CALGARY, AB -- Growing up, Corban Knight was an avid Vancouver Canucks fan.
Obviously the NHL is the best league in the world and if it was easy to play, everybody would be playing. I understand and respect how elite it is. But I really want to feel that I can push for spot come this fall. - Corban Knight
Born in Oliver, BC, the pivot idolized Trevor Linden, respecting the former Canucks' centreman presence both on and off the ice, and rooted solely for the boys from British Columbia.
However, on Tuesday morning, that kinship with the Canucks organization was completely severed.
The Flames acquired the 22 year-old's rights from the Florida Panthers in exchange for Calgary's fourth round pick at the 2013 NHL Draft.
"All my family is from BC so I was a pretty big Canucks fan," he admitted with a slight chuckle. "But I dropped all loyalties to them pretty fast and I'm a diehard Flames fan now."
Despite his questionable childhood allegiances and birth place, Knight is, by all accounts, an Alberta boy. He calls High River his hometown and prior to heading off to the University of North Dakota four years ago, he played for the UFA Bison Midget AAA Hockey Club in Strathmore and spent one season in the Alberta Junior Hockey League with the Okotoks Oilers. To have his rights dealt to an Alberta team feels like a homecoming for the forward.
"Growing up in the Alberta area, I've been around the Flames and even when I was younger, I didn't like to admit it, I thought it was ... an unbelievable franchise. The passion for hockey here is great.
"Today is a very cool and very memorable day for me. I'm very happy about this opportunity and to be a part of the Flames organization."
Knight, who was drafted in the fifth round of the 2009 NHL Draft by the Florida Panthers, made great strides during his collegiate career that has put him on numerous scouts radars, becoming a impact player for the Fighting Sioux. He scored 52 goals in 161 games with UND and set a new career-high last year with 49 points (16 points, 33 assists) in 41 games.
In the 2012-13 season, he was one of the ten Hobey Baker finalists, led the nation with 623 face-off wins, was the NCAA leader with 24 first assists, and strung together a 19-game point streak which was the fourth longest point streak in UND history and its lengthiest streak in the school's past 25 years.
He is also the first player at UND to record 40+ points in three straight seasons since TJ Oshie and Ryan Duncan did so in the 2007-08 season.
"The on-ice development in Grand Forks ... it was huge. I had the all the opportunity in the world to get better as a hockey player and that will really set me up well for the transition (to pro).
"Off the ice, being away from home and having to balance your schedule helps you grow up. The mental side was equally as important for me - I grew up."
Looking back at his time with UND, he pinpoints his overall consistency as the area he has improved the most in. He worked doggedly on leveling out his game and making sure he was dependable in three zones.
"Every hockey player wants to be as consistent as possible and that is something I knew I had to improve on in order to move to the next level," he explained. "From where I was four years ago to now, I'm happy with where I am and will continue to work on getting better."
That consistency will be key as he prepares for his first professional season. While he cannot sign with the team until July, Flames General Manager Jay Feaster said he was "confident" the team would ink the centre to a deal and was looking forward "to his debut in a Flames' sweater this fall."
Like Feaster, Knight appears to be very confident the two sides can come to a deal next month and is preparing as such. He has been training at Crash Conditioning in Calgary and will continue his regimen throughout the summer to ensure he's ready to go at training camp. He hopes to make his NHL debut in 2013-14 but realizes it won't be an easy road and that there will be ups and downs as he makes the transition to the pro game.
"Obviously the NHL is the best league in the world and if it was easy to play, everybody would be playing. I understand and respect how elite it is. But I really want to feel that I can push for spot come this fall. I'm going to do whatever it takes.
"I'm thrilled to even have the chance."