PENTICTON, BC -- It’s been a long time coming for those Calgary Flames prospects set to suit up against the Winnipeg Jets in the first game of the 2014 Young Stars Classic in Penticton.
But it’s been an especially patient wait for Michael Ferland.
The 22-year-old hasn’t suited up for a game since Dec. 12, 2013 after sustaining a knee injury that put an end to his season after just 25 games.
“I’m super excited,” Ferland said from the South Okanagan Events Centre in advance of Friday’s game Jets. “Obviously I haven’t played since December and it’s been too long. Just being out there for the morning skate, I was just having so much fun out there. It’s just nice being out there with the guys. I’m just trying to take it all in right now and have fun.”
Ferland’s injury interrupted an upstart season for the first year pro. The 6-foot-2, 208-pound winger had recorded six goals and 18 points in 14 games prior to his injury.
Admittedly, it’s been a long road back for the Swan River, MB product.
“I haven’t really been this excited to play hockey for a long time,” Ferland said. “I just can’t wait to get out there and start playing. I’ve been excited ever since we’ve got on the plane. I’m just super excited to get out there and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Ferland isn’t alone in making a return after a lengthy absence.
After undergoing treatment for an injury, defenceman Patrick Sieloff saw his first season in professional hockey sidelined as a result of a staph infection that started with an in-grown hair on his stomach.
He had to be hooked up to a portable IV and was barred from any physical activity for nearly two months. During that time, the 20-year-old was told he couldn’t break a sweat.
“It’s a long time to wait,” said Sieloff, who played two games with the Abbotsford Heat before the setback. “It’s been about a year, now. It’s weird, but it seems like yesterday I was going through it all. Now I’m back on track. I feel great. I haven’t felt this good in a long, long time.”
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound rearguard expects rust, but is hoping to knock it off quickly with the Penticton tournament.
“It’ll be good,” he said. “I felt great out there today for the first practice. Timing-wise, I felt fine but the game might be a little bit different. For me, I’ve put in enough work where I feel like I might not have missed a big step, but I know I missed a little step. It won’t take me that long to figure it out.”
The anxiousness isn’t just reserved for Sieloff and Ferland, though.
Having already logging NHL games near the tail end of the 2013-14 season, Bryce Van Brabant is excited to pull on the Flames jersey once again at the Young Stars.
“I’m not a summer player,” he said. “I’m not the guy who goes out there and dangles. It’s nice for me to go out there to bang some bodies. I’m excited for that.”
Though he does have NHL experience under his belt, the tournament will serve as Van Brabant’s first. He’s done some research into what to expect and admits having six games with the Flames under his belt helps calm any nerves.
“I’ve talked with all the other guys who have done it before and you kind of get a sense of what’s going to go on, but it’s like anything, it’s hockey,” he said. “You go out there and play and try to get your feet under you.
“It gives me a sense of confidence. I’ve been there. I know I can play there. It’s a fact I have to prove it. I have to prove I can stay there. That’s the hardest part.”
It’s a similar situation facing Bill Arnold.
Arnold joined the Flames after capping his four-year career with Boston College and made his NHL debut in Calgary’s season finale against the Vancouver Canucks.
Like Van Brabant, Arnold is in his first spin at prospects camp and, after participating in Calgary’s development camp in July, is looking forward to seeing some new opposition.
“Just the competitive nature of everyone on the team, you want to play against other guys and in development camp you’re just playing against guys on your own team,” said Arnold, who had 14 goals and 53 points in 40 games at BC last season. “It’s fun to get out there and play against another organization.”
And like Van Brabant, Arnold is hoping to use the Young Stars as a means to show he’s worthy of more time in the NHL.
“I’m just going to go out there and work hard and try to adapt to the way the coaches want me to play. The one thing they’ve said is the one thing you can control is working hard. That’s what I’m going to go out there and do and showcase my game.”
“I was ready then and I’m ready now. I’ve been skating more after development camp. I’ve been skating every day. It’s been good with the older guys coming into town to be able to skate with them and up the level of compete. It’ll be a good game. I’ve been waiting for a while.”
- Patrick Sieloff
The puck drops at 5:00 PM MST and the Sport Chek stream can be viewed on CalgaryFlames.com, the Calgary Flames app, or the Calgary Flames YouTube channel.