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Points To Ponder: development camp sets tones

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

The arm wasn’t feeling it. We were just joking around so we saw the quad. We had to take a picture of it. Everyone was buying it. It was good.Tim Harrison

CALGARY, AB -- No, the biggest gain from the Calgary Flames 2014 summer development camp didn’t come via the arm of Tim Harrison.

A photo tweeted from the account of Ryan Culkin featuring the Colgate University winger standing next to his 'prize', a Can-Am quad, at the Calgary Stampede was indeed a hoax.

“Bike boy does it again @tim_harrsn3 but even bigger and better #winner,” Culkin’s tweet read.

But he was just pulling legs.

Harrison, as story goes, won not one but two pocket bikes when Calgary’s prospects descended on Stampede at last year’s camp.

He came away empty-handed in 2014, though.

“I just wasn’t feeling it,” Harrison said. “A couple throws, and I’m getting old. I threw out the shoulder a bit. We tried.

“The arm wasn’t feeling it. We were just joking around so we saw the quad. We had to take a picture of it. Everyone was buying it. It was good.”

The tweet, which received 17 retweets and 29 favourites, was Culkin’s brainchild.

The former Drummondville Voltigeurs defenceman and soon to be first-year pro was a little shy to reveal he was the culprit.

“I can’t say any details,” he stammered. “No, I’m kidding. Unfortunately this year he didn’t win any bikes so we had to get him a picture with the Can-Am. It was pretty funny to see all the reaction of the fans.

“I got the idea. I felt bad for him. You know, he was disappointed he didn’t win any bikes. I told him to go out by the big truck and we’d take a picture with it.”

The prank highlights one of the major benefits to the summer camp, which featured 23 Flames prospects and an additional 18 free agent invites in 2014.

“The most important thing to do at development camp is have fun,” Culkin said. “A lot of people are stressed, nervous. I like to crack a few jokes and throw people for a loop before we go on. Once we get on the ice, it’s all business; all serious. It’s always nice to laugh a little bit.”

And now, some points to ponder:

  • Culkin's well-known for lightening the mood. The 20-year-old jester is used to pulling the legs of teammates. He’s a little shyer to try some jokes on his coaches, but when you’re a second-year player with the Quebec Remparts, that’s understandable.

  • “I’m really good at shoe-checking," Culkin said. "Shoe-check is when you put butter on their shoes, on the top at a supper. One day in Quebec it was a buffet and the buffet had a big tablecloth so I go underneath the table and I start getting everyone who passes by, then I hear Patrick Roy’s voice. His shoes were right there. I was debating getting him and being a legend or getting cut the next day. I could’ve, but I didn’t.”

  • The good-natured ribbing doesn’t stop at Culkin. Morgan Klimchuk didn’t waste any time welcoming Sam Bennett, Calgary’s top pick in 2014, to the organization: “I gave him a hard time, too,” said Klimchuk, who roomed with Bennett at the 2013 IIHF World Under-18 Championship, “But I think that makes it easier on him and takes some of the nerves out of the situation.”

  • So too does having the experience of last year's camp.

  • “For me, I wasn’t nearly as nervous this year as I was last year," Klimchuk said. "I kind of know what to expect now. I’ve met with all the staff and have played in front of them a couple of times. I wasn’t nearly as nervous today as I was last year.”

  • Massive winger David Wolf has been to a development camp before (Toronto Maple Leafs, 2012), but he’s never been to one with the Flames or to one with a contract. It was such a new experience for the 24-year-old that the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder wasn’t sure how he fared in his physical testing, which kicked off camp: “I can't say something about that,” Wolf admitted. “I've never done those tests, so I can't say how good I was. I'll wait until the coaches come to me and tell me how my testing was.”

  • For those wondering, Wolf must’ve tested well. At least, that’s the impression left by general manager Brad Treliving when camp closed: “Interesting guy,” Treliving said. “He's like a walking fridge. He's a big guy.”

  • Wolf will have the opportunity to assert himself a little more in main camp. The Hamburg Freezers standout had 152 minutes in penalties last season, but wasn’t nearly that aggressive in development camp. Part of that was because Wolf hadn’t been on the ice back home in Germany.

  • "You could see it the first," Treliving said. "There was a progression by Day Two. He's probably starting to feel good now. But he's an interesting guy. He'll be an interesting guy to see come training camp.”

  • At the opposite end of the size spectrum, 5-foot-9, 160-pound Johnny Gaudreau will certainly attract eyes when Calgary’s main camp opens in September. The reigning Hobey Baker Award winner was a development camp standout, while his resume -- both collegiate and international -- have many people optimistic about Gaudreau’s future. He does, too.

  • “You’ve got to make sure you have the right attitude coming in,” Gaudreau said. “You don’t want to come in thinking you aren’t going to make the team. It’s not a good attitude. Everyone’s fighting for a spot so it’s going to be difficult. I’ve got a lot of work for the rest of the summer here. I’m just going to make sure I’m ready to come out here flying for training camp.”

  • It’s the memo Treliving was hoping Gaudreau would take from camp: “This will be his first training camp,” the Flames GM said. “I know the name's been out there in these parts for a long time, but he hasn't gone through a training camp or those things. I think he's ready for the challenge. He'll be ready come September.”

  • Bennett too: “I think we had a pretty handle on Sam," Treliving said. "It's the first time we're spending time with him as our guy. There's a lot to like. He's a talented player. He comes as advertised, in terms of the intangible piece. This guy, he's a winner. He's a character kid. He's a driven kid. Now, he's going to go home, he'll put some work in and we'll see where he gets at training camp.”

  • That mantra became the main communication for the likes of Gaudreau, Bennett and any other players hoping to push for a full-time roster spot on the Flames in 2014-15. There’s a chance. Take it: “We're looking for players, so don't think because you're a young player that there's not opportunity,” Treliving said. “You're going to have to earn it, but there's an opportunity. Hopefully that message has been received.”

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