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Dazzling Debut

by Torie Peterson / Calgary Flames

CALGARY, AB -- With guys like Lee Stempniak, Scott Hannan and Sven Baertschi making their Flames debut on Tuesday night, it would be have been easy to pass over newcomer Paul Byron's name on the roster listing.

However, after his performance during the 5-1 thumping of the Vancouver Canucks in Calgary, Byron will be on everyone's radar this weekend when the Flames take on the Edmonton Oilers in back-to-back tilts.

He was quick. He was crafty. He did everything asked of him and more. And he plans on using Wednesday's effort as a momentum-builder as he continues to press for a roster spot.

"I think I need to keep building off tonight's performance," he said after the game. "I need to keep getting better every day, stronger, because teams are going to start putting more NHL guys in their rosters as cuts keep going on. Teams are going to get better every night as it gets closer to the season. I just need to keep getting better."

Placed in between Alex Tanguay and Rene Bourque, Byron looked right at home playing on the top line. He notched his first point in a Flames jersey in the first period after making a beautiful drop-pass in the slot to Tanguay.

"I was a little nervous playing with them at first," he admitted. "But as the game went on, I think I settled down and started feeling more comfortable playing with those guys.

"They're great players, very skilled and gifted guys. I think we showed good chemistry out there. We generated a lot and hopefully we can keep building on that."

A big reason for that success and nearly instantaneous chemistry comes from Byron's speed. He weaved around the Canucks defence effortlessly, opening a ton of room for his veteran linemates and creating quality scoring opportunities.

"I've got to use my speed to create. My coach in junior always told me that was my best attribute and that is what I've got to use out there to generate my chances and stuff. With the no clutching and grabbing and hooking out there, I can skate as much as I want and no one can obstruct me."

Byron, who was acquired in the Robyn Regher trade with the Buffalo Sabres, has attended NHL training camps in the past and those experiences have served the Ottawa native well coming into his first camp with the Flames. He might have been a tad anxious centering Tanguay and Bourque but that was the only source of apprehension for the 22 year-old.

"It's the first year I haven't had to go to rookie camp so I feel like I have a lot more energy for the exhibition games and stuff like that. Last year, I only played in two and they were my first two games. I was a little more nervous than I was tonight. I felt more relaxed out there. More calm, more poised. I think that was really important to be like that and not worry about nerves."

The forward had the opportunity to play eight games with the Sabres last season, notching one goal and one helper, and he believes that helped him gain a better understanding of what he needs to do over the course of this training camp.

"My expectations are the same, no matter what team," he stated. "I'm trying to make the NHL this year.

"That's something I want to do and that's something I wanted to accomplish this summer - work to be an NHL player. I've got to keep going and keep working. Hopefully after this camp, I'll be an NHL player."

There's no doubt the Flames have a slight log-jam up center ice. Olli Jokinen, Mikael Backlund, Matt Stajan and Brendan Morrison trump Byron when it comes to experience. It's a tough position for any rookie to try and crack with that line of players standing in front of him this season.

That being said, Brendan Morrison has yet to be cleared for contact as he is still recovering from off-season surgery. It's doubtful he'll be ready to go come opening night and that leaves a golden opportunity for Byron.

"Judging from tonight and playing with those two guys, I think they're giving me a really good opportunity here. I think I can bring something to the table that this team doesn't have. I create a lot of speed, a lot of energy and I can get on the forecheck hard and first.

"I think that's something the team might have been lacking last year - a little bit of that energy when they needed it. Hopefully I can be that guy to bring it."

Follow Torie Peterson on Twitter | @ToriePeterson

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