The Abbotsford Heat have a mix of youngsters and veterans jostling for roster spots down centre ice and it will be a battle to the bitter end to determine where everyone falls on the depth chart. Rookie Max Reinhart is expected to play a big role in his first season with the team but he'll be squaring off against the likes of Ben Street, Ben Walter, Roman Horak, Gaelan Patterson and Paul Byron. Carter Bancks is also listed as a pivot but the coaching staff has used him on the wings during his time with the Heat.
CALGARYFLAMES.COM 3 PLAYERS TO WATCH:
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2011-12: KOOTENAY ICE
GP: 61 | GOALS: 28 | ASST: 50 | PTS: 78
PIM: 40 | +/-: 19
MAX REINHART- One rookie Flames fans are clamoring to see in action this year is Max Reinhart. After four strong seasons with the Kootenay Ice (WHL), the 20 year-old looks more than ready to take on responsibilities that come with playing in the AHL.
A steady, dependable two-way centre, Reinhart was Kootenay's leading scorer over the past two seasons. He excelled in all situations, scoring 19 even-strength tallies, six goals on the power play and three short-handed markers.
After Kootenay's season concluded, Reinhart headed to Abbotsford to get a taste of what the professional game was like. He scored his first and second professional goals in his first game with the Heat and the coaching staff were so impressed with his play that they had him dress for four playoff games. He scored one goal and one assist in the postseason while picking up a plus-one rating.
At the 2012 Flames development camp, Reinhart noted he didn't feel strong enough during his stint in Abbotsford and spent the summer working on adding muscle to his 5-foot-11 frame. The added strength - along with his above-average hockey sense, offensive instincts and strong passing skills - will make him tough to compete with in camp.
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2011-12: CALGARY FLAMES
GP: 61 | GOALS: 3 | ASST: 8 | PTS: 11
PIM: 14 | +/-: 3
ROMAN HORAK - Last year, Czech pivot Roman Horak headed into his first training camp with the Flames organization with very little fanfare.
Expected to ply his trade in Abbotsford for the duration of the 2011-12 season, Horak's performance in training camp and throughout exhibition tilts earned him a roster spot in Calgary. He ultimately played 61 games in the NHL last year along with 14 games with the Heat.
This year, there will be quite a few more eyes on him as he vies for a top-six role in Abbotsford. Horak's on-ice vision is one of his greatest strengths and it makes him a very capable playmaker. His defensive game is also rock-solid and his play without the puck has been lauded by a number of his former coaches.
During his days with the Chilliwack Bruins, he was Ryan Howse's set-up man and the Heat coaching staff may put them on the same line in training camp to see if they can rekindle the chemistry they had in the WHL.
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2011-12: WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON PENGUINS
GP: 71 | GOALS: 27 | ASST: 30 | PTS: 57
PIM: 24 | +/-: 14
BEN STREET - Ben Street is coming into training fresh off a career season with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins which saw him pot 27 goals and 57 points and is looking to earn a top-six role with the Heat this year.
Like Reinhart and Horak, Street has an extremely high hockey IQ and assesses situations accurately and efficiently. In addition to his vision, he possesses a very hard, accurate shot. The coaching staff in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton used him all situations thanks to his strong two-way play.
Street's meticulous approach to the game will likely mesh well with bench boss Troy Ward's coaching style. The two have some history together as Ward recruited Street for the University of Wisconsin.
In 2011, Street was named the ECHL Rookie of the Year. He notched 51 points in 38 games with the Wheeling Nailers that year, averaging 1.34 points-per-game.