Hanowski evolving as a player in first pro season
Ben Hanowski is learning the ins and out of pro hockey in Abbotsford
ABBOTSFORD, BC -- Behind Ben Hanowski's in-game no-nonsense demeanour and his work ethic in some of the nastiest areas of the ice is a comic - the source of much of the Heat's lampoonery off the ice.
One wouldn't know it by looking at him, but Hanowski likes to keep things light around the team.
"He's a character," Corban Knight laughed. "I think you ask anyone on the team and he's usually the life of the party whether it be in the dressing room, on the ice, he's always kind of the centre of attention, talking, chirping guys. He's just a lot of fun to be around.
"He holds it together pretty good [around the media]. You loosen him up and he's a pretty funny guy."
No one would know the 'real' Ben Hanowski more than his two roommates, Knight and Josh Jooris, who share a house together in Abbotsford. Hanowski and Jooris were roommates during Flames' training camp and the two decided to add Knight to create the trio.
"It's been great," Hanowski said. "It's nice to get away from the game. We go there and we have a good time. We find things to do outside, play some video games, cook meals together and for each other, so it's been good. I'm pretty lucky to have two guys I get along with really well and to be able to live with them. It's just been fun."
Their living arrangement simply makes sense. They're all the same age, former college players, rookie pros and were all acquired by the Flames in the same off-season.
Beyond the constant jokes, pranks and ribbing, Hanowski knows that his roommates are an important piece to each other's professional development.
"We do a good job of keeping things light and keeping things positive. You know, I've been going through a little bit of a rough patch and if you're on your own, maybe you'd be really negative at home and it's tough to dig yourself out of. But with two other guys there, they're pretty positive guys and it's been fun."
"It's a true connection," Heat head coach Troy G. Ward acknowledged.
"They're all connected within their personalities, but they're all connected to where they come from and the upbringing they've had. I think they have the ability to bounce things off each other and listen to each other's day-to-day struggles whether it's personal or professional. I think they just help each other. And they're the type of guys - they're as kindest of human beings as you can find. Their personalities as people has been a very supportive role for each other. That's probably given them their best strength."
The 23-year-old right winger was acquired in the Jarome Iginla trade near the end of last season. After gaining five games of invaluable NHL experience where he picked up his first big league goal, Hanowski has showed some excellent offensive prowess in his first professional season.
Hailing from Little Falls, MN, his numbers have him sitting sixteenth in scoring for American league rookies. He's no slouch in the goal scoring category either. Hanowski's 11 goals is good for third on the team behind Ben Street and Markus Granlund's 17 markers.
Unfortunately, after starting the season with 25 points in his first 33 games, the new year hasn't been good to Hanowski who has now gone 10 games without a point.
"I've had a lot of ups and downs, a lot of learning. I've had stretches where I've played really well and then stretches recently where I haven't played as well as I could've and haven't been contributing. It's just a matter of learning a lot each day, coming to the rink and trying to pick up things that help you and don't help you - things that you have to do to be successful every day."
Reflecting back on his rookie pupil's play, however, Ward likes what he's seen considering the mountainous trek most college players have to become inured to.
"He's been good. He's contributed offensively. I think his numbers indicate that. A lot of first year guys, especially on our team, don't have those kind of numbers out of the gate, so that's been good.
Yet, despite the encouraging offensive production, Ward sees Hanowski as more of a bottom six forward who has the ability to work his magic around the crease.
"His maturation as a player is that he's a bottom six forward. He's not a top six forward. So what he's trying to do here is he's trying to really help his game by doing little things like stick position - things he's never had to do in his life, whether it be St. Cloud or scoring all the goals he scored in Minnesota high school.
"He's always had the puck, he's never had to learn to play without it. So his maturation here is about blocking shots, technique, getting pucks out in tough areas because now since he's turned into a bottom six forward, he doesn't have the freedom to just play with great players all the time and go up and down and score goals. That's not his role anymore. His maturation has been more of a defensive one, but yet still trying to put him in a position to score goals."
Of course, it's never easy being known as one of the guys who was traded for Iginla. Still, Hanowski is putting together an impressive rookie campaign for himself despite that label. It's not hard to imagine seeing Hanowski wearing Flames silks once again in the near future if he continues to put up the points he has.