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Baertschi evolving on and off the ice

by Torie Peterson / Calgary Flames

I don't want to be just good. I want to be great. In the end, that's what it takes for me to get better - to work on everything. Not just little things.Sven Baertschi

CALGARY, AB -- Physically, Sven Baertschi has changed drastically over the past three years.

As a fresh-faced 19-year-old on an emergency recall back in 2011-12, he was a lanky winger who looked like a boy amongst men. He had skill in spades but was far from physically mature.

Over the past few years, he has put more muscle on his 5-foot-11 frame and has improved his core strength, making it much harder to dislodge him from the puck.

Mentally, he has also matured.

The exuberance and passion that draws you in is still there but belaying those qualities is a sense of poise that, for the most part, most rookies don't possess.

He has battled through injuries and the disappointment that comes along with bouncing from the NHL to AHL. It was, at times, frustrating, discouraging, and vexatious.

But, ultimately, the obstacles he was faced with have helped him evolve on and off the ice.

"The past few years have been a good learning process for me," he explained. "It wouldn't be a good thing if I didn't mature at all. For me, those few years, the big things I take out of it is mental toughness. Going through that, it's not easy as a young guy. It's something I had to learn.

"Now I learned it, I understand the game a lot better, and I know there are other things that are big factors out there."

A part of working through those challenges has been evaluating every aspect of his game. He has picked apart

"I've been working on my overall game," Baertschi said Tuesday. "I watched tons of videos during the summer and tried to figure out my game. I spent a lot of time on it. In the end, you can see it visually but going out there is a lot different. I've been doing video now during games and I've been trying to figure out my game.

"It's been getting better and I feel way more comfortable out there. I feel like I'm not as nervous anymore. Decision-making out there, on the ice, seems a lot easier now."

One of the biggest was rounding out his defensive game.

During his major junior days in Portland, his focus was solely on generating offence. In his draft-eligible season, Baertschi rattled off 34 goals and 85 points in just 66 games with the Winterhawks. He followed that up with a 33 goals and 94 points in just 47 games in the 2012-13 campaign.

But once he turned pro, he realized that defensive responsibility was an absolute must. If he didn't shore up his play in his own zone, he wouldn't be logging much ice time.

"You've got to be able to go out there in the last minute, when you're up by one goal, you want that. But you also want to be out there when you're one goal down. You've got to find a good line.

"In the end, of course I want to play offensive hockey but there are certain things that I have to do and I want to do. It's only going to help me out."

While he has been satisfied with the strides he has made, Baertschi won't stop scrutinizing his play.

He has very high expectations for himself, which won't be met unless he continues to fine-tune his game.

"I don't want to be just good. I want to be great. In the end, that's what it takes for me to get better - to work on everything. Not just little things. It's not just the offensive part that needs to get better but it's also the defensive part that needs to get better.

"For me, in order to do that, I've got to grow up as a hockey player."

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