CALGARY, AB -- Sven Baertschi may have a few NHL games under his belt but he is still feeling a few butterflies as he prepares for the Calgary Flames 2013 training camp.
"A little shaky, a little nervous," Baertschi said after skating at WinSport on Friday. "It's always special when you're around NHL guys. It's definitely a challenge for me but I've got to get used to it and I want to make sure I get used to it."
The Swiss winger opted to head into Calgary on his volition this week in order to ensure he is fully prepared for training camp. In 2011, he entered camp without any expectations and simply wanted to soak up the experience. This year, his goal is clear; he wants to be a regular in the Flames lineup.
"I'm really excited," he grinned. "I was looking forward to (camp) during the summer and then the lockout came up. It was kind of tough during that time but I had a great team with Abbotsford. Now, I'm coming in here and with a little bit of a different mindset than last camp. I'm coming in here and I want to make sure I make the team this year."
Baertschi will be relying on what he learned during his three-plus months with the Abbotsford Heat. The forward suited up for 21 games with the Flames AHL affiliate, scoring six goals and 18 points. He sits fifth overall in team scoring, trailing Ben Street, Ben Walter, TJ Brodie and Roman Horak.
His season hit a bit of speed bump after he suffered an upper body injury in late November. He missed over a month of action but he views his time sitting on the sidelines as a valuable learning experience.
He acknowledged he has the tendency to hold on to the puck a for second or two too long, which can result in getting hit. While he has been pleased with his ability to make a play after taking a check, he wants to pick up the pace of his passing game and improve on his on-ice awareness.
"When I jumped up to Abbotsford, it's a little rougher up there. In the start, you have to get used to it and there is a lot of times when you're in a game, you see guys coming after you and you just hope you don't get injured. That's why I think with the injury I had, that's why it happened.
"I'm happy that I'm making the play but you don't want to get hit too often. I want to get used to passing the puck a little earlier and making plays that way."
There was some concern heading into the week regarding Baertschi's medical status but he is confident he is fully healed.
"I think I'm back to 100 per cent again. I was out for a whole month so it took me a little bit to get back to normal routine - practices and then I had two games. The first game, I didn't play that much. It was more like an adjustment (period). The second game, I played normal and felt fine."
The Flames 2011 first round draft pick solidified himself as the organization's most promising prospect during the 2011-12 season. He was limited to 47 games with the Portland Winterhawks but managed to rack up 94 points (33 goals, 61 assists) during the regular season. He helped lead his team to Game 7 of the WHL Championship series, recording 34 points (14 goals, 20 assists) in 22 postseason games.
When Calgary ran into serious injury trouble last spring, they brought the youngster in on a emergency recall. During his five-game cup of coffee with the squad, he potted three goals on 10 shots.
Given his success last year, expectations from fans are sky-high but Baertschi knows he cannot let them get into his head. Once he starts to try and live up to others standards, he knows his game could suffer.
"I'm 20 years old. I've got a lot to learn. I need some time to adjust to everything. But last year was a great experience for me and I had a free mind. I was just playing - that's why I think it went so well.
"I can't promise anything but I'm going to work as hard as I can during camp and I'm going to work as hard as I can when the games come up."
While Baertschi has tempered expectations for himself, his future teammates believe he'll be an impact player for years to come.
"Everyone saw how his presence was felt last year when he came in," Matt Stajan said. "It's great to see him. I know he's been playing in the 'A' this year and he's had some injury problems but he says he feels great. He looks good out there, in today's practice.
"His skill, it's unbelievable."