Our families are all settled now in New York. They’re in school, my kids are, and they’re enjoying it. Now it’s time for us to start enjoying it too, getting back behind the bench and working with players on a daily basis. - Ryan Huska
CALGARY, AB -- With his children comfortably checked into their first days of school back in Glens Falls, NY., Ryan Huska is ready to do the same for his rookies.
The Adirondack Flames coach is ready to kick off his season as part of the coaching staff that will guide Calgary's prospects at the Young Stars Classic.
“My kids have gone through it in New York, now,” started Huska from the main concourse at the Markin MacPhail Centre at Winsport’s Canada Olympic Park on Thursday. “This is kind of our first day where we get quite a bit more excited and you’re looking forward to things down the road.
“Once we get on that plane tonight, it’ll be very busy and something we are looking forward to. Our families are all settled now in New York. They’re in school, my kids are, and they’re enjoying it. Now it’s time for us to start enjoying it too, getting back behind the bench and working with players on a daily basis.”
Huska, hired by the Flames to man the bench in Adirondack in late June, will be tasked with navigating Calgary’s entry at the Young Stars Classic in Penticton from September 12-15. Calgary will send 27 skaters and three goaltenders to the rookie showcase against the Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks.
Among them include reigning Hobey Baker Award winner Johnny Gaudreau, Sam Bennett, the team’s fourth overall pick from the 2014 NHL Draft and Morgan Klimchuk, who was selected in the first round in 2013.
It’s not only an opportunity for Huska to step back behind the bench, but also sample some of what he could have at his disposal in New York.
“I think you have a look at the players that we potentially will see in Adirondack this year,” he said. “I think you do look to see who they’ve played with in the past and if they’ve had some chemistry and we can see if that continues this year. We’ll try to do a little bit of that over the course of the weekend in Penticton and hopefully we can see some guys develop a little chemistry together. It’d be great.”
It’ll also serve as an introduction to some and a refresher for others to the system Flames coach Bob Hartley will run in Calgary.
“It’s up to us to start Bob’s systems with them,” Huska said. “(It’ll) allow them to have a pretty good understanding what’s expected out of them over the course of the training camp and eventually the Flames training camp and throughout the regular season.”
While it’ll serve as an education for some of Calgary’s newer recruits, the rookie tournament will also double as a measuring stick for Huska’s players taking to the ice.
The same can be said on behalf of the coach, too.
“I think probably for the guys that have been here before, they’d like to see where they are in comparison to the guys they’re competing against,” Huska said. “For us as a new coaching staff, it gives us a first chance to see guys in a game situation and that’s something we’re really looking forward to.”
EYEING UP THE COMPETITION
With a plethora of first round picks littering the rosters of the competing teams at the Young Stars Classic, Klimchuk is ready to see how he stacks up. In his first tournament, the first round pick from 2013 is curious to see how he stacks up against the best from the West.
“When you go there, you play against some pretty good young players and you play with some pretty good young players,” said Klimchuk, selected 28th overall two summers ago. “To see the top prospects that are coming into the NHL for some of the teams our here is pretty special. You know a lot of them. You’ve played with a lot of them. It’s going to be a good experience.”
Klimchuk isn’t just looking to see how he stacks up against the likes of fellow first rounders Jake Virtanen, Bo Horvat, Leon Draisaitl and Nikolaj Ehlers.
He wants to prove that the Flames stack up well against the Jets, Canucks and Oilers, now and in the future.
“I think guys don’t realize that they’re not just going to showcase themselves,” the 19-year-old said. “You’re playing with the Calgary Flames jersey on. You’re playing with pride and to show in the future, we’re going to be a better team than they are. That’s our goal.”
The Young Stars Classic won’t just serve as a means of player versus player or team versus team, but also the growth charted in individuals, too.
Bill Arnold, who alongside Johnny Gaudreau inked a contract in time to make his NHL debut in Calgary’s final game of the season against Vancouver last April, is hoping his first real game action since will help show the strides he’s made over the summer.
“I feel leaner and faster,” Arnold said. “I just wanted to work and make sure I am conditioned. The big thing for me will be the 80-game schedule, whether it’s in the NHL or the AHL compared to the 45-game schedule I had in college.”
Wherever Arnold lands, the 22-year-old understands there’s an adjustment to be made.
He’s hoping his summer of hard work will help him adapt.
“It’s going to be exciting,” he said. “I have absolutely no regret about the summer. I took it seriously and worked really hard. I’m going to come in here and I’m not going to worry too much. I’m going to control what I can control and that’s showing up, working hard and things will play out as they may.”