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Young Stars Classic an audition for NHL contracts or a roster spot in Calgary

by Torie Peterson / Calgary Flames

CALGARY, AB --

"It is very exciting. It's exciting when you look at it and you look at the roster we're taking out there this year. You realize that the level of talent and the depth that we have, it's so much better than its been in previous years. Really, you even look at what happened in development camp and the way the goaltending of Joni Ortio and Laurent Brossoit ... we're excited about those two kids having an opportunity to compete in Penticton. We're taking the three first round picks from this year's draft ... the kids that are going to college and Russian player that we took, the defenceman Rafikov, he's not coming over. Otherwise, get a chance to see all these kids that we selected in this past year's draft and then some of the good young kids that we are turning pro like Tyler Wotherspoon and John Ramage. And again, at least one guy we have to make a decision about and that's Ryan Culkin. Ryan is eligible to go back and play an overage year this year in the Quebec (Major Junior Hockey) League but he's a guy, based on what he did in development camp, we informed him that if you play at that same level in Penticton, you may just earn yourself an NHL two-way (deal)."

"After we drafted him last year and he came to development camp, one of the things we told him was, 'You have to get bigger. You have to get stronger.' He did that. We were all in watching him prior to the season resuming at the NHL level during the work stoppage. Really, even from December until coming into this summer's development camp in July at WinSport, he did get bigger. He acquitted himself very well. This is another chance for him to step up and show that he doesn't need to go back and play an overage year. He's better served signing as a pro and going into Abbotsford."

"If there is one guy I really am anxious to see, it would have to be Markus Granlund. When you look at what he did this past season over in Europe and I thought he was one of the most pleasant surprises of development camp. He looked very, very comfortable at center ice, was doing a good job two-way, doing a good job on face-offs, he's a guy we know can make plays, he can score goals. He's a wildcard in my mind and he's someone I'm anxious to see when he's up against the top guys on these other teams and teams that are our rivals. I'm anxious to see what he does there."

"It is a message that will be reinforced for this entire group when we get to Penticton. This is not something that we're going just for the sake of going or to say that we did it. This is the audition, the opportunity - it starts right now. Because it is the best young players from these other teams and teams that they are our rivals. These are teams that our kids are going to playing against these kids for what we hope to be years to come. It does start right here."

"We'll look at a lot of different things. First of all, how he performs in camp and that obviously includes not just in Penticton but in main camp. One of the things that we told him at the time that he signed his contract was that he will get an opportunity in pre-season games. We are going to take a look at him and we want to see what he can do. At the same time, it's about looking at the team that we would be sending him back to. What is the opportunity to develop there. We're obviously mindful of the whole World Juniors situation for him. As you know, the way the rule is, it is until his 10th game pro, you don't burn that first season and you still reserve your right to send him back to the CHL. Sometimes you look around and sometimes a team may have a player with them for a month, a month and a half or two months and they still haven't played that 10th game. But they're practicing with the NHL club, they're around the NHL team. All of those things go into it and we'll monitor him closely throughout the camp period and pre-season and then sit down and make a decision as to how we think it's best for him to develop. But the one thing we won't do is, we recognize that he's 18 years old. We don't want to place that kind of pressure or the burdens and the expectations. We want to try to manage those expectations and control that as best we can."

"Here's a young man that came in and had the lowest body fat in the entire development camp. We're talking about a guy who came in with seven percent body fat ... at that weight, (it is) pretty incredible. You know what? He surprised us there at development camp. We knew that he could be a stay-at-home guy (but) he jumped into the play more than we expected. We're really excited about him."

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