PENTICTON, BC -- Surprisingly, the ever-personable Craig Conroy hasn’t yet struck up a conversation with one of the newest members to the Calgary Flames organization.
But when it does, Conroy isn’t sure how far he’ll get with Stepan Falkovsky.
“I heard everyone loves him,” Conroy said. “I know his English isn’t great, but everyone that talks to him says he’s learning, he’s trying. I’ve got to try to catch him.”
Falkovsky, selected in the seventh round (No. 186) of the 2016 NHL Draft, is making the effort.
He spent the 2015-16 season with Ottawa of the Ontario Hockey League, and though he missed Flames development camp in July, made the effort to get to Calgary early to be around the language and organization.
It didn’t go unnoticed.
“It’s big,” Conroy said. “The first thing is he came over … I’ll give him a lot of credit … early to train and try to work on his English. He made a big step for us and he’s been with the NHL guys in their skates at different times.
“I can’t imagine … speaking as much English as he does, to come over and come into that atmosphere, I give him a ton of credit. It shows me he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get better. Eventually he wants to play in the NHL. That’s his goal. He’s put the effort in, and the time. That’s all you can ask for.”
Falkovsky introduced himself in August, and got his first game in Flames silks under his belt against the Edmonton Oilers in Calgary’s second game of the Young Stars Classic on Saturday. He finished with two shots on goals, and a couple of adventures at both ends of the ice.
It wasn’t unexpected of the 6-foot-7, 225-pound blueliner.
“To see him play last night … very raw,” Conroy said. “There are lots of parts of his game that needs work, but he’s a huge man and he moves pretty well for his size. Sometimes he looks a little awkward, but he’s got pretty good skill and he’s got a package that you’re looking for.
“You look and he’s got some skill with the puck. He likes higher-risk plays. That’s okay. You want him to try to make plays. You can see what he’s thinking. Whether the execution was there or it wasn’t … yesterday it wasn’t always there, but he had the right idea. Just lacked the execution. He’s a little different. He has some skill.
“Now it’s our job to develop that package and get him to where he feels more comfortable. A lot of it is to keep it simple and know where to play positionally. With his size and reach it’s not going to be hard to do that.”
But finding a spot for Falkovsky could be.
It’s tough to find a home as a 20-year-old import in the Canadian Hockey League. If he remains in the CHL -- he won’t be back with the 67’s -- Falkovsky would eat one of three overage spots, and one of two import slots on his new team.
Conroy hopes a solution comes soon.
Because those conversations are plentiful.
“In our mind we have an idea,” Conroy said. “Hopefully in the next week we say, ‘This is where he’s going.’ We like having our hands on him and seeing him. You’d like to have him in North America where you can keep an eye on him. That’s the goal. I think in the next two weeks it’ll play itself out.”