Originally taken by Pittsburgh in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, that’s the date that Agostino, current Adirondack teammate Ben Hanowski and the Penguins’ 2013 No. 1 draft pick (Morgan Klimchuk) were dealt to the Flames in exchange for former Calgary superstar Jarome Iginla.
Now, Agostino will be counted on heavily for a different type of turning point, as Adirondack (31-25-6-2) tries to inch closer to a playoff berth in a home game against the Oklahoma City Barons (37-22-5-3). The Flames are in 11th place, only three points behind Hamilton for the eighth and final postseason position.
“Every game means something right now,” said Agostino, a 22-year-old rookie from Morristown, N.J. “We’re right in the middle of the hunt. It’s exciting. Every game, you’re battling for two huge points.”
The 6-foot forward out of Yale has been one of Adirondack’s most productive players of late, with points in eight of his last 11 games including a seven-game scoring streak. He’s recorded four goals and eight assists during the 11-game stretch, with four multi-point performances.
“When guys get called up you get a little more ice time, more opportunities,” Agostino said. “I think I’ve been making the most of them.”
It couldn’t be coming at a more critical time, with 11 games left in the regular season. The Flames close out their homestand tonight against Oklahoma City before taking off for a three-game swing through Texas, followed by two more battles on the road at Toronto and Utica.
Coach Ryan Huska couldn’t be more pleased at how Agostino has stepped up at this critical time of year.
“He’s a guy now that we rely on for part of our offensive contribution,” he said. “He’s quite a bit grittier. He’s a harder guy to play against now than he was at the beginning of the year. That’s one of the reasons he’s getting more ice time.”
Last spring, Agostino went straight from Yale to the NHL, playing in eight games for the parent Flames with a goal and an assist.
“That’s everyone’s dream,” he said. “What I took away from it was knowing that I could play at that level. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done to establish yourself in that league. Overall, the main thing I’ve learned as a first-year pro is that I have the ability. It’s just a matter of doing it on a consistent basis and playing all three zones.”
He’s constantly strived to improve all aspects of his game, with a high priority on defence. “I did a great job last summer getting fit and stronger,” Agostino said. “I feel like I’ve been able to handle the grind of the season, which is a lot longer than college where you go from playing 30-plus games to 76. Physically, I feel great. It’s just a matter of really being conscientious of the D-zone. It’s something I’ve worked on. I think I have the offensive ability once I get past the red line. It’s just playing from the red line in. D-zone coverage is big for me.”
Huska is impressed with Agostino’s dedication to this part of his game.
“When you think of Kenny, he doesn’t have any issue from the red line in on the offensive zone,” the coach said. “It’s the red line back towards our zone where he continues to get better and become a guy that’s trustworthy in critical times of the game. That’s our message with him -- that every day he has to get better defensively and every day be a guy that can be relied on in key situations.”
Agostino’s background is a bit different from most other players on Adirondack’s roster. Northern New Jersey, just outside New York City, isn’t a hockey hotbed like Canada, Boston, Minnesota and the northern European countries that some players come from (David Wolf, Germany; Joni Ortio, Finland).
Also, Agostino has no older brothers and his father never played the game.
“But my dad loves sports, he loves hockey,” Agostino said. “He’s a die-hard Rangers fan. When I was 2 or 3 years old he got me on roller blades. By 4, I was on the ice. I think he saw that I took a liking to it. We just sort of stuck with it. For a family that really doesn’t have any hockey background it’s pretty amazing what my parents (Ken Sr. and Anne) were able to do for me and the amount of time and effort they put into it.”
Agostino was only 2 years old when the New York Rangers won the 1994 Stanley Cup. But he knows almost every play from their championship series by heart.
“My dad got a tape of the ’94 Cup. When I was 5 or 6 I would watch it over and over,” Agostino said smiling. “I’ve got that thing memorized. I can say every line that (Rangers broadcasters) Sam Rosen and John Davidson said. Growing up, I had pictures of Mark Messier and all the Ranger greats on my wall.”
Now, of course, Agostino is focused on helping Adirondack make a run for the AHL Calder Cup, and some day raising the Stanley Cup with Calgary. His climb up hockey’s ladder has had some unexpected twists and turns, but Agostino has improved each step of the way.
“When I came over in the trade the Flames welcomed me,” he said. “They preach hard work, which I feel is great. It’s first-class all the way. If you look at the season the big club is having this year, it’s a testament to the direction the organization is going. It’s a good place to be for sure.”