I’m just really happy to be here. I don’t know anything right now with my situation but I have to stay patient until the time comes and work hard and be ready if they give me an opportunity in a game. - Jakub Nakladal
CALGARY, AB -- With a horde of reporters and cameras surrounding his stall at Scotiabank Saddledome, Jakub Nakladal side-stepped around the crowd to get to his locker.
"All these people," smiled Nakladal, as turned around to face the media, clearly a little surprised at congregation that waited for him to wrap up his lengthy skate.
Such is life in Calgary, especially compared to the pace in northern California with the Stockton Heat, and Nakladal is hoping to settle into routine with the Flames.
With Dennis Wideman suspended, the 28-year-old was summoned from the AHL on Wednesday morning. While he is unsure of when he'll make his NHL debut, Nakladal is very aware of the impact this recall could have.
The always earned, never given mantra adopted by the Flames has fostered a strong belief amongst players in the system that if they are able to get a shot in Calgary, they can steal a jersey from a veteran player and end up with a regular spot in the lineup, provided they uphold their end of the bargain.
"I’m just really happy to be here," Nakladal said. "I don’t know anything right now with my situation but I have to stay patient until the time comes and work hard and be ready if they give me an opportunity in a game.
"This is great and I’m so happy."
Prior to getting a call from the Flames this weekend, Nakladal and his family were preparing for a few days of rest and relaxation in Los Angeles during the AHL All-Star break.
But with the Dennis Wideman situation in play, the Flames gave the blueliner the heads up that he could be on a flight to Alberta at some point during his break. Playing it safe, the Nakladal family stayed close to Stockton, making a quick trip to nearby San Francisco to recharge after his first 35 games in North America.
After getting adjusted to the smaller ice size and pace of the game in AHL, Nakladal earned plenty of ice time with the Heat. He helped anchor a young blueline in Stockton and his confidence was buoyed by his ever-expanding role with the Heat.
"I like it there. I have a lot of ice time and I play in a lot of situations during the games but I know of a couple of things that I have to do better – play better with my stick and be a little bit quicker with the puck. I have to still work hard on this part of the game and I hope that the chance will come."
On paper, it's been a highly successful season for Nakladal. He is tied with captain Aaron Johnson for the lead in scoring amongst defencemen in Stockon with 14 points, led all rearguards in shots with 80, and was trusted to play in every situation under head coach Ryan Huska.
But the season hasn't been without its struggles.
"This has been one of the hardest seasons in my life – in this situation, to be patient and to be positive. It’s something new for me and I think it’s good for me," he stated. "I’m still 28 years old so I hope there is still a couple of years ahead of me in my career. I still can learn a few things and I think sometimes I feel maybe a bit frustrated that nothing has happened but still I believe the chance will come.
"Like I said, there are a couple of things I have to do better but I think I can play in the NHL and I believe in myself. I have to play hard, play strong, and play simple."
While he is unlikely for tonight's game against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Flames coaching staff have no reservations about getting Nakladal into games in the near future. They have kept a close eye on his progress in Stockton and have full confidence in his abilities.
"He's playing very well," Bob Hartley said. "Brad Pascall and Craig Conroy ... they're watching lots of games. They go to Stockton quite a bit so we have a great communication line with those guys. We always have game reports. We get the videos and everything.
"Nak, he's not a kid. He's been competing in World Championships, in many big events, so pressure's not a problem. Maybe NHL experience is but he's competed in so many great tournaments and games that we wouldn't hesitate to put him in the lineup."