PITTSBURGH, PA -- Ben Hanowski won't have to wait long to get his first taste of the pro game.
Calgary Flames assistant general manager John Weisbrod confirmed the St. Cloud State University alumnus, who signed an entry-level deal with the team on Friday afternoon, will be heading to Calgary in the coming days to start training with the team.
"We think it is really important for his development to get a little taste of pro hockey life and our organization, what it's like," Weisbrod explained. "It's my experience that it makes first year players summers a lot more productive."
The move comes with no real exceptions on Hanowski in terms of having an immediate impact or instantly generating offence. It is, however, an action that could pay great dividends down the road when Hanowski shows up for training camp in the fall.
"Going to Calgary and being in that environment and learning about pro hockey, getting a feel for what the game is like, what the pace is, what the strength is like, even if it's just a small snapshot, is a very good thing. Kids that do that at the end of their college season, they always come back better prepared for training camp because they spend the summer training with an idea in mind of what they're training for. They know what to expect and it makes them more comfortable.
"Whereas if we just signed Ben and then had him go home and meet us in training camp, even though I'm sure he'd work hard and skate a lot and be prepared, he would be coming into the unknown."
The Little Falls, MN native is coming off a very successful college career with the Huskies. In 156 games, Hanowski racked up 59 goals and 113 points. This year, he was second in team scoring with 17 goals and 31 points and, as one of the team's co-captain's, helped lead the Huskies to their first Frozen Four appearance. St. Cloud also captured its first MacNaughton Cup and NCAA Regional title with Hanowski helping steer the ship. In addition to his on-ice success, the 22 year-old has received the All-WCHA Academic award and was the WCHA Scholar-Athlete during his tenure at St. Cloud.
"It's been a great four years at St. Cloud State," he told CalgaryFlames.com. "But I'm so excited to join this organization. I think it's a great team and a great city to be a part of. I'm excited to be a contributor to the organization. There are no words for how happy I am about (signing a contract)."
On Thursday night, the Huskies faced the Quinnipiac Bobcats in the Frozen Four semi-final and fell 4-1, closing out their 2012-13 season. While the disappointment over losing the chance to compete for a national championship will sting for awhile, signing his first NHL contract has softened the blow a bit for Hanowski.
"I think it's helped," he said with a sigh. "Yesterday was obviously tough, not being able to ever play for St. Cloud State any more ... right now, I'm just happy to be a part of the Flames organization."