CALGARY, AB --
While forward Carter Bancks
' first season in the American Hockey League was anything but smooth sailing, the forward could not be happier with how his year ended.
The 21 year-old was signed to a two-year, two-way deal by the Calgary Flames on July 1 and as a life-long fan of the club, it is a dream come true.
"It was an amazing feeling," he smiled. "It's been a long journey for me and just to get the NHL contract signed was a huge relief. I'm just thrilled that it was with Calgary. They were favourite team growing up my whole life and I couldn't be happier right now."
Flames general manager Jay Feaster spoke glowingly of the winger when asked about inking Bancks.
"When we signed Carter to an AHL deal last season, we told him if he went to Abbotsford and did everything that was asked of him, we would look to convert his AHL deal to an NHL contract," said Feaster. "Carter did everything we asked and then some, and he really has earned this new deal. We really like his work ethic and versatility and we consider him one of our bright young prospects who will play for us in Calgary one day."
Despite the exciting conclusion of his 2010-11 season, his first year with the Abbotsford Heat was trying for the winger. He was limited to just 29 games after suffering a concussion early in the season.
"I thought I came into camp and had a good camp. Then went down to Abbotsford and had a good start and was getting an opportunity to play. Then I got injured."
The fact he was on a one-year AHL contract weighed heavily on his mind and the uncertainty of his future began to wear on him. It was hard to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel but Bancks managed to battle through the depression.
"I was able to get back into the lineup in the last 11 games and kind of proved that I was healthy and that my head was okay. Calgary has been awesome through the whole process through my injury.
"Jay and everyone on the staff, they stuck true to their word. They said if I worked hard and did everything I could, they would try to get me on an NHL deal. I'm just very happy that it's done now."
In those 29 games, Bancks impressed anyone who saw him play. Known primarily as an energy player, Bancks was able to produce offensively during his short season. He potted five goals and 19 points with the Heat while still maintaining his defensive responsibilities.
Former Heat head coach Jim Playfair even went as far to say that if Bancks wasn't injured, Abbotsford could have won their division and would have made the playoffs.
Bancks has been working out in Calgary for well over month with strength and conditioning coach Rich Hesketh so that he is physically prepared for training camp later in the summer.
"For me, I guess it's just I'm a little bit smaller. I just need to get as big and fast and as strong as I can. I just try to play hard ... I just need to grow a lot. I guess I'm just an immature 21 year-old in terms of body type. I'm just looking forward to putting on as much weight and muscle on as I can in the next few months."Follow Torie Peterson on Twitter | @ToriePeterson