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Robinson plans to use his large frame to get in on the forecheck and create plays

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / calgaryflames.com

Buddy Robinson was one of many who painted the town orange. 

It was Flyers country, after all.

Growing up a stone's throw from Philly's home barn, across the vast, Delaware River in Bellmawr, New Jersey, he learned from one of the best of all-time.  

"I've been No. 10 my whole life," Robinson said following Tuesday's morning skate. "I've never been anything but because of John LeClair with the Flyers. I loved the sight of that big body coming down the wing, a right-handed shot firing pucks and getting in on the forecheck. 

 

Video: Chatting with recent call-up, who will play tonight

 

"Just trying to be a presence out there. 

"That's who I wanted to be. 

"That's who I've modeled my game after, and will look to bring to the Flames."

Robinson, who's in the second of a two-year, two-way deal with the Flames, will debut with the big club tonight as the locals face off with the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues.  

He'll line up on right wing, alongside Mikael Backlund, with Sam Bennett on the opposite flank.

It will be his first NHL contest in 1,145 days, and just the eighth in his eight years as a pro. 

Dec. 10, 2016 - his game in NHL silks - must feel like a lifetime ago. 

"It does," the big man sighed. "It does.

"The last couple of days have been a good reminder to keep working hard and never give up on your dreams. 

"Because good things do happen." 

 

Video: "We have to stay patient"

 

While Robinson won't be sporting LeClair's famed digits - those, of course, belong to Derek Ryan - he will certainly bring the same edge, thanks to the size (and hands) he was blessed with.

"I'm a big body, there's no getting around it, so I've got to use that to my advantage," the 6-foot-6, 225-lb. winger said. "For me, it comes down to getting in on the forecheck, making plays with my stick and my skates, and try to carve out a role on this team."

When Robinson signed back in the summer of 2018, he saw potential - both in his ability, and in the opportunity that lay within the Flames organization. 

In the span of only three years, he wore four different sweaters, but only one with the NHL crest. After stops in Binghamton, Ottawa, San Jose and Manitoba, the Stockton/Calgary connection felt right for so many reasons.

"It was an easy decision to sign here," he said, looking back on that early July day. "Calgary came up pretty early in the discussions and it seemed like such a good fit. 

"I've been working hard with different teams the last couple of years just looking for my opportunity, and it seems like right now the Flames are ready to reward me for some good play and I'm just going to go out there, work hard and have some fun with it."

At 28, there had to have been moments where Robinson was questioning whether or not the opportunity would ever come, but the culture the Flames and Heat have instilled in their players rewards those on merit. 

With the carrot in sight, the competitive fire burned brighter, hotter, and longer than ever before.

A number of players have been given a shot with the Flames this year, and with Robinson leading the AHL club with 16 goals, and sitting fourth overall in team scoring, the time was right to give him the shot he's long deserved.

"Being a competitor, you never want to settle for playing in a league below," Robinson said. "The confidence I've had in myself, the support from family and friends, and knowing that my game could translate to the NHL level one day, I never stopped believing.

"You see a guy go up and have some success - like Rhino (Zac Rinaldo) did, and stuck earlier this year - it gives you some extra motivation that it can happen and you're not just down there wasting time.

"You come up here, make a name for yourself and show you can play at this level, and who knows what can happen, right?

Interim head coach Geoff Ward couldn't agree more. 

He's seen it, first hand. 

Having spent a number of years coaching in the AHL, watching all a player's hard work come to fruition is a moment for all to enjoy. 

"I'm sure he's excited about the opportunity," Ward said. "We like a lot of the things that he brings to the table. He's a big, rangy body, plays hard and can skate. He's defensively responsible, and he does a good job in around the opposition's net and in the slot. 
    
"We think there's something that we can add, and we'll take a look at him tonight. 

"What a great opportunity against a good team."

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