Abbotsford Update: Training Camp - Day 6
There is no doubt in Dustin Sylvester's mind that the 2012-13 season is the biggest year of his career.
This season trumps his final year in the WHL when he put up 93 points with the Kootenay Ice. It tops the year he spent in Germany with Freiburg EHC, scoring 34 goals and 60 points in 48 games. It also eclipses the 2011-12 campaign, his first full season in the AHL.
It surpasses all of these milestone seasons for one reason.
This year could very well be the springboard to an NHL deal next summer.
"That's my ultimate goal, to get that contract," Sylvester said after practice on Thursday morning. "I'm going to keep working as hard as I can to put myself in the best position to do that.
"I'm going to take this year and do what I can do on ice and put my best foot forward."
Part of his efforts to push himself to that next level included a lot of time in the weight room this summer. Standing 5-foot-6 and weighing 174 lbs., Sylvester knew he would have to bulk up in the off-season. He opted to work out with a trainer this summer - he usually goes solo in regards to his off-season training regimen - and feels that move has paid off.
"With the trainer, I think it helped my development a lot in terms of getting stronger and a lot faster. Coming into camp I felt really good and really strong."
The Kelowna, BC product inked a one-year, AHL deal with the organization last summer and he didn't waste the opportunity given to him. In 64 games, Sylvester scored 15 goals and 34 points, leading all first-year Heat players and earning him Abbotsford's Top Rookie award at the end of the season.
His play showed the organization he had the skill and gumption to play big minutes in the league and they signed him to another one-year deal on Aug. 4.
"It's been great here in Abbotsford. I'm really happy to be back."
Perched in the stands every day, Flames head coach Bob Hartley keeps a close eye on the on-ice proceedings. While he would rather be getting his troops ready for the NHL season right now, he is appreciative he and his coaching staff have the chance to get a good look at the prospects in the Flames system.
"At least we have a chance to look at our young prospects," he said on Thursday morning. "See how they work, learn ... it has been a very positive experience for us."
The time in Abbotsford also allows them to connect with Troy Ward, Cail MacLean and Luke Strand and see their coaching methods in action.
"It's all about team bonding and I think we're growing as an organization."
One familiar face on the ice is Steve McCarthy. Hartley and his associate coach Jacques Cloutier have worked with McCarthy extensively over the years as the blueliner played for them in Atlanta and, most recently, in Switzerland. McCarthy is at training camp on a try-out agreement and Hartley feels he has the skills to potentially land a spot on the roster.
"He's a great hockey player. He's an unbelievable man with lots of great values so I know that he can help the young players play at a high level over here. I think he's having a great camp."