CALGARY, AB -- The kids are ready to go.
The Calgary Flames opened their 2016 rookie training camp Thursday with fitness testing at Canada Olympic Park’s WinSport facility prior to departing for the 2016 Young Stars Classic in Penticton, BC.
And, with fitness testing out of the way, the next wave Calgary hopefuls are set to shine.
“[Summer] was good. Fast,” said defenceman Oliver Kylington, who is set to compete in his second camp after being selected in the second round (No. 60) of the 2015 NHL Draft nearly 15 months ago. “The days went by really fast and I felt like the offseason was just a month. It was four months, but it’s nice to be back and play hockey and be back in the city.
“It feels good.”
The Young Stars Classic runs from Sept. 16-19, and features prospects from the Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets.
Kylington is one of nine defencemen to participate in rookie camp and the Young Stars Classic. His group will be joined by four goaltenders and 16 forwards at the exhibition tournament, which leads directly into main camp with the Flames.
The 19-year-old, who had five goals and 12 points in 47 games with Stockton of the American Hockey League in 2015-16, is hoping to get noticed for all the right reasons.
And show his progression from a year ago, which also featured his late-season NHL debut.
“I just need to play my game … simplify my game,” he said. “I don’t need to make everything that fancy all the time. Just play my game and show the coaches I’m mature enough to play at a big level and be smart with the puck and make good decisions, and play my game offensively. I don’t want to try to do anything different. I just try to make everything simpler and better for my part.”
While Kylington is looking to leave an impression in the three-game series, goaltender Jon Gillies is simply hoping to knock off some rust before main camp opens next week.
Gillies, who underwent season-ending hip surgery last December, hasn’t played a game in 10 months.
“You can get your timing and angles back in practice all you want, but coming back here the last week or so and scrimmaging helps you get back somewhat, game-like,” said Gillies, who was 2-3-1 with a 2.31 goals against average and .931 save percentage in seven games last year -- his first action as a pro.
“We have four goalies going to Penticton, so I don’t know how much I’m going to play, but I’m going to try to stop the puck when I’m in there, get the details back in my game and shake the rust out. That’s first and foremost. It’s been a long time off. Even the best goalie in the world in his first World Cup exhibition, Carey Price, was talking about the rust he had. If it happens to him it’s definitely going to happen to everyone else. He got it back pretty fast.
“Hopefully I can take that route and get everything back really quickly. You have to be patient with it though. You know it’s coming and you know it’s going to happen. Training camp is a marathon, not a sprint. When you get there you want to stay there. You want to make sure you’re ready to put your best foot forward when you get to the next level.”
With fitness testing out of the way, it’s easy to return focus on the task in front of the 29 prospects hoping to leave a mark in the Okanagan.
And, hopefully, beyond.
In their first step towards the next jump.
“I don’t try to think about the fitness testing,” Kylington said.
“I feel that the fitness testing went good, so I think I’m doing something good in the gym during the offseason. It felt good. Hopefully, the results are good, too.
“I think I feel much more prepared. Last year at this time I was more nervous and you didn’t know the guys. Now I feel more comfortable seeing everybody and being back. I know what to expect. It feels good to be back and the fitness testing went pretty good.
“It feels good to be back.”