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Prospect Report: Ice d-man aims for Flames

by Laurence Heinen / Calgary Flames
After suiting up for the Flames for a pair of exhibition games, John Negrin has his goals set a lot higher for next season.

Before returning to the Western Hockey League for his fourth season with the Kootenay Ice, Negrin took part in his second training camp with the Flames and cracked the lineup for a 3-2 pre-season loss to the Florida Panthers on Sept. 23 and a 3-1 over the Phoenix Coyotes two nights later.

“When I was playing exhibition it was pretty exciting,” said the 6-foot-2, 190-pound defenceman, who the Flames picked in the third round (70th overall) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. “Jarome (Iginla) got a goal and I was on the ice to celebrate with him. That was pretty cool. Little experiences like that make you want it that much more.”

Prior to his return to the Ice, Negrin received some encouraging words from Flames coaches and scouts.

“They told me the things I need to improve on to make it to that next level,” said the 19-year-old native of West Vancouver. “Defensively I’ve got to improve. It’s just so much faster and players are so much smarter that you’ve got to be a step ahead. When you’re playing defensively you’ve got to make hard plays and make sure guys aren’t getting by you.”

In 71 games with the Ice last season, Negrin scored once and set up 41 goals. So far this campaign, he has three goals and 11 assist in 18 games for the 10-8-2-3 Ice.

“Coming back to the WHL, I think it’s beneficial,” Negrin said. “I’m playing a lot of minutes and I get to be a leader on my team and get into those situations that I probably wouldn’t be able play in if I was in Calgary. That helps a lot.”

Ice coach Mark Holick said that Negrin has emerged as perhaps Kootenay’s “best all-around player” this season.

“He’s an excellent leader,” added Holick. “He’s got the pulse of the dressing room and a lot of the respect of the guys. He’s got a really bright future.”

John Negrin
While he recorded a victory with the Flames at the Pengrowth Saddledome in the pre-season, Negrin has suffered a pair of road losses to the Calgary Hitmen already this campaign, including a 6-2 setback this past Monday.

“They’re obviously a very good team,” Negrin said of the Hitmen, who went 7-1 against the Ice last season including four wins at the ’Dome. “In our case, we’ve got a lot of young guys and I think we give them a little too much respect.”

Negrin and the Ice will be out for revenge Friday  (7 p.m., Fan 960) when the Hitmen visit Cranbrook for a rematch between the two WHL Central Division squads.

“We’re going to come out flying that game for sure,” said Negrin, who will visit Calgary two more times with the Ice this season on Jan. 3 and Feb. 8.

The last time the Ice beat the Hitmen at the ’Dome was on March 16, 2007 when they skated to a 4-3 victory. Since then, they’ve lost six in a row in Calgary.

“It’s just a matter of believing in ourselves and playing hard,” Negrin said. “I know we can beat these guys. They’re not unbeatable.”

As for his personal goals, Negrin is going to work as hard as he can this season to put himself in a position to earn a roster spot with the Flames next year.

“It’s going to take a lot of hard work,” he said. “There’s little building blocks that I need to work on. My goal is still to play in the National Hockey League as soon as possible and do whatever it takes. I want to try and make it as soon as I can, obviously next year. Now that I’m back here in Kootenay, I’m going to work on the small things and try to be on that roster next year.”
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