The way it was going last year, I didn't even know if I was going to crack the AHL. I'm pretty confident in myself right now and I'm pretty happy with the way things are going. - Michael Ferland
CALGARY, AB -- Michael Ferland has come a long way in the past year.
The Calgary Flames fifth-round pick in the 2010 NHL Draft went through a tumultuous 2012-13 season. He started the year in Abbotsford, hoping to kick off his professional career with the Heat, but wasn't able to land a permanent roster spot.
He ended up playing seven games with the Heat and three games with the Utah Grizzlies (ECHL) before the Flames reassigned to his junior team, the Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL), hoping to spark the winger's game.
However, his hometown Wheaties were in the midst of a rebuilding year and ended up trading Ferland to the Saskatoon Blades after just four games. The Brandon, MB native spent the rest of the year with the Blades, amassing 29 points (8 goals, 21 assists) in 26 games.
The Blades hosted the Mastercard Memorial Cup last spring but didn't fare well in the tournament. They ended up fourth, winning one of their four games and scored just 10 goals - the least of the four teams participating.
After the conclusion of the tournament, Ferland was at a crossroads. He enjoyed his time with the Wheat Kings and Blades but given what he had went through earlier in the year, he wasn't sure what his future held. He needed to make a firm decision about his career path.
"I really had to dig down and realize what I wanted," he said. "I thought I had a really good summer; I came to Calgary for a little while and that was the best thing for me.
"At first, I wasn't sure I wanted to come here but now that I look back, it was probably one of the best decisions I've ever made."
In addition to working with management, Ferland spent a lot of time talking with Flames head coach Bob Hartley. The bench boss aided in Ferland's decision to continue to pursue a career in hockey.
"I talked to Bob a lot over the summer and ... he really does believe in me," Ferland explained.
"I've had some really good meetings with the management. I know what they expect from me and it all comes down to me and how bad I want it. I just want to keep pushing myself and pushing in the right direction."
Feeling re-energized and motivated, Ferland put forth a strong performance in the Flames annual development camp in July and continued to hone his off-season training regimen over the course of the summer, losing over 15-pounds and getting his fitness level in line with what the team wanted.
The hard work Ferland put in over the summer has paid off. He was one of Calgary's best players in the 2013 Young Stars Classic and survived the first round of training camp cuts. He is pushing hard to land a spot on the opening night roster and believes he has a chance at being in the lineup on Oct. 3.
"I'm pretty confident. I've talked to (management) and they said I have a legit shot. It all comes down to me and how I play.
"Obviously I've got to earn my spot here and there's a lot of great players. I just want to take it one day at a time."
Ferland is extremely appreciative of the support the Flames management and coaching staff have given him since he joined the organization, stating on multiple occasions he doesn't believe he would be where he is today without their backing.
"They've always been in my corner, since I've been drafted," the 21-year-old said with a smile. "They've obviously helped me out with a lot of things and I thank them for that.
"The way it was going last year, I didn't even know if I was going to crack the AHL. I'm pretty confident in myself right now and I'm pretty happy with the way things are going."