The one big difference was I was able to just focus on hockey the couple of months leading up to this. No more summer classes or worrying about school or anything like that. - Bill Arnold
CALGARY, AB -- In what has amounted to a whirlwind few months for Bill Arnold, the Calgary Flames prospect has encountered a lot of firsts.
He’s set for another one at development camp Monday: Playing against Johnny Gaudreau.
“It’s fun to meet new people but I’m sure it’ll feel a little weird playing against him rather than having him there on my left wing,” said Arnold, who signed his first pro deal and played in his first National Hockey League game in April. “We’ll see how it goes. I don’t think I’ve ever played against him. Growing up I never have. Maybe he was on a different line his first year in BC in practice.
“I know all his tricks, so it’ll be fun.”
It’s just one of many new experiences for the Boston native of late, who comes to Calgary’s development camp for the first time as a pro prospect.
And though he’s been through the rigors of a rookie camp before, 2014’s version has a different feel with a contract in his back pocket.
“It definitely feels different,” said the Boston College standout who amassed 14 goals and 53 points in 40 games this season. “One of the things I’m focused on is since I’m going to that camp in September is just everything the coaches or management, the staff, whatever they have to say, take it all in -- any tips, pointers, ways to play the game.
“Take it in and bring it back with me and work on things for the rest of summer so when I come back in September I’m ready to go.”
Unlike past camps, there’s no campus for Arnold to return to.
There are no classes to attend. No textbooks to hit.
Instead, it’s all about hockey.
“It’s definitely an honour and a privilege for sure to be part of the Flames officially,” he said. “The one big difference was I was able to just focus on hockey the couple of months leading up to this. No more summer classes or worrying about school or anything like that. I just got to train or skate.
“It’s a great feeling.”
Arnold, listed at 6-foot, 218 pounds when he made his debut against the Vancouver Canucks, is now a tidy 210 pounds.
His bosses have noticed, too.
“I’m excited to see Bill,” Calgary general manager Brad Treliving said. “He’s slimmed down. He looks good. The good thing is, they’ve still got a lot of summer left to be ready for camp. He’s going to be a guy that’s going to be interesting to see come September.
“I’m a fan of Billy. If you look at Billy, obviously Johnny got a lot of the headlines with that team and obviously with all his exploits. Billy’s a real smart player. To me, he’s a stabilizer. A right-shot centre, those things are real important.”
So too is the camp experience this time around for Arnold.
It’s expected he’ll follow it up with his first appearance at the YoungStars tournament in Penticton in September.
He’ll take his first spin at Flames main camp, too, which will both start and finish a hectic stretch of the 22-year-old’s life.
“It’s been a wild ride,” Arnold said. “From the end of the BC season to playing in Vancouver and graduating, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind. It’s just the start for me. It’s a dream come true to play in that game but that was just the start.
“There’s a lot of work to do and a lot of goals to achieve.”