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Poirier carving out path to NHL

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

PENTICTON, BC -- Without hesitation, Emile Poirier suggested his goal was to become a full-time member of the Calgary Flames.

It’s the same as the 30 others currently representing Calgary at the Young Stars Classic, a prospects tournament designed as a tune-up for many heading into main camp.

But for Poirier, with six National Hockey League games under his belt, the idea rings a little more true.

And, the 20-year-old suggested, closer within reach.

“I think that’s my goal this year,” Poirier said from Penticton. “I’m here for that. I’m battling for a spot on the roster. I’ll do anything possible to get in. I think I'm way more mature. I know what’s going on with one year of experience. I think it’s a lot to get all those little details about pro hockey. I’ve changed a lot as a player and as a guy too. That’s the biggest difference.”

In 55 skates with the Adirondack Flames last season, Poirier recorded 19 goals and 42 points and earned himself a trip to the American Hockey League All-Star Game in January.

He also earned his half-dozen games split over two call-ups to Calgary, including a nearly month-long stint in February and March that saw the native of Montreal, PQ. earn a half-dozen skates, and an important education.

Those lessons under Flames coach Bob Hartley proved critical in the development of Poirier, according to Stockton Heat coach Ryan Huska.

“With his call-ups and a better understanding of what’s expected out him, he started to make strides,” said Huska, Poirier’s coach in Adirondack. “Strides I talk about his habits and how he’s expected to play with the Calgary Flames. He’s starting to understand that he has to play back into our own zone the way he goes the other way. All those things I think he grew a lot with and now it’s just a matter of time with him applying it consistently.

“He needs to take that next step with the consistency that we are talking about. Every night you should see Emile on the ice, whether that’s with us or wherever he may be. He’s had a year under his belt in professional hockey and now he’s got to take another step and be more consistent.”

There’s no disagreement from Poirier.

So he’s taking the lessons learned last season to heart.

“I think just being there and being around the team, you learn a lot,” said Poirier, who trained over the summer in Montreal alongside NHLers Pascal Dupuis, Cedric Paquette, Jonathan Bernier, and Danius Zubrus. “Practicing with those guys for a long time, it was just nice to be there even if I was not getting much ice time. It was good.

“I think it’s helped the process. It was good for me to get that chance there. It was a good opportunity for me.”

Now, with a season of professional hockey under his belt, Poirier has a better understanding of what to expect. He expects more.

And the Flames hopeful has put a focus on just that.

But with 13 returning forwards who played at least 48 games last season, plus the likes of Micheal Ferland, Drew Shore and Sam Bennett looking for full-time gigs, finding a path onto the Flames roster isn’t an easy trek.

Poirier plans to blaze his own road, instead.

And in the process, achieve his next goal.

“To have a spot there, you have to make your plays,” Poirier said. “There’s not a spot there, so I think you have to go out there and make some plays. That’s what I’m going to try and do. That’s how it works here. They are going to take the best 20-man roster.”

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