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'SOMETHING I'LL CHERISH'

Flames draft pick Cole Huckins 'can complement skill players by going to the net, creating space, and then finishing around the net'

by ALEX MEDINA @alex_medina5 / CalgaryFlames.com

The town of Fredericton is painted red.

The support for one of their own in Cole Huckins was strong leading up to the NHL Draft and Saturday things quickly turned into a celebration as the forward was selected by the Flames with the 77th pick, becoming the latest East Coast kid to be drafted into the NHL.

"It was surreal and awesome," he said. "Once I heard my name called it was a mix of emotions, it's every kid's dream to be drafted so it felt amazing and something I'll cherish.

"It's a small town, everyone knows everyone so my phone has been blowing up with people giving their congratulations. Once the pick was made, I think everyone in the neighborhood also came by to say hi and give their congratulations.

"I think Calgary has a lot more fans in Freddy now."

The size Huckins possesses is obviously the first thing that jumps off the page, standing at 6-foot-3 and weighing in at 200 pounds - but there's so much more to his game than his imposing stature.

The centreman has just as much skill to back it up, finishing at nearly a point-per-game pace with 32 (14G, 18A) in 33 tilts with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan of the QMJHL.

Even as a 16-year-old, he left quite the impression on the Flames scouting staff.

"This was an area in the draft where we really started to rely on area scouts and guys with a lot of high viewings," Director of Amateur Scouting Tod Button said. "Cole was a high pick in the Quebec Major Junior League. Our two main Quebec guys, Fred Parker and Patrick Lachance, saw him a lot. Fred knows him from when he was younger and Patrick saw him a lot.

"He's a big, rangy left wing. He's got work to do on his mobility, but he can skate in straight lines, he's got really good reach, he's really good at protecting pucks. We see him as a left wing, but we know he's played a little bit of centre, and he's got a mean streak. He can complement skill players by going to the net, creating space, and then finishing around the net."

 

Video: "I tried to grow as a player"

 

There were plenty of brains to pick for Huckins leading up to the big day. His uncle, Jim Malone, was a first-round pick by the Rangers in the 1980 NHL Draft (14th overall) and his other uncle, Greg Malone, was a second-round pick by the Penguins in 1976 (19th overall) who appeared in 704 regular-season games with the Penguins, Whalers and Nordiques. His cousin, Ryan Malone, was a fourth-round pick by the Penguins in 1999 (115th overall) who skated in 647 regular-season games with the Penguins, Lightning and Rangers while his other cousin, Brad Malone, was a fourth-round pick by the Avalanche in 2007 (105th overall) who has appeared in 199 regular-season games with the Avalanche, Hurricanes and Oilers and in 2020-21 served as captain of the AHL's Bakersfield Condors.

Not a bad group to lean on.  

"Brad and Ryan both called before the draft started and texted me after," he said. "They've been rocks for me, whenever I went through something they've been there. They've been through it all and know what to say and are huge role models.

"To have someone close to me like them that have been in my shoes before is awesome."

Off the ice, it's safe to safe he makes just as much as an impact as he does on, being an ambassador for Hockey Gives Blood.

It was something he was approached about by Co-Founder and President Stu Middleton and something he instantly wanted to be a part of.

"I love it and something I'll carry through my whole career," he said. "It's such a great cause and I hope more start donating."

"Their mission to raise awareness. It's so important to spread the word and give blood every three months. I think it's not too much to ask for the people that need it."

After a nerve-racking and exciting draft weekend, the focus now shifts to training camp as Huckins and the rest of the Flames draft class prepare for their first pro camp.

There will be some familiar faces, especially in 2019 draftees Jeremie Poirier and Ryan Francis who he is all too familiar with.

"Yeah I definitely saw them a bunch, we faced them 12 times," he laughed. "Poirier has a lot of skill walking the line and getting pucks through, you need to watch out when he's on the ice. Francis finds passing lanes with ease and puts teammates in great spots.

"I'm excited to possibly play with them in Calgary instead of against them in the future.

"That's the goal. To make the team and put on a Flames jersey."

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