Free agent keepers hope to open eyes in camp
CALGARY, AB -- Corbin Boes is schooled enough to know his situation.
Ironically enough, that’s one of his options, too.
The former Brandon Wheat Kings, Lethbridge Hurricanes and Portland Winterhawks goaltender knows that, as a free-agent invitee to Calgary Flames development camp this week, he’s in a position to put himself into pro hockey.
“Coming in as a free agent and coming out of the WHL, it’s either try to find a spot in pro hockey or play CIS hockey,” said Boes, who is committed to Dalhousie if a pro contract doesn’t materialize. “It’s a tryout in that sense but I’m also here to try to get better. It’s nice to come out and work on some things.”
After four years in the Western Hockey League, Boes isn’t eligible to return for another season of junior hockey, meaning his time with the Flames -- the only development camp opportunity currently on the horizon for the 20-year-old keeper -- is important.
So he’s studied up.
“It’s hard not to,” he said. “You’ve got to know what you’re dealing with coming in. A couple other guys are coming in on a tryout too. At the same time, they told us spots aren’t won and lost at the start of development camp. I guess at the same time, if you don’t show up you’re probably not coming back in the fall.
“I feel there’s opportunity. It’s there for the taking. It’s whoever wants it the most.”
It’s another opportunity that fellow keeper Doug Carr is looking for.
Carr signed a minor-league deal with the Abbotsford Heat following four seasons with Massachusetts-Lowell University, posting a 1-0-1 record with a 1.92 goals against average and .925 save percentage in two appearances.
“Like they told us, if you’re a young guy right now in the organization, you have some opportunity,” Carr said. “They’re rebuilding, going in the right direction. Their goaltending core keeps getting stronger and stronger with each signing. I’m trying not to think about that too much. I’m just trying to land here. It’ll be a good opportunity.
“That’s why they have me in here getting a second look. They’re just trying to add depth in their goaltending core. It’s an important position. It’s the nature of the beast if you’re a goalie. It’s competition. It always forces you to get better. It’s a good thing.”
Competition will be fierce.
With Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo slated to carry the workload in the NHL and Joni Ortio and recently inked 28-year-old Brad Thiessen set to man the Adirondack Flames, few spots are open in the organization.
But that’s furthest from what’s on the mind of Cole Huggins.
“They kind of just said they wanted me here for experience and my coach said the same thing,” said Huggins, who just completed his freshman season with Minnesota State University - Mankato. “Have your eyes wide open and take in as much as you can and learn from it as much as I can.
“I’m just trying to do my best here. I’m not really expecting too much. I have a couple more years of college left so I’m not too worried about it.”
Still, coming to Calgary’s camp is an opportunity of a different sort, and one Huggins wasn’t about to waste.
“The opportunity is unbelievable,” he said. “A year ago I did not expect this at all, to be at an NHL camp. It happened.
“You can’t really not go to this kind of thing if you’re invited.”