The 2011-12 Calgary Flames season had a few bright spots, but ultimately ended in disappointment as the team missed the playoffs for a third consecutive season. With the NHL lockout keeping the Flames off the ice, the eyes of Calgary fans have turned to the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat, who find themselves leading the North Division thanks to the scoring outburst of prospects Sven Baertschi and Roman Horak and the superb goaltending of veteran Barry Brust.
The solid play of Baertschi may not be a big surprise to Flames fans who watched the Swiss forward score three goals in five NHL contests last season. His 14 points lead the team, but Horak’s 10 goals in 15 games are just as impressive.
Brust recently posted three consecutive shutouts, leaving him just over 18 minutes away from the league’s all-time scoreless streak, a record held by none other than Hall of Famer Johnny Bower. Leland Irving, seen by most as the eventual replacement for Miikka Kiprusoff, holds a 2-0-1 record for the Heat, showing more of the promise that earned him a seven-game stint with the Flames last season. Danny Taylor completes the team’s rotation of three goalies and has a 4-2-1 record.
AHL veterans Ben Walter (son of Heat president and former NHLer Ryan Walter) and Krys Kolanos are also near the top of the stat sheet for Abbotsford. Lance Bouma and Max Reinhart, third round picks in 2008 and 2010, respectively, are among the other Flames draft picks seeing significant ice time for the Heat. Ryan Howse, a 2009 third round pick who spent last season in Abbotsford, was sent down to the Utah Grizzlies of the ECHL.
While maintaining a hot start like this may prove difficult over the course of a full season (proven in Sunday’s 5-0 shutout loss to the Toronto Marlies), the Heat’s solid veteran core and emerging young talent are giving Flames fans something to look forward to in coming years. Next up for the Heat is a Friday, Nov. 23 contest at the Texas Stars, where Brust could have a chance to make AHL history.