It’s crazy, it’s hard to put into words. It’s a dream come true and something I’ve worked hard for my whole life. It’s just amazing that I’m going to get that opportunity. - Bill Arnold
PHILADELPHIA, PA -- After an extremely successful four-year tenure at Boston College, Calgary Flames prospect Bill Arnold is ready to take the next step in his career.
The 21-year-old centre signed an entry-level deal with the Flames on Friday and will make his NHL debut on Sunday evening when Calgary faces off against the Vancouver Canucks in their final game of the 2013-14 season.
"It's been a whirlwind," Arnold told CalgaryFlames.com. "I'm really looking forward to everything."
Whirlwind is probably the best word to describe Arnold's situation.
He and his family, who traveled to Philadelphia from Boston to watch the Eagles in the Frozen Four, will head to Calgary following the Hobey Baker ceremony on Friday evening. Johnny Gaudreau, who also signed an entry-level deal with the Flames on Friday, will join them with his family.
The pair of prospects will hop onto the team charter to Vancouver on Saturday and start preparing for their first career NHL games on Sunday. Their families will join them in British Columbia, capping off a hectic but exciting weekend.
Naturally, Arnold is feeling a bit nervous about making his debut on Sunday.
"It’s crazy, it’s hard to put into words,” he said. “It’s a dream come true and something I’ve worked hard for my whole life. It’s just amazing that I’m going to get that opportunity."
In some ways for Arnold, it feels like it was just yesterday that he and his family made the cross-country flight to Los Angeles for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and ended up being selected by the Flames, but this next step in his career is the culmination of years of work.
But taking that next step and actually donning a Flames jersey in a regular season game is a momentousness achievement. The excitement about skating in his first NHL game is laced with a level of nervousness.
Both he and Gaudreau will have plenty of teammates to lean on.
The Flames have had a number of rookies make their NHL debuts over the last two years and quite a few will be in Vancouver with the pair.
Players like Kenny Agostino, Ben Hanowski, and Bryce Van Brabant will be particularly helpful as they made the jump straight from college to the NHL after signing their contracts.
"I’m just trying to take it step-by-step, day-by-day here. Just go through and make sure I’m taking everything in and enjoying the moment because it only happens once.
"I’m going to love every moment of it."
Having Gaudreau make his NHL debut at the same time has helped quell a bit of the anxiety for Arnold.
The pair has known each other for years and has become close friends off the ice. They also have spent a large portion of this season playing on the same line at Boston College, making them even more familiar with each other's on-ice tendencies and habits.
"The comfort level drives up a little bit because you are always going to have someone you know by your side for the next few days here," Arnold said. "He’s one of my best friends so getting to share this moment with him is something I’ll never forget."