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Small sample has college kids hungry for more

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

Being here for any amount of time, I was here for about a month which was a lot and just to get a taste of it, you don’t want to play anywhere else but the NHL.Kenny Agostino

CALGARY, AB -- They came for a taste.

But after a short audition to close out their 2013-14 season, the four newest members of the Calgary Flames have left as hungry as ever.

“A lot hungrier, for sure,” forward Kenny Agostino said. “Getting a taste of this makes you want it more.

“Being here for any amount of time, I was here for about a month which was a lot and just to get a taste of it, you don’t want to play anywhere else but the NHL.”

Agostino signed with the Flames in mid-March after completing his collegiate career at Yale University. The 21-year-old managed to skate in eight games before the season closed, recording his first career NHL goal in the process.

His signing was followed by Bryce Van Brabant, who opted to forgo his senior year at Quinnipiac University to join the Flames just two weeks after Agostino.

And like Agostino, the small sample Van Brabant got has him eager for September’s training camp to roll around.

“After a couple of weeks here, I think everyone's going to get the itch again, but for me especially, I'm excited to get going again,” said the native of Morinville, AB who went pointless in his first six NHL games but managed to stay busy by delivering 17 hits. “Once I got the taste, I just want more of it.”

The experience for Bill Arnold and Johnny Gaudreau differed slightly from that of Van Brabant and Agostino.

The pair managed to get into just one NHL game after Boston College was eliminated in the Frozen Four semifinal by Union College. The loss ended Arnold’s collegiate career, but not his season after signing a two-year, entry-level deal with the Flames. Gaudreau signed alongside Arnold, forgoing his senior season with the Eagles to join the Flames.

Both signed, and arrived, in time to skate in Calgary’s final game of the campaign.

It was enough to fuel the hunger heading into next season.

“Everyone’s been talking about training camp,” Arnold said. “It’s not easy and nothing is going to be given to us so we have to go back and work hard all summer. I know the things that need to be worked on.

“I’m hungry to get back and I’m excited to come up. I’ve got to earn my spot on the team and that’s my goal for the summer.”

Giving the kids a taste of the NHL benefits more than just the appetite.

It gives the likes of Agostino, Van Brabant, Arnold and Gaudreau a measuring stick with where they’re at -- and where they need to be -- heading into their most important offseason to date.

And that’s not lost on them.

“It's a big eye-opener,” Van Brabant said. “You see the difference in the game. The guys are bigger, faster, smarter. You have to make the necessary adjustments. Now that I know, it's preparing over the summer to do it.

“As a kid you think you can do anything, too. As you get older, it kind of weeds everybody out. Now that you get here, it's a small percentage of people. I'm just in a little bit and want to be a regular (player). That's the next jump. I've made the initial jump and now I've got to make the bigger one to stay here.”

Thanks in part to the audition, Van Brabant knows what he needs to do to stay.

“Out there, I'm just a little bit slow, at times,” the 6-foot-2, 195-pound winger admitted. “If I get a little bit faster, it gives me more time with the puck. After that, it’s just hard work.”

At just 5-foot-8, 155 pounds, Gaudreau -- the reigning Hobey Baker winner -- didn’t necessarily need the tryout to know what he needed to work on.

But his one game did quickly re-enforce the fact.

"Obviously, getting stronger is one of the big concerns,” said Gaudreau, who scored in his NHL debut. “Getting bigger and faster. Making sure I’m staying in the weight room and work out every single day, make sure when I come to the season next year I’m a lot stronger than where I’m at right now."

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