Skip to main content
The Official Site of the Calgary Flames

HEART OF A LION

Austin Czarnik packs big game in 5-foot-9, 170-pound frame

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

ST. LOUIS - Mo. - Like fellow Flame Johnny Gaudreau, Austin Czarnik is living proof that size is a four-letter word in the modern-day toolkit.

All that matters is this:

His game measures up, and it's clear the scrappy young winger fights wildly out of his weight class.

"I'm just trying to be the best player I can be," the blue-collar 5-foot-9, 170-pound winger said following Wednesday's practice. "I know what I am, and what I can be.

"My biggest asset, obviously, is my speed. I take pride in that. Anytime I can get in there and create a bit of energy, that's what I'm going to do.

"And if it helps lead to some offence, even better."

It certainly did Tuesday, when in the opening five minutes against the defending Presidents' Trophy winners, he chased down a loose puck, broke in alone and forced three-time All-Star P.K. Subban into a tripping penalty.  

Indeed, Czarnik has been one of the Flames' better forwards over the past two games, generating all kinds of offensive opportunities by applying his craft the only way he knows how.

A relentless pursuit of opposing puck carriers, that tenacious, dog-on-a-bone-style of aggressiveness when gets there, and above all, the high, hockey-IQ that helps him have a positive impact on each and every shift, in any of the three zones.

Video: VAN@CGY: Czarnik deflects puck with skate for hatty

In Tuesday's win, he had a Corsi-For percentage of 59.3 (16-11), and was on the ice for nine scoring chances - a team-high three of which were of the high-danger variety - and had only three chances against in more than 11 minutes of work.

He was even more dominant in Saturday's home-opening victory over the Vancouver Canucks, with 21 shot attempts recorded when he was on the ice, and only five against.

Scoring chances? Eleven to one. High-danger chances? Five-zip.

Over the past two games, no other forward with more than five minutes of even-strength ice time has been better.

So what, exactly, has led to the Michigan native's hot start?

"The last two years I haven't been able to stay in the NHL," Czarnik says. "That's the biggest thing, that hunger. I've been working my way to becoming an everyday NHLer for a few years ago, and I want it.

"Bad."

The former standout with Miami University has had quite the road after signing with the Boston Bruins in the spring of 2015.

After playing 49 games with the B's during the 2016-17 campaign, he appeared in only 10 last year, and spent the majority of his time with the club's AHL affiliate in Providence. There, he developed his game nicely and amassed 25 goals and 69 points to lead the Baby Bruins in scoring.

But it wasn't where he wanted to be, long term.

"I want to stick around in the NHL," Czarnik said, rather convincingly. "I want to be a valuable member of the team and be looked upon to be an impact player every single night.

"That's the challenge a lot of young players face, and I don't think I'm any different. 'How can I do that on a nightly basis?' It's not easy. But it's the goal I have and I think I'm on the right track."

Best of all, he's given the club options.

With his quick and agile skating ability, smooth hands and nose for the net, he's been the ultimate Swiss-Army knife for head coach Bill Peters.

"He's been on it," the bossman says. "He made a real good play early (in Nashville). He won a foot race and got us on the powerplay. That's an opportunity to gain some momentum.

"There was a good shift with about 10-and-a-half minutes left in the third when his line had a real good zone-time shift. It wasn't so much heavy as it was dynamic, where they shot it and kept getting it back and ran some low cycles.

"When you're up three and you're in the offensive zone, you're doing things right."

And in the process, coming oh-so close to a heartily earned personal milestone.

Czarnik was the recipient of a pretty feed from Matthew Tkachuk that he swatted on target with the backhand, but Pekka Rinne - the reigning Vezina Trophy winner - made a 10-bell save to keep the newest Flame off the board.

For now.

"You keep getting chances like that and they're bound to go in," Czarnik said. "I like where my game's at, but that doesn't mean you stop looking for ways to improve.

"I know what I'm capable of, how much better I can be, and what I need to do to get to that level.

"I can't wait for that first one to go. It's gonna be pretty sweet."

View More