Kris Chucko is moving up the hockey ladder. After spending one season with the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, the Calgary Flames first round pick in 2004 has decided to turn pro. He'll get his first glimpse of the pros at the Flames annual development camp this week.
"It's an exciting jump," said Chucko, a 6'2", 200-pound left winger. "I also think it is going to be a big jump but one that I want to take on and one I feel I am ready for."
Chucko played for a powerful Gopher team which entered the NCAA tournament with the No. 1 ranking after compiling a 27-9-5 record. The team was ranked No. 1 in the nation for eight weeks during the regular season. Three players, forwards Phil Kessel and Kyle Okposo and defenceman David Fischer were drafted in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft this summer.
It looked as thought the Gophers would cruise to the Frozen Four tournament in Chucko's first season. But the dream came crashing down when the Gophers were stunned 4-3 by Holy Cross in the 2006 West Regional in Grand Forks, N.D.
Chucko's disappointment was further compounded by injuries. He sprained an ankle and also missed a month of the season because of a shoulder injury. He ended up playing in 33 games, collecting four goals and 13 assists.
"I think the biggest thing with me is getting as healthy as possible. It's a big mental jump, too. I have to work on that so that when I come to my first (NHL training) camp I don't have to worry about outside distractions," said Chucko.
Heading into the camp this week, Chucko said he's recovered from the injuries.
"I am working out at full strength and skating at full strength so there are no problems," he said.
Asked what he wants to bring to the professional game Chucko said: "I think I can be a power forward. Someone who can play at both ends of the ice. Not a prolific scorer and not a totally defensive player. Someone who can be trusted in the offensive zone and the defensive zone and chip in offensively as well."
Chucko will skate with about 40 other Flames prospects this week at Don Hartman Arena in northeast Calgary. The public is welcome to attend. For a complete list of players at the development camp and a schedule, please Click Here .