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'THIS IS A GREAT DAY'

Flames ink Swedish free agent Johannes Kinnvall to a two-year entry level contract

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

The party plans are a bit - shall we say - 'low key.'

Talk about discipline.

"I have practice tomorrow morning, so one, maybe two beers - but no more," reported the Flames' newest hire, Swedish prospect Johannes Kinnvall.

"Maybe a nice dinner as well. Just me and my girlfriend.

"It'll be perfect."

Certainly, signing your first big-league deal is reason enough to celebrate, if only for a night.  

But the 22-year-old knows better than most the blood, sweat and tears he's given to the cause over the years. So, there's no sense in wasting even a second of his off-season training.

"The work starts now," he said from his home in Gavle where, fittingly, one Elias Lindholm spent his formative years.

"It was always a dream of mine to sign an NHL contract. Now it's a reality. I can't even believe it.

"This is a great day."

Kinnvall is no stranger to the Flames organization, having attended the club's prospect development camp last year and coming away with a great impression of not only the team, but the city of Calgary as well.

So, when the call came from the Flames with an entry-level offer in tow, the back-and-forth didn't last long at all.

He knew where he wanted to be.

"I was really excited," he said. "They called my agent after last season with the offer to attend camp. That was the beginning. That's when I really knew I had a shot to play in the NHL one day. I went into the season with that in the back of mind. I knew they were watching and that I had to bring my best game.

"Thankfully, I was able to do that. … Then, when it came time to make a decision, it was really, really easy for me."

 

 

Kinnvall did more than turn heads in the Flames head offices - he legitimately made waves across Europe with a dominant third season in the Swedish Hockey League, making him one of the most highly sought-after players in the spring pool.

The 5-foot-11, right-shot rearguard scored 11 goals and had a team-leading 40 points with fifth-place HV71 last year. That ranked second among SHL defencemen, with first-place Kodie Curran - a longtime vet and former University of Calgary standout - more than eight years older.

Growing up, Kinnvall always considered himself an offensive dynamo. But, after scoring at roughly half that 40-point pace the year prior, the latest campaign represents the biggest leap in his career to date.

"I mean, it was crazy," he laughed. "Forty points as a D man? That's kind of cool.

"But, honestly? I think I can do even better next year.

"This year, when it started, it was a little up and down. The first three months were extremely difficult. I didn't get to play all that much and struggled to make my mark on the team. But after the Christmas break, everything turned upside-down. Everything started to click, both for me and the team, and I started to score points. My confidence was really high at that point, too, and everything was going so well. I had fun out there, played my best game.

"I did everything I had to do.

"There's no reason to think I can't build on that again next year."

And he'll get that chance.

Kinnvall's two-year pact begins in the 2021-22 season - meaning he'll spend the upcoming campaign in Sweden, honing his craft with HV71 for a second straight year.  

While he's over-the-moon happy about his future with the Flames, he admittedly needs a bit of seasoning to prepare for the rigors of the NHL.

Then?

The sky's the limit.

"I had a really good role," Kinnvall said of his late-season rise. "I want to build on that - to really take my game to the next level. I need to be stronger and be better with my positional play in the defensive zone. That's what I'm looking to develop right now, and there's no better place to do that.

"If I can do that, really develop my all-around game with one more year over here, I know I'll be ready for the NHL at that point."

"I know I will."

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