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MOOD SWING

News the Flames wanted to sign him was a welcome turn of fortunes for young forward

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

In terms of a pick-me-up, none better. 

From suffering an injury and watching his Canada West powerhouse U of A fall 4-2 to University of New Brunswick in the U Sports Championship Final, to the aggravating, five-hour trip home with a sore ankle to boot, Luke Philp was definitely in need of one. 

"You're bummed out," he said. "You got injured in your last game, your team lost, and you have nothing but that to think about on the long ride home. 

"Like, what a way for it to end. 

"Then I woke up the next day, got a call from my agent and I snapped out of it pretty quick.

"He told me the Flames were still interested, despite the injury. 

"My mood picked up pretty quick after that, that's for sure."

Philp, the 23-year-old U Sports Player of the Year, was now a member of his hometown team - a moment even if he wouldn't have believed ("not in a million years") only a few months ago. 

"We don't sign these guys for feel-good stories," general manager Brad Treliving said. "But what a neat backdrop to the whole story.

"That's a lot of fun for him and his family. 

"They should be excited."

 

>> RELATED: FLAMES SIGN PHILP PRESS RELEASE

 

In 24 regular-season games with the Golden Bears, the Canmore product had a career high 21 goals and 45 points, and was a player garnering plenty of interest from NHL teams courting the college free-agent market.

But the Flames, who had a final viewing on Sunday, had the inside track, thanks to the season-long work of their scouting staff.

"We watched him a lot this year," Treliving said from his office at the Scotiabank Saddledome shortly after the contract was announced. "(Assistant general manager) Craig Conroy went to see him numerous times and we had some other guys on our staff go down to see him at the end of the year here, too.

"We've known him since his junior days when Brent (Sutter) traded for him in Red Deer for his overage year. He was having a heckuva career, put up big numbers. 

"But a lot of these guys, they get through that time and then they - if they're not signed or drafted - they have to figure out the next step.

"For Luke, he saw an opportunity to not only develop his game at the U Sports level, but also get a great education in the process."

 

 

That, Philp says, was the primary driver in his decision. 

The 5-foot-10, 185 lb., right-shot centre topped out at 82 points (30G, 52A) during the 2014-15 campaign with the Kootenay Ice. He was on pace to shatter those numbers the following year, but was limited to only 39 regular-season tilts between the Ice and Rebels.

A promising resume, no doubt, but rather than toiling away in the ECHL or another minor-pro team in Europe, he made a different decision.

"I think my game had developed to a point that I could have made a good run at pro hockey after my 20-year-old year," he said, "but I had a lot so much more to learn. I felt if I put in the time and really developed the right way, I could be more of an impactful player coming out on the other side. 

"Now?

"I feel my game definitely got to the highest level that it's been at to date. That was great. At the start of the year if you told me I'd sign an NHL contract at some point, I wouldn't have believed it. Not too many guys have signed out of U Sports, so it's pretty awesome to be able to do that and even more special to do it with Calgary - my hometown team that I grew up watching play."

The contract - a two-year, entry-level pact that begins next season - will come after the shifty, two-way pivot fully recovers from the aforementioned ankle injury and has time to acclimatize to his new digs, courtesy of the Flames' annual rookie and development camps.

He also intends on chipping away at his Business, Economics and Law degree with a couple of spring courses during his six-to-eight-week rehab. 

Treliving cautions that Philp - while fabulously gifted - remains a prospect, and will have to earn his opportunities, like anyone else.  

"Now the work starts," he said. "He's got to dig in and have a real good summer. We'll see him a few times over the summer, and then he gets to begin the process on his pro career. 

"We're excited to see him."

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