CALGARY, AB -- After a solid rookie WHL season, the Calgary Hitmen are looking for centreman Greg Chase to step into a much larger role with the club.
"We're expecting a big year from Greg," Hitmen head coach Mike Williamson told CalgaryFlames.com. "Last season, he didn't play as big a role as we would expect him to play this year.
"He's skilled and strong enough to play a lot of minutes and a lot of different roles in this league. I think the biggest thing is that he has to continue to learn the game and play on both sides of the puck. If he does that, he can be a top guy in this league."
The Sherwood Park, AB native thrives off that kind of challenge and after an off-season filled with strength training, he believes he can become an impact player in the league.
"I spent the summer getting bigger and stronger," he said. "I know I have the speed to play in the league from last year but I felt that if I got bigger and stronger, it would help me more in the corners, in front of the net and in those tough areas to get big goals for the team."
Chase's summer of strength training could be a nightmare for the opposition as he didn't shy away from exerting his physical presence during his rookie season. He finishes all his checks, goes in hard on the forecheck and is willing to drop the gloves if needed. That physical play combined with his speed, hockey IQ and strong offensive instincts will have scouts keeping a close on him all year.
While he is eligible for the 2013 NHL Draft, hearing his name called in New Jersey next summer is the last thing on his mind. The Hitmen fell short in the WHL Eastern Conference quarter-finals against the Brandon Wheat Kings and Chase is focused on helping his team make a long run in the WHL playoffs.
"The most important thing is that the team gets wins," he stated. "When teams are winning and doing well, players are going to get noticed and individual stats are going to be higher. The biggest thing for me is that the team plays well as a whole."
That mindset is something Williamson likes to see in his players. The 2012-13 campaign marks his 11th season as a head coach in the WHL and he was witnessed a plethora of his charges go through their draft-eligible seasons trying to do to much in order to impress scouts and improve their rankings.
"The biggest thing I've seen is a lot of guys going into the their second year - especially from 16 to 17 - get a little bit ahead of themselves and get overconfident.
"Sometimes they think it's going to come easy to them so that's the biggest thing. But every player is different ... it's good for them to expect to play bigger roles but it's also very, very important that they realize they're going to have to work, push and expectations are higher for them."
The Calgary Hitmen drafted Chase 22nd overall in the 2010 WHL Bantam Draft. He scored six goals and 28 points in 60 games during the 2011-12 campaign.