Flames’ hopefuls took to the ice Tuesday for the first time since the annual summer development camp got underway with many new faces and a lot of familiar faces as well.
One of those new faces was recently-drafted Barrie Colts’ forward Andrew Mangiapane, who was the Flames’ sixth round selection at the NHL Draft in Sunrise, FL at the end of June.
The under-sized forward — who is listed generously listed as 5-foot-10 — was clearly the smallest player on the ice and was regularly battling against some hulking opposition like 6-foot-6 Keegan Kanzig, 6-foot-6 Riley Bruce, and 6-foot-7 Hunter Smith.
Although the size of the players was noticed, it was nothing Mangiapane hasn’t seen before.
“There was a lot of big bodies out there,” he said after his group finished their session at the Joan Snyder Arena at WinSport. “It was a good skate, it was very tiring but I think I did okay there. I’m pretty use to the big bodies by now.”
The Bolton, ON native was passed up in his first year of draft eligibility in 2014 but caught the attention of the Flames’ amateur scouts after more than doubling his offensive production last season putting up 104 points in 68 games.
Mangiapane’s size has always been his Achilles Heel, but the spark-plug forward knows what he has to work on to reach the next level.
“I still have to grow and get bigger and stronger,” he said. “I just kind of stick to my game. I’ve come this far so something is working. I’ve just got to play my game and do what I can out there.”
Things weren’t totally unfamiliar for him, either. His Barrie teammate and fellow 2015 Flames Draft pick Rasmus Andersson skated in the same session as Mangiapane.
“I was happy when I saw Rasumus the first day and we hung out for a bit,” Mangiapane smiled. “It’s a been great being out here with a familiar face. It’s great to see him again, he lives in Sweden so I don’t get to see him in the off-season. It’s great to see him and I’m happy to be here with him.”
Newly signed blueliner Jakub Nakladal laced-up for the first time as a member of the Flames on Tuesday.
Calgary signed Nakladal to a one-year entry level contract after his first season playing for TPS Turku in Finland’s SM-Liiga. Nakladal turned heads at the World Championships when he led the Czech’s with five assists in the tournament.
The 27-year-old now turns his attention to North America and earning a roster spot within the Flames organization.
“I hope, I hope. Of course I have to work hard and it’s going to be tough for me but I believe in my chances and I believe I can do it,” said Nakladal, after skating in his first session.
It’s not just the hockey and the ice size he will have to adjust to. The North American lifestyle and culture will take some getting use to.
“We talked about it with Brad Treliving and Bob Hartley that it’s going to be better for me to come during the summer and see the city and the organization and meet the people here,” he said. “I think it’s great for me.
“It’s different for me. When I came to the rink, on the ice, it’s a big difference because I always play in a big rink. I think it’s going to be okay. Three or four practices and I think it’s going to be okay for me.”
“I think it’s a very good week for me because it’s a lot of new things I can see here. It’s a bit different. I was in Russia and in Finland and the Czech league and I really have to say it’s a big difference already here. All the stuff here, this sports centre, is absolutely great. I’ve never seen it before. I’m happy I can be here and I think it’s a very good experience for me.”
Playing in the NHL remains the dream for Nakladal, even with his experience and at his age.
“I think when I was maybe six years old, I started to play hockey because my brother played hockey, too,” he said. “We would like to play in the NHL, but it’s just a dream. After the World Championships when we talk about it and I saw that it’s a small chance to make it so it was absolutely great for me and I decided I wanted to try it.”
CENTRE OF ATTENTION
Although Sam Bennett is one of the youngest skaters at development camp, he currently has the most NHL experience with one regular season tilt and another 11 playoff contests.
That doesn’t mean Bennett thinks he has it made in the shade.
“I’m still only 19-years-old so I think there is tons that I still need to learn,” Bennett admitted, surrounded by a swarm of local media. “The more time I spend around the team and around the coaching staff the more I’m going to learn and the better I’m going to get. I think it’s nothing but good for me.”
The 19-year-old emerged as a key figure in the Flames surprising 2015 playoff run and has seemingly solidified a roster spot for the upcoming season. His playoff experience has helped boosted his confidence for the upcoming season.
“It’s definitely a lot different feeling than last year coming to development camp,” Bennett said. “I guess I’m a little more experienced this year and I feel a lot more confident for sure. It’s nice having that experience for sure.”
Bennett’s role with Calgary in the playoffs certainly made him the talk of the town back in Ontario with his family and friends. After watching the NHL playoffs each year with them it was a different being on the other side of the fence.
“I think it was more crazy for all my friends and my family. They made a lot bigger deal about it. For me I was just enjoying the moment and it just felt natural to me.
“They were all super excited, super shocked and they all said they couldn’t believe it when they were watching NHL games I was playing in . It was really nice to have all my friends supporting me and to come back to all the love and support.”