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The Flames' 2017 fourth round pick is coming off a strong freshman season in Sarnia

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

CHICAGO - No shrinking violet himself at 6-foot-4 and 209 pounds, Adam Ruzicka enjoys watching another large, dangerous bird of prey at work.

"Everybody's different,'' reasoned Adam Ruzicka. "But I'm looking at (Evgeni) Malkin.

"He's a big guy, like me.

"He's good. But I want to play my hockey. I never want to be like someone different. I'm a power forward. I want to play what the coaches want."

After an long wait on the draft floor, the Flames' used their second selection of 2017 NHL Draft to land the strapping Slovak from the OHL's Sarnia Sting in the fourth round, 109th overall.

"I'm not looking at which round,'' he protested. "I'm looking at being the second pick for the Calgary Flames.

"I'm so happy. I can't wait to get there.

"Hopefully it's going t be soon."

Make no mistake, Ruzicka is a project but the upside could be tremendous.

On draft day, his father Edward and mother Yvette - who travelled to watch their son play twice this year, once in Sarnia and for the World Junior Championships held jointly by Montreal-Toronto - were back home, waiting, when Ruzicka's name was called by the Flames at the United Center.

"My phone,'' he reported, "is going nuts."

As an OHL, and North American, freshman, Ruzicka compiled 25 goals and 46 points in 61 starts.

A good platform to build off of.

"Adam's a big, strong kid with some skill who struggled for a while trying to figure out the North American game,'' says Flames' scout Fred Parker. "Once he got going, he went on a bit of a roll for. He got a little tired towards the end of the year but then went back to represent his country and played great again.

"There was an adjustment period, no question. He was a leader on his team in (Slovakia).

"Physically, he can handle anything thrown at him. It's a question of whether he can develop consistency to his game in a small rink."

The acclimatization period at an end, Ruzicka intends to amp up his play and responsibility through 2017-2018.

"My teammates were amazing,'' he said of the cultural and stylistic transition. "My coaches helped me to improved.

 "It's different hockey. Now I'm used to it. But it's a lot better. A good choice."

Video: Ryan Leslie talks with the Flames' fourth-round pick

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