Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

For the second straight season, the Calgary Flames are getting some great play from Adam Ruzicka. The 24-year-old wasn’t a lock to make the opening night roster out of training camp, but was able to play well enough to give himself an opportunity. Through five games of the 2023-24 campaign, he is making Ryan Huska and the rest of the coaching staff look like they made the right call.

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Ruzicka was able to score the game-winning goal on Thursday night (Oct. 19) versus the Buffalo Sabres, giving him two goals and two helpers on the season. He is impressing Huska early on, and as a result has been given opportunities in the top nine, averaging over 13 and a half minutes in ice time so far. That said, if he wants to continue getting put in good opportunities, he will need to ensure his play doesn’t decline as the season progresses.

Ruzicka Had Fast Drop Off in 2022-23

As mentioned, Ruzicka had a phenomenal start to the 2022-23 season. Through his first 12 games of the season, he found himself with five goals and nine points. While his goal-scoring totals slowed down afterward, he still had an impressive six goals and 20 points through his first 28 games. Unfortunately, things took a dramatic downturn from there.

Ruzicka wound up going pointless over his next 19 games, and was healthy scratched numerous times throughout that span. By the time his 2022-23 season had come to an end, he finished with 20 points in 44 games, a shocking development given how strong he had looked early on.

Adam Ruzicka, Calgary Flames (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

What exactly played into Ruzicka’s demise depends on who you talk to. Some believe that he simply had a hot stretch to begin the season and regressed to the mean afterward, while others believe that former head coach Darryl Sutter demoted him too quickly after he struggled for a few games. While Sutter may have played a part, Ruzicka himself deserves plenty of the blame, as going 19 games without a point isn’t acceptable. That said, it is in the past, and he is doing a great job early into 2023-24, and will hope to sustain this play for a much longer stretch this time.

Ruzicka Can Be Very Impactful

While it is clear that at his best he possesses strong offensive abilities, Ruzicka gives the Flames more than just that. The Czech forward adds tremendous size to the lineup, as he stands at a massive 6-foot-4, 215 pounds. While not a physical player as proven by his 20 penalty minutes in 80 career NHL games, he is able to use his frame to help win puck battles along the boards, which in turn can help open up space for his teammates.

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As proven by Ruzicka’s stats throughout his junior hockey career in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), as well as his two and a half seasons spent in the American Hockey League (AHL), he has a tremendous knack for scoring goals. That said, his playmaking is arguably the best part of his game, as he possesses a tremendous ability to dish pucks to teammates in high-scoring opportunities, and in particular is great at passing on his backhand.

Ruzicka At His Best Makes Flames Much Deeper

If the Flames can get this version of Ruzicka for the entirety of the 2023-24 season, they will be a much deeper team up front. With several highly skilled forwards in their lineup such as Jonathan Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri, Andrew Mangiapane, Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund, and Matt Coronato, Ruzicka adds yet another dimension and gives Huska excellent options for not just his top six, but top nine up front. Perhaps this will indeed prove to be the season in which Ruzicka is able to put it all together at the NHL level.

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The post Flames Hope Ruzicka Can Avoid Decline After Another Great Start appeared first on WorldNewsEra.

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