Fresh faces hope to leave lasting impression in Flames camp
CALGARY, AB -- Some six weeks ago, the likes of Sam Bennett, Mason McDonald and Hunter Smith were put through the rigors of the NHL Scouting Combine as part of the NHL Draft process.
Six weeks later, they were put through some similar testing as the newest members of the Calgary Flames.
“The stuff we did today was pretty fun,” said McDonald, who was the first goaltender selected when the Flames nabbed him 34th overall. “The last part was pretty tough but other than that, it was a pretty good day.
“The last test we did, the two-and-a-half minute bike was pretty tough on the legs. I could barely stand up after it. They’re kind of similar. Some different tests here than at the NHL combine but overall it was pretty good.”
The majority of the 41 players invited to participate in the Flames’ summer development camp arrived yesterday and reported this morning for physical testing, not unlike the process 119 prospects went through at the combine in Toronto in May.
For Smith, Calgary’s gauntlet was a little easier to handle, though.
“The NHL Combine they’re all sitting there,” said the winger, who was selected 54th overall by the Flames. “Here they are only looking at the results. There’s a few guys watching but it’s a lot easier than 150 scouts looking at you while you’re doing a bench press or a chin-up. It’s a lot less stressful, for sure.”
It was a lot less intrusive, too.
“There were a lot more tests and definitely a lot more eyes on you at that combine,” said Bennett, Calgary’s top pick at fourth overall. “I’m getting used to all the cameras. Definitely at the combine, I’ve never seen that many around me. That was definitely a lot more.”
Calgary’s physical testing served as the first official event in the careers of those selected by the Flames in the 2014 NHL Draft, a group which also featured Austin Carroll (7th round, No. 184), Adam Ollas Mattsson (6th round, No. 175) and Brandon Hickey (3rd round, No. 64).
The camp will also the first chance to leave a lasting imprint as Flames property.
“I definitely want to leave a good impression on everyone that’s watching,” Bennett said. “This is more the development camp so it’s more for the players to develop and all that but definitely I’m looking to show myself and definitely leave a good impression.
“It’s definitely an important camp and depending on how I play and how I perform, that’s going to determine if I make the team or not. Any chance I get to prove my stuff, I’m going to take it and make the best of it.
"That's going to be my goal, in this camp and in training camp, to prove that I'm ready and do whatever I can to make the team. That's ultimately the goal."
Bennett is expecting to push for a roster spot when Calgary’s main camp gets underway in September.
While that expectation isn’t necessarily bestowed upon Smith, a lasting mark remains equally important.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “They expect big things from me from what I’ve heard. I know I’m probably not going to be a guy who is going to crack the lineup this year but I’m part of the future. We’re kind of going in a young direction right now and getting younger and a lot bigger.
“We’re going to be a truculent team in a few years.”
The 6-foot-7, 210-pound Smith is hoping to be a big part of that quarrelsome club.
His first step will be absorbing everything he can at development camp, which features players from the 2014 draft right up to free agent signing David Wolf, a 24-year-old winger from Germany, and everything in between.
“It’s going to be my first experience,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of pro guys. There are a lot of older guys and a lot of guys who played pro. They’re going to show me what it is to compete at that next level. I’m going to take as much as I can from it then have a nice big year in Oshawa and bring everything I’ve learned back.”
Similarly, McDonald wants to take what he can from the elder goaltenders in camp in the form of invites Corbin Boes, Doug Carr and Cole Huggins and apply what he can to next season in the QMJHL.
“I’m just looking forward to the practice [Saturday] and the scrimmages coming up,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting to see what the competition is like and how the pro guys are.”
But, to reiterate the thoughts of both Bennett and Smith, it’s equally important to leave a lasting impression for McDonald, too.
“I think it’s just a little bit of everything,” the keeper said. “I want to make a good first impression with the Flames.
“I just have to work hard, focus, conduct myself well and if I do that, I think it’ll go well.”