Bancks firing on all cylinders
ABBOTSFORD, BC -- As Carter Bancks careens through the offensive zone, he manages to collide with two of his Abbotsford Heat training camp cohorts before driving hard towards the net with a burst of speed one wouldn't expect to see from a player who looked like a heat-seeking missile seconds prior.
As the whistle blows to end the drill, Bancks heads toward the boards gasping for air. Then, a grin spreads across his face as he cheers on his teammates currently battling for space in front of the netminder.
According to Calgary Flames assistant general manager John Weisbrod, that energy and enthusiasm are the driving forces in Bancks' career.
"He's one of those kids that you don't have push and nudge. He's a self-starter. He has what we like to call internal fuel.
"He's a high, high character kid and he's everything you could want as a competitor and as a human being. If you're going to be a dog fight, Carter is the type of person you want with you."
Bancks joined the Abbotsford Heat in the 2010-11 season on an AHL contract after playing nine games with them at the tail-end of the 2009-10 campaign. Flames general manager Jay Feaster had promised him that if he did everything that was asked of him, he would be re-signed with a two-way deal.
He did everything asked of him and more. He was limited to 29 games after suffering a concussion but he made the absolute most out of those outings as he scored five goals and 19 points. He established himself as an extraordinarily tough competitor with his physical play, willingness to drop the gloves and his ability to agitate even the calmest of players.
The Flames loved what they saw out of the feisty forward and signed him to a two-year, two-way deal on July 1, 2011.
Feeling healthy and buoyed by his new contract, Bancks hoped he would be able to pick up where he had left off when the 2011-12 season started but injuries and inconsistency played a large part in his drop in offensive production. In 55 games, he managed two goals and 10 points.
"I'd like to produce more than I did last year," he said. "I'd like to get back to creating offence. A good defensive line is a line that always has the puck and if we have the puck in the offensive zone and making their best players play defence, that makes us a lot better."
In order to generate more offence and improve his overall game, Bancks spent the summer training with Flames strength and conditioning coach Rich Hesketh in Calgary. He focused on strength training and his skating and is now reaping the benefits of that hard work.
"I feel great. It was a huge summer for me. I knew what to expect having two years pro under my belt and knew where I needed to get my body to. It is, without question, the most productive summer I've had to this point."
One of the reasons Bancks was looking to add more muscle onto this 5-foot-11 frame is to prevent injuries from derailing another season for him. Weisbrod and the Flames organization are hoping that off-season training will keep Bancks healthy and productive for the duration of the season.
"The challenges for him have always been, based on the style that he plays, his size and his weight and his heaviness," Weisbrod said. "He had some injury setbacks last year but he's never stopped working on those things and developing in those areas. I'm quite certain that Carter is going to get everything out of himself that he can and then the question will be whether that's enough at the end of the day to make him an NHL player.
"Obviously we're still hopeful and bullish on that and he's still hopeful and bullish on that. He's a guy that doesn't require a lot of worry. We just hope that with the reckless abandon with which he plays, he keeps himself in one piece long enough to play 82 games."