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Klimchuk looking to seize opportunity as second-year pro

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

At the end of the day, it’s pro hockey and you have to earn everything you get. It’s cliché but you have to earn it, like I earned everything this year.Morgan Klimchuk

CALGARY, AB -- Morgan Klimchuk got his feet wet in his first season of professional hockey.

He plans to dive right into his second go-round.

And make the most of the opportunity.

“Going into this year it’s remembering what got me there and taking a bit of risk … putting that into your game so you can produce,” the Calgary Flames prospect said.

“For me, it’s making sure I’m remembering that and bringing that into my game and that’s what I’m focusing on this summer. Honestly, it’s playing the game and having fun and scoring. That’s what I did very well at the junior level and that’s what I’m going to do very well this year at the pro level.”

After a standout junior career that saw him amass 118 goals and 267 points in 261 games over parts of five seasons in the Western Hockey League, Klimchuk struggled to replicate similar numbers in his first season with Stockton of the American Hockey League.

Klimchuk, selected in the first round (No. 28) of the 2013 NHL Draft, had three goals and nine points in 55 games as a first-year pro.

“Early I kind of struggled a bit,” he said. “That was pretty evident. You get into a role or a mindset where you’re playing safe and try to stay in the lineup and be a reliable guy instead of what got you there. For me it was scoring.

“I was playing a lot of situations last year where I was playing against other team’s top guys and top lines. That’s where I fit in last year. We had a lot of guys who could score, and being a first-year pro that’s where (coach Ryan Huska) saw I would be best utilized.

“This year I’m looking to add onto that … keep all that in my game but play in different situations, offensive situations, and show I can play there. I’m not too worried about it. I know I can do it. I’m looking forward to this year to prove I can play that side of the game.”

Klimchuk will be provided an opportunity to do so.

The Flames didn’t qualify pending restricted free agent forwards Kenny Agostino, Drew Shore, Bill Arnold and Turner Elson. Forward Derek Grant also departed the team as an unrestricted free agent.

The five were among Stockton’s seven leading scorers a year ago.

The roster space screams opportunity to Klimchuk.

And he's looking to deliver.

“For a young guy like myself I see it as an opportunity,” he said. “There were a lot of guys that were go-to guys on our team that aren’t back. That’s why I’m making sure I have a good summer. If I’m back down there, I’ll be ready to fill those shoes and take over a role that some of those guys would’ve had.

“It’s an opportunity. You want to come here and do as well as you can, but you know if you go down there (to Stockton) you’re going to get an opportunity because those guys are no longer there.

“At the end of the day, it’s pro hockey and you have to earn everything you get. It’s cliché but you have to earn it, like I earned everything this year. I fully expect it, and it’s something I’m excited for if I do end up there.”

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