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Klimchuk off to hot start

Morgan Klimchuk is tied for the team lead in scoring in Stockton

by Aaron Vickers @AAVickers /

Morgan Klimchuk admitted there was a lot to take away from his first professional season of hockey.

Points, however, weren't necessarily among them.

He spent the summer rebuilding his game in search of rekindling his offensive touch.

So far, so good.

Right from the start. 

"First game, first shift I was lucky enough to get one and I've been rolling since then," Klimchuk said.

"When you have confidence and you're playing with good players and the coaches trust you and put you in positions to succeed it's a recipe for success. That's kind of what it's been so far. Good fortune and fortunate enough to play with some good players.

"When the coaches trust you and put you with those players and put you in those situations you're going to have success."

Success is a modest way to put Klimchuk's start. 

After scoring three goals in 55 games as a rookie with the Stockton Heat, Klimchuk has exploded for five goals in his first seven sophomore skates. He netted a total of nine points as a freshman. He shares the team-lead in scoring with Mark Jankowski at 10 this year.

It's not an accident, suggested Calgary Flames assistant general manager Brad Pascall. 

"Morgan is a driven player," Pascall said. "He's always one of the top fitness guys in our organization from a rookie and veteran standpoint. He has a plan. Talking to him at the end of last season about areas we want him to work on, areas he needs to focus in on, he was fully aware. He had his own personal development plan as well as our plan for him. He's a guy that's well aware of what he needs to do and how he needs to do it. He's very driven.

"We love his passion for the game and his work ethic. He's a top prospect for the Flames and continues to be so. He's a player that with the start he's had we're even more so excited. Like all the young players and him being a second-year pro, you need time to develop your game. Coming from junior and learning what it is to be a pro both on and off the ice takes some time. Morgan's in that where he needs a little time."

The improvement is marked through the first sliver of the season.

It took until Dec. 20, 2015 -- 13 games -- to net his first goal in 2015-16.

Klimchuk's first goal of the 2016-17 season came on his first shift.

And he hasn't looked back.

"I had a good summer of training in Calgary," he said. "My expectations were to have a good year and I trained like that hard all summer and worked on exactly that, finding a way to put the puck on the net. I hope it'll be like this all year but there will be stretches you're going to struggle."

He hit those stretches last year.

Pascall things he's not about to hit those same struggles this year. 

"He always wants to get better," said Pascall, who doubles as Stockton's GM. "He had a feeling out process last year as all first-year pros do in the American league. I think he took a lot of that information of what it takes to be successful in the American league, what he needs to do as a player to be successful.

"He's had some good success offensively, but defensively as well from penalty kill standpoint and positioning in his own zone. Hopefully that continues. For him and for us you want to keep that offence going and keep him on top of his game that way. For him to be a well-rounded player is just as important." 

He's still doing that, too.

"That's the thing," Klimchuk started. "You can't change your game at all if you start scoring, or if you're not scoring. You have to find something that works for you and stick with it. It'll come as long as you're playing the right way. It's something I preached even in junior. You have to make sure you aren't cheating it in any way.

"Talking with (coach Ryan Huska) and the coaching staff here, they're saying they're happy I'm scoring but they liked how I was playing before and now. The message is to not take any shortcuts. That's what I'm focusing on, doing things right and hard every day and hopefully the points keep coming for me."

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