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Reality sets in

by Peter Zuurbier / Calgary Flames
Less than a month ago this year's draft class had one of the biggest moments of their life when their names were called out and they donned the 'Flaming C' for the first time. This week the freshly minted Flames have joined their previously picked peers down at the 'Dome for their first hockey camp as professionals.

With the Flames annual prospect camp taking place at the Saddledome this year, newbies like Tim Erixon and Ryan Howse have had a unique opportunity to soak in a bit of the atmosphere that surrounds a pro hockey player. The opportunity is a double-edged sword however, as the players must attempt to acclimate to their new surroundings while also getting their hockey legs back at the same time.
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"I'm a long way from one-hundred percent, it's been a while since I was skating," said 2009 first round pick Tim Erixon. "Right now I'm trying to get back as close to one-hundred percent as possible."

"It's kind of a learning process for me right now, figuring everything out, meeting all the guys, seeing how good they are and how strong they are," said third-round pick Ryan Howse.

Though both players are only in their third day of camp, they're already starting to pinpoint areas of their game that need to be improved upon.

"I need to get more explosive," said Erixon, (The coaches) know I haven't been on the ice in a long time but I know myself I need to become more explosive if I want to make it to the NHL."

"The guys here are pretty big and they can push you around pretty easily," said Howse. "Doing the fitness testing Monday I noticed how strong they were. I've got to come back built strong, quick, fast, and ready to play."

As first time campers, the expectations are not excessive for either Erixon or Howse. The Flames at this juncture are an especially deep team from top to bottom. As such, the young players will have every opportunity to develop at their own pace.

"(The coaches) are telling me to keep doing what I'm doing, learn as much as I can from everyone and just get used to it, get a feel for everything," said Howse, who led the Chilliwack Bruins in scoring last season with 31 goals and 44 points.

"I learned that I've got a lot to do yet to prepare for the next camp. I've got to be stronger, and grow a little bit hopefully."

Howse is heading back to Chilliwack, British Columbia to prepare for the upcoming WHL season. He will be making a return trip to Calgary for the Flames training camp in September, another learning experience to be sure. But Howse expects to play a key role for the Bruins next year as he continues his path of development.

"Hopefully we'll do the best we can in Chilliwack, for myself I'm going to keep doing the best I can, try to take up more of a leadership role with the guys next year, and try to score as many goals as I can."

Erixon will be heading back to Sweden for national team duty as well as for the Elite League season, which begins in September. He hopes a more permanent return trip to Calgary is not far on the horizon.

"I want to go back to Sweden this season and play in the Elite League, be part of my team back there. We'll see what happens with the NHL, hopefully I can get here as soon as possible," said Erixon.

"This is all very exciting. It's a great organization and a great team... It's a great city and there are really great guys here."

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