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GROWING INTO HIS GAME

An increased role in Vancouver led Flames prospect Milos Roman to make big strides in his development

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

When he's a world away from home in winter-time, perched out on the Canadian west coast, Milos Roman misses many aspects of hometown Kysucké Nové Mesto.

His parents, Milos Sr. and Ludmila, naturally. His brothers, girlfriend Kristina.

"And, of course, I miss halušky,'' the centre-ice prospect is confessing. "It's something like gnocchi, made from potatoes.

"It's our national food. Every Slovak is excited about halušky.

"There's a special cheese, Bryndza. You can't eat halušky without Bryndza and you can't get that cheese here in Canada.

"Not very healthy, especially when you're playing hockey" - 702 calories per serving, 32g of fat, 66g of carbs and 36g of protein - "but my mom makes it and so does my grandmother, another Ludmila. And it's SO good.

"So when I get home, every once in a while …"

Well, a fella - even a budding NHLer sworn to monk-like abstinence in regards to rich foods - has to let game face drop and live a little now and again, right?

One of a trio of highly-regarded Slovaks - joining Martin Pospisil and Adam Ruzicka - attending the 2019 development camp, Roman is attending his second summer hockey shindig this week.

"Obviously, I have more confidence now, knowing what to expect. Now its me trying to show the younger guys, the new guys. (Lucas) Feuk, the draft pick this year, is sitting beside me in the dressing room, a very nice guy. We talk a lot.

"A lot of guys helped me out last year - Dillon Dube, Glenn Gawdin - making me feel comfortable. My first year in Vancouver I played against all those guys - (Matthew) Phillips, Gawdin - and I knew how good they were, so I just tried to watch them."

Over his second season at Langley Events Centre, the first for head coach Michael Dyck, Roman catapulted from 32 points to 60, ranking him third on the Giants in scoring.

 

 

In the wake of a blistering 48-win, 101-point regular season, Vancouver marched to within a goal of a trip to Halifax and the Memorial Cup tournament, falling in Game 7 of the the Western Hockey League final, 3-2 to the Prince Albert Raiders, on a goal 18:25 into the first OT period in PA.

Roman notched both Vancouver goals that gutting night. Small consolation.

"You feel really bad,'' he murmurs, two months after the visceral disappointment. "And it still hurts.

"No hockey players can describe those feelings."

The feelings linger. But so, on the flip side, does the experience.

Being hurtled into a hothouse environment of decisive situations, pressure moments, non-negotiable tasks, can only serve to aid in any player's development.

"No. 1 with Milos is he comes to the rink every day with purpose,'' critiques Ron Sutter, of the Flames' player development dept. "He's eager. He wants to get better. That's what drives him.

"The growth in his game revolves around more confidence with the puck, attacking more with the puck. I'd still like to see him be more selfish as a player. He has a look-first mindset most of the time.

"With the coaching change in Vancouver he was a little bit more involved offensively as far as the powerplay goes. That, more than 5-on-5, was his strength. He's been an all-purpose guy - face-offs, powerplay, penalty kill, they bumped him to the wing. Slot guy, can play along the wall.

"Someone they really trust.

"Last year he played with an older winger and a young winger (Justin Sourdif) and hopefully Mike'll put Milos and the same young guy back together again.

"Milos is a good player who made improvement last year but still has some work to do.

"This season, he'll be counted upon heavily. Towards the end of the year, I talked to Barclay (Parneta), the general manager there, said they wanted him back, as both an underage and a Euro, which is unusual. For us, when you look at the depth we have in front of him - signing Luke Filp, Pospisil … it's hard to have a bunch of young guys all fighting for ice time in the American league.

"So we see (Vancouver) as the ideal situation for him."

 

 

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There's unfinished business to attend to. Next spring, Memorial Cup 2020, will be held in nearby Kelowna and is the unswerving aim, both individually and collectively.

"I can still feel the taste of how close we were,'' confesses Roman. "But you learn.

"Going into next season I plan on getting stronger, being smarter, getting into areas where I can get pucks more often. I stepped forward in this but's a long process, day-by-day.

"That's how you get better.

"I want to be a champion. 

"There's nothing that can compare with winning. Nothing."

Nothing except, maybe, a man-sized, Lyudmila-made plate of halušky, heavy on the Bryndza.

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