CALGARY, AB -- The jump from major junior to the AHL can be a daunting task for even the most skilled players.
The game is faster, the opposition is stronger, and the space that allowed players to be creative in junior is no longer there.
It was a challenge that Calgary Flames prospect Emile Poirier was ready for this past season.
Poirier gained a reputation as a prolific scorer during his time with the Gatineau Olympiques in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).
In his rookie season, the Montreal, QC product scored 15 goals and 40 points -- good for fourth in team scoring. He followed that up with 32 goals and 70 points in 65 games in the 2012-13 campaign, his draft-eligible season.
The Flames, seeing loads of potential in the winger, nabbed him at 22nd overall in the 2013 NHL Draft.
He didn't disappoint during his first season as a Flames prospect, netting 43 goals and 87 points in just 63 games with the Olympiques in 2013-14. Poirier led Gatineau in scoring in the regular season and averaged over a point-per-game in the playoffs that spring.
Poirier also got a taste of the AHL after the Olympiques were eliminated from the playoffs, suiting up for two regular season games and three postseason outings with the Abbotsford Heat.
It had become very evident that Poirier was ready to move on from the QMJHL and turn pro. What remained to be seen was if the offensive skill he showcased throughout his junior career would translate at the next level.
He answered that question emphatically.
Even with the substantial differences between the QMJHL and the AHL, Poirier was second in team scoring, just one point shy of team leader Kenny Agostino, with 19 goals and 42 points.
He was named an AHL All-Star and even earned a stint in the NHL, which saw him dress for six games with the Flames and pick up his first NHL point with an assist on Mikael Backlund's goal against the Philadelphia Flyers on Mar. 3.
"For my first year in pro, it was a good year for me," he told CalgaryFlames.com. "I think I learned a lot – I learned everywhere I [played]. It was a good experience, coming up [with the Flames] for a little while.
"It was good for me and that makes me more experienced when I come back to camp in September."
One of the biggest challenges for Poirier was adapting to what life is like off the ice in the AHL. There isn't just an adjustments to be made on the ice -- it is entirely differently lifestyle which requires more dedication away from the rink.
There is a much bigger emphasis on fitness, which is what Poirier has focused on in the off-season. He knows he needs to get stronger in order to continue progressing at the pro level.
"To get in shape, to able to play a big enough game … I’ve been working on this a lot," he said last week at development camp, noting that a big part of his summer has been structured around an all-encompassing workout regimen.
His experiences in the AHL and short time with the Flames have left him even hungrier for a roster spot in Calgary. As he continues his training in Montreal throughout the summer months, he has focused in on earning a full-time gig with the Flames in 2015-16.
"I’m going to give it my all. I’m going to come to the camp and be in shape, be ready to make the jump, because I think I am," he stated. "That’s the only thing I want this year, is to make it."