There’s a lot of opportunity here right now so it’s important to make the most of it. - Kenny Agostino
CALGARY, AB -- It has been just under two calendar years since Kenny Agostino laced up for an NHL game.
After a four-year collegiate career at Yale, the Calgary Flames inked the winger to an entry-level deal and he dressed for eight games at the tail-end of the 2013-14 campaign. That stint saw him pot his first NHL goal -- pouncing on a loose puck and wristing a shot past Florida Panthers' goaltender Roberto Luongo on Apr. 4, 2014 -- and collect his first NHL assist.
Since then, he has been plying his trade in the American Hockey League. In his rookie pro season with the Adirondack Flames, Agostino led the team in scoring with 15 goals and 43 points in 67 appearances. Impressive, but the Flames felt he was best served developing at the AHL level last year rather than have his minutes and responsibilities drop with a call-up to Calgary.
This year, he is tied for the lead in scoring in Stockton with Hunter Shinkaruk with 42 points through 50 games. He has scored 17 goals this year -- a new career-high -- and his average of 0.84 points-per-game is second only to Mason Raymond, who has played 12 games with the Heat.
Needless to say, he feels a bit more prepared for the NHL than he did during his first cup of coffee in the league.
"Maturing as a player, learning the pro game ... [I have] more confidence, for sure," Agostino said after the morning skate at the Scotiabank Saddledome. "I think with the second half I had last year, it gave me the confidence to know I can produce in pro hockey. It’s been a good year down there and hopefully I’ll keep it going here."
With Sam Bennett sidelined with a mid-body injury, the Flames opted to recall Agostino over the likes of Shinkaruk, Freddie Hamilton, Drew Shore, Turner Elson, and Emile Poirier. All of them would be worthy candidates but given Agostino's development curve and consistency, the choice was easy.
"He’s had a real good season in Stockton, very productive. That’s the kind of player we saw once he came out of college," Bob Hartley explained. "He had a real good stint with us, remember two years ago at the end of the season. He could have easily scored 5-10 goals. He hit a bunch of posts, he had some great chances.
"Right now with the loss of Jiri, the loss of Jonesy, and Sammy’s injury … the door is wide open. Talking with Ryan Huska in Stockton, he’s been probably one of our most consistent forwards all year. He deserves it."
Tonight, he slides onto line with Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik when the Flames face off against the Arizona Coyotes at 7:00 PM MT (SN-West, FAN 960).
"It’s exciting for sure. Those are two great players," Agostino said. "I want to move the puck quick and keep up with them. Hopefully it will be a good night."
Playing alongside the likes of Backlund and Frolik is quite the opportunity for the 23-year-old. The trio will serve as the team's second line tonight, likely meaning Agostino will log plenty of minutes in his first NHL game since Apr. 11, 2014.
"There’s a lot of opportunity here right now so it’s important to make the most of it. Not being here for a couple years makes you really understand what a privilege it is to play in this league. I’m looking forward to making the most of it.
"I’m going to do everything in my power to hopefully stay."