CAMROSE, AB — When John Negrin left Calgary Flames training camp for the junior ranks last season, he knew exactly what he wanted to do.
Get into National Hockey League playing shape.
So, after a solid season with the Kootenay Ice where he tallied 42 points in 71 games off the blueline, Negrin got down to work in the fitness department. He received a program from Flames strength and conditioning coach Rich Hesketh and worked hard through the summer.
"This summer was a lot different," said Negrin, 19. "Coming into training camp last year we had fitness testing and my scores were pretty sub-par. I had a lot to work on and I discovered new things to work on."
Any fitness program from Hesketh runs the gamut.
"Each day is different, really. You have a heavy leg day, then a speed day. That's all integrated to give each body part a little rest and work on something else each day. It's a balance."
The hard work in the gym, on the track and on the running hills paid dividends. "This year I am a lot happier with my test results. I improved on everything and that was my goal. Each year we have a goal we have to reach. They set a standard and for most of the tests I surpassed the standard."
"I was happy with my season, for sure," said the 6-foot-three, 200-pound native of Vancouver. "We had a young group. There was a 20-year-old defenceman and myself so we were the key guys out there. I got a lot more ice time, a lot more power play time and penalty-kill time. I had to step up and be a leader. It was a good opportunity."
Negrin is facing another opportunity now -- that of sticking with the Flames.
"I'm in this camp...and my main goal is to make this team. These games are important. They (the Flames) want to see how we do in game situations."
Negrin played in both Oil Country Rookie Tournament games which saw the Flames win 1-0 over Edmonton on Sunday and a 6-3 win over Vancouver on Monday at the Encana Arena in Camrose. He was steady, strong and confident in plenty of situations, showing a maturity that the Flames had hoped would appear when they drafted him in the third round, 70th overall in the 2007 Entry Draft.
He set up John Armstrong for a goal just 10 seconds into the game Sunday against Vancouver.
Greg Nemisz, the Flames first round pick in 2008, added a second goal in the first period with assists going to Keith Aulie and Hugo Carpentier. Lance Buoma tipped in a T.J. Brodie shot from the point and then, with 1.7 seconds remaining in the second period, Adam Cracknell picked up a rebound off a point shot to give the Flames a 4-3 lead after 40 minutes.
Michael Grabner scored twice in the second period for Vancouver while Oren Eizenman added a third for the Canucks.
In the third period Aki Seitsonen went top shelf on a breakaway just before the midpoint to give the Flames a 5-3 lead before Mikael Backlund
scored at 15:01 to salt the game away at 6-3.
For Negrin, playing in the mini-tournament was both fun and valuable.
"You want to be playing in games. That's why you practice. Last training camp we had a lot of practice and not very much game time. It's nice to play in games, especially against guys we don't really know. It's good to come together like a team and get in games. It's been a lot of fun so far," said Negrin.
NOTEWORTHY: Flames forward Kyle Greentree, hit into the boards from behind against the Oilers, in Monday's 1-0 win over the Edmonton rookies, has a neck sprain. He was taken to hospital and released late Monday. "I think I will be able to go in in the next couple of days," said Greentree. "I heard a pop. We just wanted to make sure nothing serious happened. It's a rough game. Stuff like that happens." Greentree did not suffer a concussion from the hit...Flames goalie Leland Irving
played the first period but was replaced in the second by Matt Keetley. Irving did not allow a goal on six shots...Keetley stopped 23 shots for a shutout...Shots on goal Monday favoured Vancouver 24-22