VANCOUVER — The Calgary Flames continued to build their prospect pool on Saturday, drafting an Alberta-born goaltender with the 26th pick overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
One thing we do know about Leland Irving, who was born in Barrhead but now calls Swan Hills home. He's a fighter.
As an eight-year-old he was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer that mostly affects children, killing 30 per cent of those who diagnosed with it.
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Irving's cancer was on his ear and he underwent a year of chemotherapy and countless trips to hospitals before beating back the disease.
"Being eight years old I was pretty young and didn't know all of what was going on but I got through it with the support from my family, my friends, my classmates. I was fortunate," said Irving.
The battle behind him, he has concentrated on hockey and become a top ranked goalie playing for Team Canada in under 18 and under 17 competitions and this summer will be among the goalies looking to make Team Canada's World Junior Championship squad.
"It's a really exciting time for me. They have a a great goaltender in Miikka Kiprusoff. I have a lot of work to do. I am looking forward to the opportunity," said Irving, a well-spoken, six-foot, 177-pounder, who lists fellow cancer-beaters and athletes Lance Armstrong and Mario Lemieux as role models.
He is looking forward to working with the Flames goaltending coach, David Marcoux.
"There's lots of room for improvement and it's always nice to get another guy's point of view. I want to do all the little things," said Irving.
The 18-year-old Irving received a rousing cheer at GM Place when he was selected. "That's the Everett faithful. It's amazing how Everett has become a hockey town."
The coach of the Silvertips is Kevin Constantine, the former San Jose Shark head coach and Flames assistant coach. Irving credits Constantine with helping his development in a major way.
"It has allowed me to develop as a pro. You take a really professional approach to the game as far as being ready and reacting to criticism. All that stuff I can learn from him," said Irving of Constantine.
Another connection to the Flames is Doug Soetaert, the Flames assistant general manager and president of the Flames top farm team, the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights. Soetaert drafted Irving out of bantam hockey in Alberta into the Western Hockey League.
Irving might not have had a future in hockey if he had not fought off cancer. Saturday he took a big step in his future.
"This is my future. It's a great opportunity," said Irving.
Not that he is rushing things.
"More years of junior will help my development. A few years down the road, who knows? It's too far away to tell," said Irving.
THE LELAND IRVING FILE
The Calgary Flames chose goalie Leland Irving in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft. Irving was the third goalie chosen in the first round.
Irving successfully beat cancer when he was eight years old.
Irving has been invited to Team Canada's World Junior Championship team tryouts this summer
Irving currently plays for Everett. He was drafted by the Silvertips out of bantam in 2003 by Doug Soetaert, then the GM of the Silvertips and now the assistant general manager in Calgary and president of the Flames top farm club.
Irving was ranked second among North American goalies.
Played in 67 games for Everett posting a 1.91 goals against average, four shutouts and a .925 save percentage.
Central Scouting Says:
Is strong on his skates with very good balance and agility...moves well laterally using the butterfly technique and staying upright and square to the shooter...very tough to beat down low...has a quick glove hand...has good rebound control...strong in his crease and doesn't get rattled when the opposition crashes his crease...
Flames Draft Order
Central Scouting Rankings
North American Skaters | North American Goalies
European Skaters | European Goalies
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