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A HARD HITTER

Flames fourth-round selection Martin Pospisil isn't afraid to play a physical brand of hockey

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

The PIM total, concedes Luke Strand, does jump off the page at you.

"He wears them as a badge of honour," says the head coach of the USHL Sioux City Musketeers of Martin Pospisil's table-topping total of 253, in only 49 games.

"His compete is real. His hardness is real.

"It's not pretend.

"He'll police the game himself at times. And I'd rather have him on the ice than in the box, believe me. But that shows just how much he cares.

"And there's more, much more, to him than penalty minutes.

"This is a real hockey player. He's got expression when he plays. A great balance of depth of skill, size and he's a very fiery guy. He plays almost a throwback game. 

"Excellent centre defensively but has the ability to make plays in all three zones."

It's nearing 8 p.m. in Permasins, Germany - two hours outside Munich - when Pospisil's name popped up on the laptop screen as the 105th overall choice on Day Two of the 2018 NHL Draft, being held in faraway Dallas.

"When I saw it I was freaking out,'' admits the rangy Slovakian right-winger, whose dad Josef is a journalist with an automotive magazine. "It's always been my dream to play in the NHL.

"I was really surprised, when Calgary took me. So excited."

The Flames connection to Pospisil, unsurprisingly, traces back to Strand, who spent a year in the organization as an assistant coach with the AHL Abbotsford Heat and another as a scout before moving to Sioux City for the 2017-18 season.

Amateur bird-dog Jim Cummins scouted the product of Zvolven, Slovakia extensively and there's another Calgary tie in the person of former Flames' coach Pierre Page, working in management with EC Red Bull Salzburg of Austria while Pospisil was in their development program.

Pospisil will be returning to Iowa and the Musketeers for one more season, and finishing high school, before moving on to NCAA St. Lawrence University.

The feistiness on display at theTyson Events Center last year is, everyone seems to agree, a solid base to build from.

"I don't mind playing physical,'' says Pospisil. "If I have to drop the gloves for the team, I can do that. I have no problem with that.

"But I know to someday play in the NHL you have to be able to play in many ways."

Pospisil has the raw tools, mindset and potential that could see him pay off in a big way.

"Through the second half of the year his game really accelerated, as he got more comfortable ,'' says Strand, "and I think that's the trend you're going to continue to see.

"I'm familiar with the Flames' organization, of course. A lot of good people working there.

"So I could not be more excited to have one of my own go that way, for sure."

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