I think I’m ready to play in the NHL. I feel that I’ve showed that in the few games I’ve had and in this camp. I want to keep getting better and be the best player I can. - Ben Street
CALGARY, AB -- Ben Street doesn’t want to be an in-betweener. He wants to be an NHLer.
As close as he’s ever been in his career to earning a stay in the National Hockey League, Street isn’t settling with just being in the mix. He isn’t letting himself be satisfied with just a sniff. He’s not content to almost make it.
Come October, he wants to be a full-time member of the Calgary Flames.
“It’s obviously something I’ve worked really hard towards,” Street said. “It’s exciting that you’re very close to accomplishing something you’ve dreamed of. There’s thankfully not a whole lot of time to reflect right now and be content with where you are. I’m definitely not content just being in the mix. I want to be here full time and that was a goal I set for myself this summer. I’m going to keep working towards that.”
Street finds himself in a mix of situations with the rebuilding Flames.
At 26, he’s neither a fresh-faced rookie nor a weathered veteran. He doesn’t have a wealth of NHL experience with just six games under his belt, either.
Yet Street believes he is ready to put his time in the American Hockey League in the rearview mirror.
“I think I’m ready to play in the NHL,” he said. “I feel that I’ve showed that in the few games I’ve had and in this camp. I want to keep getting better and be the best player I can. The first goal is to make the team, then start climbing the depth chart and get out there as much as you can. That’s what I’ve been working towards.”
Street’s already starting that ascent.
The five-foot-11, 185-pound pivot remains as one of the 28 bodies still in camp with the Flames, a sign the former University of Wisconsin captain is doing something right in coach Bob Hartley’s eyes.
“If he's still here, it's because we believe in him,” Hartley said.
But Hartley cautioned that it’s a challenging time for a player of Street’s mould to jump from the AHL to the NHL and players can get caught between the two.
And in that lies Street’s challenge.
“The danger with those kind of guys that play so many years in the American league, they get here and I don't know if they get intimidated but if they play with two NHL guys, they feel obligated to pass the puck to an NHL player,” Hartley said.
Street knows the feeling.
“It can be intimidating sometimes,” the former ECHL rookie of the year admitted. “There might be a guy on your line that’s scored 30 (goals) before or anything like that. They’re demanding players and they want the puck. As a young guy coming in, you want to please those guys so that they’re happy and they want to play with you.
“But eventually you can’t just every time you get the puck be looking for them. You have to make the play when the play is there. I think that comes with confidence, too. If you have confidence in yourself and think ‘I’ve got it here, I can score too’, they’ll be just as happy if they get an assist.”
It’s a sign of growing confidence for Street and comes in large part from his call-up at the end of last season. After playing back-to-back games in February, he earned four more to close out the string in April.
That gave Street his first taste of NHL hockey and the self-assurance he’s ready for more.
“Until you’re actually in and you get more than your feet wet, you never really know,” Street said. “Until you’ve really experienced any NHL time, I don’t think you can count yourself and say ‘I’m ready’.
“After my little stint last year, it was a few games, but I still feel there are guys that at certain points you be intimidated of. After a while, you just realize it’s still just a game and you do your thing.”
There is no being star struck anymore. No intimidation factor lingering.
There’s only drive to be a full-time NHLer for Street.