PENTICTON, BC --
It's been a summer of change for Calgary Flames prospect, Ryan Howse
Coming off an incredible 51-goal season with the Chilliwack Bruins, many expected to see the 20 year-old skating circles around his fellow prospects at the Flames annual development camp in July.
While he performed well at camp, he wasn't a standout. While his offensive skill set was what it was expected to be, all other aspects of his game were merely average.
Flames general manager Jay Feaster acknowledged that while Howse has an abundance of raw talent, his off-ice conditioning needed to be improved if he wanted to continue to progress as a player. He publicly challenged the winger to alter his off-season training and diet in order to come into main training camp in better shape.
"I took it as a challenge," Howse stated. "That's the best way to take it, I think. Try and get better. That's what I'm here to do and that's what he wants me to do is get better."
Howse opted to move to Calgary in order to train with Flames strength and conditioning coach Rich Hesketh, something he feels has already paid dividends when it comes to his on-ice performance.
"It was huge. It definitely helped moving here (Calgary) and just being around the guys a lot more. Getting to know everyone and getting to know Rich a little more. He helped me a lot with every part of my game."
The biggest change for Howse has been his diet. While he noted his eating habits weren't absolutely horrendous coming into development camp, he admitted he indulged in some less-than-healthy vices more often than he should have been.
The Flames sent him to a nutritionist who promptly modified his entire palette.
"A lot of greens," he replied when asked what was on his plate. "I try to stay away from all the bad stuff. Meats, rice and that type of stuff. Stay away from the pops as much as I can and everything like that. It's a lot healthier now."
When he came into development camp in July, he weighed in at 205 lbs. He isn't sure what he currently weighs but knows he's dropped some pounds since adjusting his diet and conditioning routine.
"I feel more energized now when I come to the rink or when I come to work out, that's for sure."
Howse is hoping to make the jump from the junior ranks to the AHL this season and he knows his fate is strictly in his control.
"Ultimately, yeah, it's in my hands. I've got to go out there and work hard every day and prove myself and play my game and do what has gotten me here now. If I stick to that, I should be fine but I can't try anything out of the ordinary and out of my game style. I've got to keep it simple and play how I play."
Calgary acquired Howse's linemate in Chilliwack, Roman Horak, in the spring when they dealt Tim Erixon's signing rights to the New York Rangers. Horak is also expected to make the leap to the AHL and Howse couldn't be happier the two of them will be making the journey together.
"It's obviously nice to have Roman around. I've been playing with him the last two years, playing every shift and seeing him every day. Kind of weird how he ended up here. Now seeing him every day again, I might get sick of him soon," he chuckled. "No, he's a good guy. He's an extremely good hockey player and I'm happy for him. It helps, I think, the both of us at the end of the day."
He has no illusions that the has an easy path ahead of him. He has spoken with friend Nicholas Drazenovic, a former Prince George Cougar who turned pro in the 2007-08 season, about the transition so he know what to expect.
"It's going to be a little bit different. Maybe a little tougher at start. I'm trying to prepare myself the best I can and use this and use the people around me the best I can to prepare myself for the next step," he said. "I'm excited, I'm happy and obviously I do not want to go back to Victoria. We'll see what happens."
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