CALGARY, AB --
After the Calgary Flames failed to qualify forward John Armstrong this summer, no one expected to see his face at training camp.
However, on Friday morning, there he was at the Scotiabank Saddledome preparing for fitness testing. It turns out the 23 year-old signed a one-year, one-way deal with the Abbotsford Heat in late July. The offer caught Armstrong off-guard as he figured his time in the organization had expired.
"Yeah, I was a little surprised," he said. "I wanted to be qualified and I wanted to be here so I was a little disappointed. But when they offered me the contract right after, at least I knew I had something to deal with."
While he knows he isn't pushing for a roster spot, Armstrong is using this camp to make sure he's on organization's radar.
"I'm just trying to prove they made a mistake not qualifying me. I'm trying to make a good impression. Hopefully I'll be on their mind and have a good season. Maybe half-way through the season or next year, get back on that NHL contract."
Armstrong has battled injuries throughout his entire professional career, enduring two shoulder surgeries over the past couple of the years. He believes a lack of strength from his last surgery played a part in his performance last season.
"My shoulder was a problem for a long time," he admitted. "It seemed like I would just get healthy again and I would hurt it. It never was completely healed and then finally I had a pretty intense surgery that took about eight months before I was allowed to do any contact. Then even after that eight months, I didn't have full strength or full confidence on the ice.
"It took me probably a year before my shoulder was 100 per cent after that second surgery. The total time with that one shoulder was probably about two years that it was nagging."
The Unionville, ON native was pegged as a candidate to push for a roster spot last fall but a lackluster camp quashed those hopes. It wasn't known at the time but Armstrong still hadn't fully recovered from that second shoulder surgery.
"I got cleared right for training camp. I didn't have a lot of time to prepare before training camp. And even when I was cleared, the strength wasn't really there. I pretty much had to start over from zero strength-wise."
Armstrong is finally feeling healthy and ready to show the Flames exactly was he has to offer. In 2008, fresh out of junior, he nearly cracked the lineup after a very strong training camp. He's using that experience as motivation as he goes forward.
"I feel great now. My shoulder's great. I've had a whole summer where I haven't been injured so it feels good that I can just prepare my body and be ready to go for camp.
"I've done it before. I did it a few years ago. Now I feel like I'm bigger, faster, stronger. I don't why I can't do it again."Follow Torie Peterson on Twitter | @ToriePeterson