season Debut
Kinnvall was signed by the Calgary Flames back in 2020 as a free agent, and this season is his first in North America. Unfortunately, he was injured in the rookie game between the Flames and Edmonton Oilers back in September. He was signed as he is a younger guy at just 24 years old, 22 at the time of the signing, and has been noted as an offensive defenceman while playing in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), posting 84 points in 153 career games. His first point in the American Hockey League (AHL) came as a primary assist on a game-winning goal by Jakob Pelletier.
He has lived up to his reputation so far as he has collected five assists in his first seven games, with a couple coming on the powerplay. Kinnvall has been held off the scoresheet just twice this season which came in the only two losses Stockton has since he returned to the lineup. If he can remain healthy, he is a player with lots of skill and the highly-coveted right-shot defenseman who will help Stockton in their push to the playoffs.
Ciona Finding His Offence
Ciona was a sixth-round pick by the Flames in 2021, and the 19-year-old is a big body presence standing at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds. In his first 79 career games with the Thunderbirds, he scored five goals to go along with 21 assists. He already has 14 goals and 26 points this season in just 39 games.
He is currently on pace for 42 points this season which is almost double the number of points he accumulated in his first 79 games in the Western Hockey League (WHL). Being the big body he is, Ciona isn’t afraid to mix it up as he has already collected 71 penalty minutes this season along with his 26 points. He has recently been hot for the team as he has scored seven goals and four assists in just his last 10 games.
Kerins Continues Dominance in the OHL
Kerins was a sixth-round pick by Calgary in the 2020 draft who had his season wiped out by COVID-19, and he was only able to play four games in 2020-21 with Stockton. This season, however, he has completely lit the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) on fire scoring 76 points in 45 games which is currently second in the league. He is on pace for 115 points in 68 games which would be the most points by a 19-year-old since Jason Robertson put up 117 points in 2018-19.
Kerins has quite the similarity to current Flames forward Andrew Mangiapane. Both were born in April, Kerins stands 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, while Mangiapane is listed at 5-foot-10 and 183 pounds. In their 17-year-old seasons in the OHL, Kerins collected 59 points in 64 games while Mangiapane had 51 points in 68. In their 19-year-old seasons, Mangiapane had a 1.80 points per game pace, and Kerins currently sits at 1.69. Mangiapane had 106 points in 59 games that season and Kerins is on pace to hit 100 points by his 59th game.
Flames fans should undoubtedly keep their eyes on Kerins for the rest of the season as he is on a torrid pace. He may not have the same career path as the current Flames forward, but this season is a huge step forward nonetheless. Turning 20 in April, he will be eligible to move up to the AHL, only adding to an already strong Stockton team.
That wraps up another edition of the Flames prospects report. Be sure to check back on The Hockey Writers to read more storylines on the Flames prospects this season.
Brett is a freelance writer covering the Calgary Flames here at The Hockey Writers. He is an enthusiast of hockey stats and continues to learn every day about the sports analytics movement. Brett enjoys using both statistical analysis and the old-fashioned eye test in his writing to create the best content for readers. His work at THW has been featured on the Calgary Flames’ news feed for The Score and on Yardbarker. Brett is also part of THW’s Flames Faceoff YouTube/podcast show where he brings his opinions each week on the team’s current state of affairs.