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Hard to miss big Breen

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames
Notes, quotes and anecdotes from the Saddledome where the Calgary Flames are holding their annual development camp this week.


It's hard to miss Chris Breen. Really hard.
Chris Breen at Flames development camp

At six-foot-six and 225 pounds, the defenceman is easy to pick out of the crowd at the Calgary Flames development camp, taking place all week at the Saddledome.

Signed as a free agent late last season, Breen could be one of those diamonds in the rough on the Flames blueline. Remember, Mark Giordano came to the Flames the same way -- a late bloomer who was never drafted but showed enough potential to catch the eye of Flames scout Tom Webster.

It was Webster who visited Breen in Peterborough, where he was playing in the OHL, and invited him toe play for the Flames top affiliate, the Abbotsford Heat, once the Petes were eliminated from the playoffs.

Breen, who turned 21 at the end of June, draws comparisons to Chris Pronger because of his wingspan and size. But that's a little lofty at the moment, although Breen doesn't mind using Pronger as an example.

"Obviously you try and play like that," said Breen. "He is a great player. It's a good guy to model yourself around. I try and use my reach and my stick and make good passes and plays. Really, shutting down the other team's top line is what I try and do."

In 65 games last season with Peterborough and Erie, Breen had four goals and 10 assists and 47 penalty minutes. He played one game with the Heat, collecting an assist and four penalty minutes.

He is, still, a work in progress. But happy to be in Calgary's system.

"It was kind of spontaneous," he said of coming to Calgary. "My agent has called and said Calgary was showing some interest. Then, at the end of the season, Mr. Webster was there to invite me to Abbotsford. If I didn't have this I had some school opportunities. But this is exactly what I wanted so this is awesome. I want to go to Abbotsford and have a good year, improve as much as possible and hopefully, one day, get a shot at the big club."

Breen had a chance to soak in some of the professional game while in Abbotsford and the camp this week is another chance to get familiar with the Flames.

"Fitness testing on Monday was pretty tough. But getting on the ice was good. All the guys are just trying to get used to the ice and the atmosphere, so it is going well."

On Tuesday the players had a morning session of power skating and an afternoon session of skill development.

The power skating was welcomed by Breen.

"Especially for guys like me that are big. I need that edge where I can work on my stops and starts. It never hurts to do a bit extra," said Breen.


For centre John Armstrong, things will be a lot better when he can stop talking about his injury and talk hockey.

Considered a strong candidate for making the Flames last season -- or at least being a regular call-up, utility guy -- Armstrong was hampered by a shoulder injury. The first surgery came in April 2009 after falling awkwardly.

Five weeks later when he got back to doing what he does -- play a hard, gritty game -- the shoulder popped again. More rest. Another five weeks. And bingo, it happened again.

End of season in Abbotsford with just 14 games under his belt.

"It was definitely an emotional roller coaster," said Armstrong.

A second surgery, which included installing "some hardware" and a bone graft has the third year pro back on track and feeling confident.

"Now I am confident things are strong. There is no way of this happening again. It feels the same way it did before (surgeries)," said Armstrong.

He is a player the Flames like and have touted in the past. And Armstrong wants to be in Calgary. He is working out in the city and undergoing rehab under the Flames supervision.

"I come in every year thinking this is my year," he smiled. "All they (the Flames) said is get healthy. As long as I am healthy and stay strong, I think I have a chance."


Logan MacMillan was able to get his head on straight last season.

Sent home by the Anaheim Ducks after being charged with impaired driving and driving without a licence, the former first round pick is set for a fresh start with the Calgary Flames, who traded for MacMillan this off-season, sending Jason Jaffray to the Ducks.

“I got a lot of things sorted out and taken care of. I’m back on the right track. I just took some time off. Kind of gave my head a rest. I went back and spent time with family and friends. They were always there for me. They helped out big time,” MacMillan told the Calgary Herald at this week's development camp.

The Ducks drafted MacMillan in the first round (19th overall) in 2007. The son of former Flames scorer and current Flames scout Bobby MacMillan has struggled to live up to his first-round billing, registering just six points in in 30 games with Bakersfield in the ECHL last season. In part he was limited because of back spasms.

“In fairness to Logan, he’s probably a kid who was drafted higher than he should have been,” said Ron Sutter, player development coach for the Flames. “Expectations. Unneeded pressure both internally and from the outside.

“I had a rough year last year. I’m just trying to wipe that in the past,” he told The Herald.

Right now, though, he is recovering from hernia surgery, which he had earlier this week. So Flames scouts and brass won't get a first hand look at MacMillan until main camp in September.


John Negrin, one defencemen considered to be close to making the big team, is just getting back into the swing of things at development camp.

The 6'3", 200-pound Negrin, a third round pick in 2007, tweaked his knee last November but continued to play. Then, in February, he broke his wrist and, while skating without pucks as part of his wrist rehab, his knee acted up again.

"I noticed something. It was swelling," said Negrin, a rookie last season with the Abbotsford Heat.

That led to knee surgery in March as it was discovered he had fractured a knee cap. His season was over after 45 games five goals and 10 assists.

Since then it has been hard work on the rehab trail.

“It’s a matter of getting healthy,” he said. “It’s been a long process, but my goal is to be 100 per cent going into camp in September. My summer’s been based around that. I am doing a lot of of physio and building up the strength. It's about getting stronger."

Negrin, 21, sat out the first day of development camp but skated with the group on Tuesday. He'll be ready for main camp. But will he be one of the young defencemen to crack a veteran line-up with many two-way contracts?

"It's going to be tough. It's like that every year and with very team," he said.

THIS AND THAT: The Flames have added a mental development coach. Dave Paskevich from the University of Calgary takes on that role and is at development camp...With long-time Flames equipment manager Gus Thorson retiring, Mark Depasquale moves into that role from his previous role as assistant equipment manager. The new assistant equipment manager is Corey Osmak who recently worked for the Los Angeles Kings.

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