I worked as hard as I could and went as far as I could. It was a great experience. I can’t say I was surprised but I was honoured to spend as much time with the team as I did and learn as much as I did. - Keegan Kanzig
CALGARY, AB -- Most of the time it’s hard not to notice Keegan Kanzig on the ice.
It was impossible to miss the 6-foot-7, 245-pound defenceman on the ice at Calgary Flames training camp last September, surviving until the second-last round of cuts -- the longest of any junior player -- before being returned to the Victoria Royals.
But while most certainly noticed the lengthy stay, Kanzig expected it of himself.
“I wouldn’t say I surprised myself,” he said. “Going into camp, the goal was to make the team. I worked as hard as I could and went as far as I could. It was a great experience. I can’t say I was surprised but I was honoured to spend as much time with the team as I did and learn as much as I did.”
Kanzig’s camp-out came just two months after the Flames made him their fourth selection, 67th overall in the 2013 NHL Draft.
The extended stay gave the Athabasca, AB. native some extra development time and a boost in confidence.
“It was huge,” Kanzig said. “Spending time around the coaching staff and other prospects here, there’s a lot of people you can learn from. It’s good for confidence as well going into the regular season. Skating with these guys and learning from the coaches, I went back to Victoria and was confident with my game.
“It really helped me throughout my season.”
After going scoreless in his first 133 Western Hockey League regular season games, the defensive-minded Kanzig found the back of the net three times and added another five assists for a career-high eight points in just 63 games. He also managed to turn his minus-10 performance from the 2012-13 campaign into a plus-18 showing last year, too.
Again, it was his extended stay in Calgary that kickstarted Kanzig’s success in Victoria.
“When you’re more confident, you play much better out there,” he said. “There were some fundamentals that I learned at development camp and main camp last year as well. I think I input those into my game well during the season and it made a big difference for me.”
Armed with those experiences in hand and another spin in Calgary’s 2014 development camp, Kanzig has even loftier expectations heading into this year’s main camp.
But he’s more focused on taking another stride forward between now and when he hits the ice for his second spin.
“I’m a big guy; I’ve got to use my size and physicality to my advantage, but at the same time, I’m trying to make sure I’m a well-rounded player and can make the first passes and move well out there,’ Kanzig said. “Those are two things that I’ll be working on this summer is mobility and puck movement and puck handling.”
From there he’ll focus on making an impression this year in front of his new bosses. He already made some noise earlier in the month.
His next goal is to make a lasting one come September.
“It is a new management staff,” Kanzig said. “You still are making almost a first impression.
“You’ve got to make sure to do your best to make sure it’s a good one.”
And make sure his second camp leaves a similar mark as his first.