You just have to train hard and kind of learn on the fly. I’ve had some really good parts and some parts where I’ve really struggled down there. That’s just kind of the learning curve. - Ben Hanowski
CALGARY, AB -- Admittedly, the adjustment to pro hockey hasn’t been an easy transition for Abbotsford Heat forward Ben Hanowski.
The 23-year-old Calgary Flames prospect granted that while there’s been plenty to be optimistic about, he’s also identified some areas that need addressing through his first 48 games of pro life.
After all, it is a learning process.
“I don’t know if you can prepare,” said Hanowski, who was recalled by the Flames on Thursday. “You just have to train hard and kind of learn on the fly. I’ve had some really good parts and some parts where I’ve really struggled down there. That’s just kind of the learning curve.”
Hanowski, acquired last spring from the Pittsburgh Penguins alongside Kenny Agostino and the first round pick used to select Morgan Klimchuk in the first round of the 2013 NHL Draft, has already played more games this season with the Heat than in any single season over his four-year tenure with St. Cloud State.
The adjustment in scheduling has taken some getting used to for the rookie, too.
“You just kind of go with it,” Hanowski said. “You have to find your routine that works for you and allows your body to feel great on the ice.”
Still, Hanowski is ahead of the curve.
Turning pro after wrapping up his four-year collegiate career with St. Cloud State gave him a head start on what to expect in his first full year of action.
Hanowski, who signed an entry-level contract with the Flames last April, managed to sneak in five contests before the conclusion of Calgary’s 2012-13 season. He scored in his first career pro game and went on to average over 13 minutes of ice time in his introduction.
“I think it helped a lot going into the summer and knowing what to expect out of what it’s like to be in the NHL,” said Hanowski, who in 156 career games with St. Cloud managed 62 goals and 113 points. “It helped me a lot in the summer. It was probably a little easier transition coming into training camp, being familiar with some of the staff and some of the guys."
It helped the staff become a little more familiar with Hanowski, too.
That familiarity has grown in watching the 6-foot-2, 210-pound winger over the course of the American Hockey League schedule. Hanowski has dressed for all but four games for the Heat this season, amassing 12 goals, 26 points and two fights along the way.
It’s earned him positive reviews from the big club.
"Benny has been doing great with Abbotsford,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said. “[Thursday] afternoon, we talked and he was the guy we felt deserved a call-up.
“Here's a guy I think that has a great understanding of the game, great hockey sense. We told him at the end of last year that we wanted him to work on his skating. He did and he showed up to camp in great shape."
That praise hasn’t been lost on the former third round pick from 2009.
"It’s exciting,” Hanowski said. “It's obviously what you're working for down in Abbotsford. You're trying help them and get better and eventually make it up here. It's very exciting for me."
How long he remains in Calgary remains to be seen.
With Lee Stempniak away from the team due to personal reasons and Brian McGrattan temporarily sidelined with an upper-body injury, Hanowski may or may not be returned to Abbotsford before the Flames resume their NHL schedule against the Los Angeles Kings next Thursday.
That doesn’t phase the Little Falls, MN native though. It's an opportunity to learn regardless.
"You've just got to come in and work hard and play your game and keep it simple,” he said. “Right away, get your feet wet and play hard and whatever happens, happens. Have no regrets. Play hard and leave it all out there. If it's two days, two months, you just know you gave it what you had."