Obviously it’s your goal to play in the NHL and a lot of great players don’t even get a chance to play so for me to get this chance, it means a lot. Hopefully I can just keep working hard to make the best of it. - Corban Knight
DALLAS, TX -- It’s not hard to fathom that one of the reasons Corban Knight opted to sign with the Calgary Flames last summer had plenty to do with the chance he’d be given the opportunity to make his National Hockey League debut in the 2013-14 season.
The rebuilding Flames have provided the High River, AB product just that break.
With a rash of injuries plaguing Calgary’s forward core over the course of the last month, Knight has enjoyed the opportunity of playing in the first set of games of his NHL career.
“It’s been huge,” Knight told CalgaryFlames.com. “Obviously it’s your goal to play in the NHL and a lot of great players don’t even get a chance to play so for me to get this chance, it means a lot. Hopefully I can just keep working hard to make the best of it. I don’t know what’s going to happen. It seems like its day-to-day here with the injuries. All I can control is how I work and hopefully how I play. It’s been a great experience so far.”
Originally selected by the Florida Panthers in the fifth round, 135th overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Knight spent four seasons at the University of North Dakota before the Flames acquired his rights and promptly him last summer.
Nine months later, the 23-year-old is soaking up the opportunity of a lifetime.
“I think it’s really important,” said Knight, who has 14 goals and 37 points in 57 games with the Abbotsford Heat this year -- his first season of professional hockey. “I think just to get this experience and to kind of see how these older guys handle themselves and work, I can take a lot from that.
“I think you just kind of look at the veteran presence in this room and guys that have been in this league for a while. They’re unbelievable bunch of professionals in here, the way they work and take care of themselves. It’s good for young guys like myself that are up and see that and take notes from those guys because they’re doing it the right way. They’ve been in the league for a while and successful. It’s something to watch.”
He hasn’t just been a bystander, though.
Knight’s young NHL run was punctuated Wednesday with his first career goal for the Flames, a late-game maker that rubbed salt in the wound of the potential President’s Trophy candidate Anaheim Ducks in Calgary’s 7-2 triumph on Scotiabank Saddledome ice.
“It was, what, the seventh goal but, for me, it felt like an overtime winner with how I felt after that,” the 6-foot-2, 195-pound pivot said. “It's definitely something I'll never forget. It's pretty special.
“It’s been pretty cool to be a part of this last couple games. The leadership in this room is unbelievable. Being a young guy and seeing this, it’s pretty inspirational in seeing how these guys kind of pull this team together. To be a part of that the last couple games has been awesome. It’s been a lot of fun so far and hopefully we can keep this going.”
How long Knight’s run in Calgary lasts depends both on his play and how quickly Calgary’s infirmary empties. The Flames have already welcomed back Curtis Glencross and Kevin Westgarth, while Jiri Hudler isn’t expected to remain out of the lineup much longer.
The thought that he could be returned to the Heat at any given moment hasn’t put a damper on the experience, though.
“Whether it’s five games, 10 games, 15 games, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m just trying to get everything I can out of this and work hard to leave a good impression.”
And a lasting one at that.