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Flames put focus on identification, education at development camp

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

CALGARY, AB -- For some it’s a refresher. For others, it’s just fresh.

Some will leave a first impression. Others will leave a lasting one.

But for all those in attendance at Calgary Flames development camp at Canada Olympic Park’s WinSport facility, the goal is familiarity, not competition.

“We just want them to get to know us and us to get to know them,” Flames assistant general manager Craig Conroy said.

“After that, it’s more off the ice with nutrition, social media, all that kind of stuff. They go through different things each day.

“Other than that, just the training side … how to eat … all of that is so important. I know it’s only four days and it’s not going to be locked down, but it’s just to give them a general understanding of what it’s like to be a pro and what we’re expecting out of them.

“And that’s it.”

It’s a lot to take in in just four days.

But, as Conroy described, it’s not a selection camp.

There’s no team to be made. No spot to be won.

Development, not performance, is the goal.

“As much as it is on the ice, it is the summer … and I was a terrible summer hockey player,” Conroy said. “I put very little stock into things going on on the ice. But you definitely want to see conditioning, how they are, gauge them from where they are right now, how hard they work until camp. That’s really what it is.

“This is the baseline for those young guys we’ve never had before. We saw some at the combine, so we know the testing there. Now we can move forward, get to know them. I love it. It’s great. It’s the first time you actually get to touch them in a hockey environment rather than just the draft.

“It makes a big difference.”

Acquiring that baseline started early.

Monday’s kickoff to camp commenced, and concluded, with some off-ice measuring.

And it’s not the most fun.

“I did this in April right before I left to go home for the summer,” said goaltender Jon Gillies, one of five goaltenders in attendance at the camp. “It’s just a battle. The fitness testing in general, just do your best. There’s nothing you can change the night before or day of. Just put your best foot forward. Right now in July you find out your deficiencies, and go back the rest of the summer and work on those and try to go back to main camp.”

Gillies, who underwent season-ending hip surgery in December, has been a veteran of his fair share of camps.

Matthew Tkachuk, who was selected sixth overall in the 2016 NHL Draft just a week and a half ago, hasn’t been before.

Gillies didn’t have much advice for the new wave coming through for the first time.

Not with those being grouped with 6-foot-7, 250-pound, Keegan Kanzig.

The same Kanzig who arrived in at Flames’ training camp a few falls ago at just 7.1 percent body fat.

“I just say, ‘good luck,’” Gillies said. “I felt bad. Matt Tkachuk was watching [Kanzig] do the bike. [Kanzig] is a monster. I don’t think he got the right impression on what that bike’s supposed to look like.

“We’ll see how it goes.”

Just fine, it turns out.

“It’s pretty tough to follow a guy like that, who pretty much killed it up there,” said Tkachuk, who didn’t participate in the NHL Scouting Combine in May after wrapping up a Memorial Cup title on a bad ankle. “I thought I did okay.

“Obviously pretty tough. I haven’t done testing like that in a while. I’m healthy now and everything feels good.

“I’m just ready to get things started.”

All four groups with hit the ice Tuesday and Wednesday at WinSport with both skill development and power skating sessions. All players will participate in a scrimmage on Thursday to conclude the camp.

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