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Klimchuk taking on leadership role at Young Stars Classic

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

PENTICTON, BC -- Morgan Klimchuk doesn’t know any other way.

Offseason preparation leads to rookie camp. Rookie camp leads to the Young Stars Classic in Penticton. The Young Stars leads into main camp.

It’s been the only routine the 21-year-old has known since being selected in the first round (No. 28) in the 2013 NHL Draft.

And with the 2016 tournament set to get underway Friday afternoon, the Calgary, AB native is ready to go.

“I’ve been through this a few times now,” Klimchuk said. “It’s a fun tournament. Everyone’s pretty excited. You’ve got some good young players here and guys who have a lot of energy and will play hard. It’s good intensity-wise. All the games are like that. Everyone plays hard. I’m excited to be here and get going.”

Klimchuk is returning to the Young Stars with his first season of pro hockey under his belt.

After parts of five seasons with the Regina Pats and Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League, where he amassed 118 goals and 267 points in 261 career games, Klimchuk netted nine points in a 55-game campaign with Stockton of the American Hockey League.

With that experience under his belt, and a few previous tournaments on his resume, Klimchuk is set to lead by example.

“When I first started here there were some older guys and they showed me the ropes and explained what the tournament was like and what to expect,” Klimchuk said. “I’m trying to do that for the young guys here now. You take them under your wing and tell them what you know so that they’re a little more prepared when the games get going.”

Klimchuk will have a pair of fresh faces on his line to start the tournament.

He will skate with fellow first round picks Matthew Tkachuk (No. 6, 2016) and Mark Jankowski (No. 21, 2012). They can certainly bend Klimchuk’s ear with any questions.

It’s already started.

“This is kind of a first for me,” Tkachuk said. “It’s something I’m taking all in, and asking guys who have been here before what it’s like, and asking the coaches what they expect from me … little things like that to help me succeed here at this rookie camp.”

There are few better to learn from, suggested Stockton coach Ryan Huska.

“When you’re a younger player that comes in the first time, if you have someone to look up to that does things the way Morgan does, then you have a pretty good person to model yourself after,” said Huska, who coached Klimchuk in the AHL and will be behind the bench for Calgary in the tournament.

“The way Morgan prepares, the way he eats, how hard he works … whether it’s a pre-game skate, practice or game … you get the same thing from him every time. He’s one of the players that coaches really like to have on their team because he does things the right way. For our younger players or people that are here for the first time he’s a great example for them to have.”

Klimchuk doesn’t mind lending a hand.

And his biggest piece of advice to newcomers would be to use the Young Stars to launch into main camp next week.

“I’ve done this every year now,” Klimchuk said. “It’s part of the routine for me. It’s a fun tournament. Guys really enjoy it here. Penticton’s an awesome place to play, and you play some good players. You get your feet under you here and get your habits going for when main camp does roll around.”

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