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'It's pretty obvious that Adam's got all the ingredients you want'

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

Signed and sealed.

All that's missing is the delivery part.

The hardest part.

"I mean, it's pretty obvious that Adam's got all the ingredients you want," Flames GM Brad Treliving is saying of Adam Ruzicka. "Size - he's a huge man. Strong. Can skate. Skill.

"He has nights when he's the best player in the building. We're trying to take the highs and lows and flatten those out a little bit. But it's a good package.

"I thought he really took off once he was traded to Sudbury last year."

Took off - and consistently.

On Jan. 9, the OHL trade deadline, the Slovakian centreman found himself dealt from the Sarnia Sting, where he'd spent two and a half years, to the Sudbury Wolves in exchange for three draft selections.

The coach awaiting him in Sudbury? None other than Cory Stillman, a Flame for six-and-a-half seasons from the mid-'90s forward.

"I really believe this kid has the potential to be a first-line NHL centreman," predicts the two-time Stanley Cup champion, a sixth-overall draft pick who spent 395 games in Flames' livery, scoring 109 goals.

"You always hear about players being able to play to their top level every day. Well, when he came to Sudbury, he did that. Every day. And that made him the best player on the ice, night in, night out.

"Adam made everyone around him a better player. In the time he was with us, whoever we put on his line, he could elevate their game. That's the potential he has.

"We'd only play against them twice year so I was surprised when we got him just how good he actually was."


Video: Get to know winger Adam Ruzicka


Warming to being with the Wolves, Ruzicka went all Pinball Wizard, ringing up 41 points, including 24 goals, in 30 games, and 10 more points over eight playoff dates.

"Came over, fit right into our team," praises Stillman. "Liked in the dressing room. For me, talking to the billet families is a big tell. And his billet lady loved him. Said he was a mature kid, for junior, right? Was willing to learn. And at the rink he had that pro mentality. You could see instantly that he was a step ahead in knowing where he wants to go, where he wants to be."

That destination, it goes without saying, is 555 Saddledome Rise, S.E.


On April 12, the 20-year-old, Bratislava-born Ruzicka put pen to paper on a three-year entry-level contract.

"Turning pro is a big step in my career," acknowledges Ruzicka. "I've just got to put the work in during the summer. The development camp and the next (main) camp are important for me.

"For me, consistency is the hardest part to find. But I've been working on it since I came to North America.

"We'll see how it goes."

The man who'll likely play a large part in the ongoing metamorphosis of the 6-4, 200-lb. pivot, Stockton Heat head coach Cail MacLean, sees what everyone else does: A budding, yet raw-boned, unformed colossus.



"He has the physical tools that separate him from a lot of prospects,'' says the second-year boss, who's worked with Ruzicka at the last two development camps.

"Big, really smooth. It's going to be a situation where now he adjusts to the professional game and plays at pace all the time. Every shift.

"I know that's a broken record. Every coach says it. But it's true, all the same.

"Starting now, it's equating competitiveness with success as opposed to offensive output with success. He won't be in a position to utilize his offensive skills unless he can show coaches at the NHL level they can trust him.

"If he values offensive output over details of being reliable, it'll be a steeper climb.

"Really, though, that's the case for most young guys. They're saying: 'Let me get this straight. What I've known my whole life, that's not what's most important right now?' And what we're saying is that we're not taking away your offence, but we expect you to add to it."

Signed and sealed.

Now the onus is on Ruzicka to deliver.

"Whether he jumps right into the NHL or he needs a year in the American league to understand the grind against bigger, stronger guys and that everyone's fighting for their lives every day, I guess we'll see," says Stillman.

"But if he goes to camp and shows he understands the requirements right away, his skill level's going to keep him at the National Hockey League level.

"If he puts his mind to it, if he's committed to excelling every day - and I certainly saw that while he was with us - you have yourselves a great fourth-round pick there."

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