T.J. Brodie distinguished himself quickly from other young Calgary Flames prospects in his first professional season by making the Calgary Flames out of camp.
Brodie then became the lone member of the Abbotsford Heat to represent the organization at last moth’s AHL all-star classic.
Despite the separation, he’s still going through very similar growing pains both on, and off the ice, as his fellow young teammates.
“It’s a little bit different, especially from last year – junior hockey is a lot different, especially away from the rink,” said the 20-year-old. “That’s the biggest thing: you got to cook your own food, clean up after yourself and that type of thing.
“You don’t have as much down time as you did so you just got to learn how to use that.”
Brodie currently lives with teammates John Negrin, Bryan Cameron and Greg Nemisz - the foursome share a rented house together in Abbotsford.
“Sometimes when you get home from the rink you don’t really feel like doing anything and the house could be a mess,” he continued. “It’s a struggle to get up and find the energy to clean up, do laundry and that kind of thing.
“Cooking too – it’s tough to cook.”
On the ice Brodie continues to do what made him stand out when the Flames decided to use their fourth-round selection (114th overall) in 2008 to draft him – put up points. The Dresden, ON native has three goals and 23 points in 49 games with the Flames top farm club.
He leads all Heat blue liners in assists and points, he’s fourth among all AHL rookies in power play assists and fifth among rookies in power play points.
“It’s always nice to get points, but the defensive side is what I’ve been concentrating on,” admitted Brodie. “Making sure when I’m out there the other team doesn’t score, if we score when I’m out its’ a bonus.
“The main thing right now is trying to stay on the plus side and be able to be one of those guys that gets put out there in the last couple minutes of a game.”
In order to round out his defensive game, Heat head coach Jim Playfair has paired Brodie alongside veteran Joe Piskula, but with a twist, instead of playing his natural left side, the six-foot, 173-pound Brodie has been playing the right side.
“It’s a unique way to do it, but I thought it would slow down his offensive outbursts, make him more responsible and help him read the ice better,” said Playfair of the decision. “For a defenceman that’s a great talent to have: the ability to play both sides of the rink – especially when you’re offensive like T.J. is.
“We know he can play well defensively on the left side, we just want to make sure he can develop on the right side.”
According to Brodie, playing alongside Piskula has helped the transition.
“He makes it easy out there, he’s smart and reliable so I know that if I step up or something like that he’s back,” Brodie said. “I know he’s always trying to get open for me so if I need an outlet I know that he’s there.
“It’s good to have a guy like that to play with.”
With just 24 games remaining prior to the start of the Calder Cup playoffs Brodie is hoping he can round himself into a reliable two-way defenceman in time for the all-important second season.