I know I don't want to play in the American League having a taste of this. I want to have a good summer and just get prepared for next year and give myself the best opportunity I can to play on this team. - Micheal Ferland
CALGARY, AB -- While he isn't sure where he will fit on the depth chart in the 2015-16 season, Micheal Ferland is clear on one point.
"I know I don't want to play in the American League having a taste of this," the 23-year-old stated emphatically. "I want to have a good summer and just get prepared for next year and give myself the best opportunity I can to play on this team."
When the Flames drafted Ferland in the fifth round (133rd overall) in 2010, he had just scored nine goals and 28 points in 61 games as a 17-year-old rookie with the Brandon Wheat Kings -- pedestrian numbers but he had the raw talent to develop into a power forward.
Calgary was patient with the youngster and over the next two seasons, the talent the scouts had seen in his draft-eligible season translated into to success. In 2010-11, he managed 23 goals and 56 points. The following year, he churned out 47 goals and 96 points, skating alongside Ottawa's Calder Trophy finalist Mark Stone, with the Wheaties.
In the 2012-13 campaign, management decided to see how Ferland would fare in the AHL. The transition to pro didn't go as smoothly as he would have liked and he ended up having a cup of coffee with the Abbotsford Heat and playing for the Utah Grizzlies in the ECHL before he was returned to the WHL for the remainder of the year.
He took what he learned from his time in the pro ranks into the 2013-14 season, playing for Abbotsford in the AHL, and looked like he was on the cusp of earning an NHL recall when disaster struck. Ferland suffered a knee injury in practice that would end up sidelining him for the rest of the year.
After spending the previous five years honing a variety of aspects of his game and working hard away from the rink to get his life in order, everything came together for Ferland in 2014-15.
He ended up getting into 26 regular season games with the Flames -- a total likely quelled by a concussion he suffered in his NHL debut, after being decked by Nashville Predators defenceman Anton Volchenkov -- and by the time the playoffs rolled around, Ferland was a key component in the lineup thanks to his tenacious, physical presence and willingness to play any role the team needed.
Ferland was the most ubiquitous player in the Flames' first round victory over the Vancouver Canucks, driving his opponents up the wall by plastering them into the boards, disrupting their attempts on the forecheck, and wreaking havoc in the offensive zone.
Despite tearing his oblique in the first round -- on a hit on defenceman Dan Hamuis in front of Calgary's bench, he suspects -- he was raring to go in the second round series against Anaheim.
"It was good, it was positive," he said of his progression. "The biggest thing for me was just trying to find a role to fit into this team and I think I kind of found that ... Being a big power forward -- if I get a chance, score goals, and use my body to my advantage, and finish all my checks.
"It was always my dream to play in the NHL. I still remember the day I got the call and the night before my game how excited I was. I just want to do whatever I can to stay where I am and just keep going uphill."
When the Flames were eliminated by the Ducks in Game 5 of the second round of the playoffs, Ferland turned to his biggest supporter for advice.
"I talked to my mom. She just told me she was proud, just keep my head up. She told me she's just very happy the way the year went. She couldn't be any more happy for me. Waking up ... and not playing hockey it sucks but it's something we've got to learn from."
During his exit meetings with management, Ferland heard the same messaging from general manager Brad Treliving. As disappointing as it is to lose out in the postseason, there are plenty of lessons each player can take from their time in the playoffs.
"There’s certain things you have to experience. You can prepare guys for how hard it is. Going through it, going through the playoffs, those are experiences that you just can’t garner any other way than going through it," Treliving said earlier this year. "The deeper you go, the later you go in the season, the game changes a little bit. The rink becomes smaller. There’s less room. There’s all sorts of things you have to deal with.
"Until you experience it, until you experience the emotion of what the playoffs are all about, you have to go through it. Those will be valuable, valuable lessons moving forward."
Ferland is spending the majority of the summer in Calgary, working with Flames strength and conditioning coach Ryan Van Asten. His experiences over the past few years have given him great insight on what it takes to be successful in the NHL and he is looking forward to taking the next step in his career next season.
"I'm pretty confident but at the same time there's still always work to be done. I want to give myself the best opportunity I can and just have a good summer."