Mikael Backlund is expected by many to make the leap to the Flames roster and while he understands there is a lot of pressure on him at this camp, he's taking it in stride and concentrating on showcasing his talent over the next couple of weeks.
"I felt a little nervous yesterday for the fitness testing but today I felt fine," he said after two of hours of drills. "I was just a little tired today. I'm not nervous now - maybe later with the big camp coming up but right now I'm just really excited."
Backlund has shown great poise and confidence since earning games with the Flames last season. He was the standout at the Flames prospect camp in July and remains so as the rookies head out to Penticton to compete in the Young Stars Tournament. He's confident that he has developed enough to earn a full-time spot in the lineup.
"I believe in myself and I believe I'm good enough to play here now. I think I proved that to a lot of people last year and I know I'll get a good shot so it's up to me to play good and that's what I'm going to try to do."
While his main focus is on having a great showing at the main camp, Backlund admits he's looking forward to the Young Stars Tournament and the opportunity to play against other outstanding rookies like Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle.
"I'm really excited for first this rookie camp coming up, a few games, those will be fun and then I'm excited for the big camp too, of course. I feel good. I've had a good summer, I've been working hard and I'm really excited for things to get started here. I'm looking forward to everything."
Foes on the ice, friends off of it
Greg Nemisz and Oilers prospect Hall have spent several years playing together with the Memorial Cup winning Windsor Spitfires and have developed a great friendship off the ice. For the first time in their professional careers, they'll be squaring off against each other instead of suiting up for the same club.
It may be a daunting task to put that friendship on the shelf for some but Nemisz is looking forward to facing off against Hall this week.
"I'm pretty excited for it. We've talked about it over the last couple weeks coming into camp and I saw him for a couple weeks when he was training in Calgary. We're pretty good friends off the ice so it'll be interesting.
"It's all business once we get on the ice. We can laugh about it after if one of us makes a big play on the other but when we step on the ice, our professional careers are starting up and he's just another player."
The rugged forward doesn't have any qualms about plastering his former teammate if the opportunity presents itself either.
"Absolutely," he laughed. "If I get a chance, I'll finish him."
After the Flames prospect camp ended in July, Nemisz had the choice to go back to Ontario and train or stay in Calgary. He choose to stick around and train with Flames strength and conditioning coach, Rich Hesketh.
"It's hard to pass up the opportunity. You have the chance to come out here and work out with Rich and all the professionals that skate and work out here, it's really tough for a young guy to say no. It's such a good opportunity to learn. I see myself doing it more often."
There is a lot of uncertainty for Nemisz this season. Over the past couple of years, he was pretty certain he would be headed back to Windsor after training camp. Now, he's not sure if he's headed to Abbotsford for more development or if the Flames will opt to keep him in Calgary. He's not letting the uncertainty bother him, instead opting to focus on the task at hand: having a great camp.
"I'm just focused on making an impression at this camp. You can't be thinking about everything else. You come in and try to make Calgary. It's an exciting time. There's a bunch of us trying to break in at the same time and it's a big challenge."
Learning from adversity
One of the dark horse's in this year's camp may very well be forward John Armstrong. The 22 year-old has been pegged as one to watch over the past couple of seasons but injuries have slowed his development rate. He admits being sidelined for most of the last was rough but contends he learned a lot from the experience.
"Last year, only playing 14 games was really tough. I was pretty depressed after I found out I had to have surgery and then once I got over that hump, I had to start training again. I got all excited and I think I found even more of a love for the game now that I can play."
He also believes he has become more skilled player just from the all the time he spent studying the game.
"I definitely learned a lot more. I've never watched so much hockey in my life," he grinned. "Last year, all I wanted to do was watch hockey. I was watching tons of NHL games, tons of AHL games and I think I learned a lot."
General Manager Darryl Sutter stated this summer that Armstrong was one of the players he thought had a legitimate shot at challenging for a roster spot. This vote of confidence has given a shot of self-assurance as he heads into camp.
"I think for every athlete, confidence is the most important thing. If I'm hearing stuff from those guys, how they like what they're seeing, that just feeds confidence to me and I'm just trying to feed off that and give my best and make the team."
Armstrong has been sidelined from playing since 2009 and is eager to hit the ice on Monday against the Ducks rookies.
"I haven't played a game since December so it would be nice to get hits, take some hits, get comfortable with the speed and take that into the main camp."
"It was good. We had really good weather for the first two weeks in August and then the second two weeks were kind of like here so bad. It was really good to be home for an extra few weeks but it's good to be back." - Backlund on going back to Sweden for a few weeks after the prospect camp in July
"Some stuff went real good - I did improve in some stuff - and maybe there were two things that weren't as good as they should have been but that happens. There was a few things that was really good and few things that were okay so I'll take that with me and the other stuff I'll get better on." - Backlund on Friday's fitness testing
"I've had a really good junior career so far and the last four years, I couldn't have written it up any better. Personally, I feel I've had a really good summer. I've definitely developed speed and strength working out with Rich for the last month and a half. I'm excited about the challenge upcoming and I'm looking forward to it." - Nemisz on his career thus far