Heading into this year’s training camp, the Calgary Flames had two forwards attending on professional tryout offers (PTOs) in Sonny Milano and Cody Eakin. The latter accepted the team’s offer on Sept. 11, while the former did so roughly a week later. At the time, there was optimism amongst the fanbase that at least one, if not both, may be able to earn themselves deals for the 2022-23 season.
For Eakin, he was viewed as a potential fourth-line centerman who could help out on the penalty kill while being relied upon as a faceoff specialist. It isn’t a role that helps him become a fan favorite, but is an important one nonetheless, especially when playing for a head coach like Darryl Sutter. As for Milano, he was seen as the potential missing piece this team needed in their top nine, as he has a boatload of skill and proved last season alongside Trevor Zegras as a member of the Anaheim Ducks that he can produce when given the opportunity. That said, neither have wowed thus far, and may be in trouble when it comes to landing a contract.
Sutter Gives Blunt Assessment of Milano & Eakin’s Camps
By all accounts, neither forward has had a very impressive training camp to this point. Milano in particular has been extremely disappointing given the excitement that came from the fanbase when the Flames announced his signing. He has struggled during his short time in Calgary and at times has looked lost in preseason play.
Both fans and media alike have pointed out that there were players in recent days assigned to the Calgary Wranglers of the American Hockey League (AHL) that were more deserving of making the roster. It is clear that they haven’t been thrilled with what they have seen from either of the PTO hopefuls, and neither is Sutter.
“I think it’s challenging for both them,” was all Sutter had to say when asked what his thoughts were on Milano and Eakin thus far. While the 64-year-old is known to be very blunt in general with the media, this certainly wasn’t the ringing endorsement either player would have hoped to hear.
Time is Running Out
To this point, both Milano and Eakin have suited up for three exhibition contests and have no points to show for it. This isn’t as crucial for Eakin because of the fact that he wasn’t brought in to put points on the board. For Milano, on the other hand, it is very disappointing. Also not boding well for him is the fact that he had just 12:46 minutes in ice time in Monday’s loss to the Seattle Kraken, the third-lowest total amongst Flames forwards.
While neither have been released to this point, the clock is ticking. Monday marks the roster deadline, and the Flames still have 28 bodies remaining, meaning that at least five more players will be released before that time. One that seems probable is Dustin Wolf, who remains waiver exempt and is expected to have one more year of seasoning in the AHL before getting his opportunity with the big club. After him, things get a little dicey.
There are currently 15 forwards remaining in camp, the majority of which have a guaranteed spot on the club. The ones who still appear to be on the bubble are Milano, Eakin, Adam Ruzicka, Brett Ritchie, Trevor Lewis and even possibly Kevin Rooney, though his outstanding performance against the Kraken was likely enough to earn a spot. Assuming Sutter chooses to go down to 13 forwards, that makes things very tough for the two PTO hopefuls.
Both Ritchie and Lewis, despite not being the most beloved players by the fanbase, are trusted by Sutter. The old school bench boss loves having himself some hard-working veterans on his roster, which both are. He is also familiar with both, which gives them a major one up. As for Ruzicka, he too has had an underwhelming camp, but impressed during his 28-game stint with the club last season and is one of their more highly touted prospects. If they feel he’s ready, they have plenty more reason to keep him over both Milano and Eakin.
Despite the odds being seemingly against them, the good news for both is that there is still a bit of time left to make an impression. The Flames have two preseason games remaining, both of which will take place against the Winnipeg Jets, the first on Oct. 5 and the following on Oct. 7. If both Milano and Eakin make it that far, fans can expect them to be in the lineup in each of those contests. In order to secure deals from general manager Brad Treliving, they will need to elevate their play significantly in those outings. If not, they will likely see themselves become free agents once again.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.