Abbotsford Update: Training Camp - Day 1
After a summer spent training in Toronto, Akim Aliu hit the ice at the MSA Arena in Abbotsford on Saturday raring to go.
"Today was definitely nice," the winger said after Team Red's morning skate. "At this time of the year, you're itching to get back on the ice and get back to work so having fitness testing done and getting the skates going is a good thing."
While he admitted the fitness testing was grueling, he believed it was one of his strongest career showings.
"I thought I did pretty well. I pride myself in being the best shape I possibly can and hopefully that reflects in my game this year."
Aliu's journey to the Flames organization began last fall when he was loaned to the Abbotsford Heat from the Winnipeg Jets. The move, which Aliu has dubbed "one of the best moments of my life," paid off in spades as the forward fit extremely well within the Heat's lineup. He gained a permanent spot in roster when the Flames officially acquired his rights on Jan. 30 in a trade that saw John Negrin head to the east coast to the St. Johns IceCaps.
His steady, consistent play earned him a call-up late in the regular season and he played his first NHL game on Apr. 5. He scored his first and second NHL goals in his second game with the club, spurring the crowd at the Scotiabank Saddledome into "Aliuuuuuuuu" chants throughout the game. He entered the off-season as a restricted free agent and the Flames inked him to a one-year, two-way deal on July 4.
"I'm really looking forward to the year," he grinned. "I want to go out there and improve every day ... I want to build off last year."
Aliu scored 10 goals and 14 points in 42 games with the Heat last year.
Sven Baertschi looked right at home amongst seasoned vets as did his fellow rookie, pivot Max Reinhart. Both youngsters got a taste of the professional game last year, giving them an idea of what to expect coming into the AHL.
Baertschi was recalled by the Flames on an emergency basis last March. He ended up scoring three goals during his five-game cup of coffee in Calgary. Reinhart spent the tail-end of the Heat's season with the club on a try-out agreement after his junior club, the Kootenay Ice, were knocked out of the WHL playoffs. He played one game for Abbotsford during the regular season and dressed for four postseason dates, picking up two points.
Baertschi and Reinhart attended the Flames development camp in July, something which Baertschi credited to helping him prepare for camp.
"The fitness tests, they're a lot alike," he noted. "There's a bit more to the testing here but they're almost the same. So I knew what it was going to be like. I think that helped."
The other freshman at camp - Michael Ferland, Brady Lamb and David Eddy - all had strong showings on Saturday as well.