The life of a pro hockey player can be unpredictable. There aren’t many professions where you go to work in the morning, get a phone call and immediately have to uproot your life to a new city without the chance of stopping home or saying goodbye to your family before you leave. Last Saturday, that was exactly what happened to Jon Kalinski, who the Lightning acquired from the Philadelphia organization as part of the same deal which sent Pavel Kubina to the Flyers.
“I was getting ready to play a game in Bridgeport, Connecticut,” said Kalinski. “One of my coaches pulled me aside earlier in the day to tell me that there was a chance I was getting traded. I got the official call a few minutes later and immediately was on my way to join the Admirals.”
Kalinski, a fifth-year pro, has spent this entire season playing for the Adirondack Phantoms, who are the AHL affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers. Kalinski had been part of the Flyers organization since Philadelphia selected him in the sixth round (152 overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. He has played 233 games with both the Adirondack and Philadelphia Phantoms since the 2007-08 season, and he has skated in 22 games with the Flyers over the course of separate callups during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.
“As of Monday, I had never met anybody who plays for the Admirals,” said Kalinski. “I had been in the Philadelphia organization my whole career and only knew the Norfolk guys from playing against them.”
Although Kalinski’s whirlwind week has seen him uproot his life at a moment’s notice to join a team he doesn’t know much about, he admits that he’s very excited for the new opportunity he has been given.
“I was coming from a team who was sort of in the bottom of the standings,” said Kalinski. “I’m really looking forward to joining a first-place team and hopefully being part of a playoff run this year.”
The Lightning acquired the LW from Philadelphia in exchange for draft picks and D Pavel Kubina.
For the native of Bonnyville, Alberta, the change of scenery also gives him a clean slate and a better chance of earning an NHL spot. Kalinski had fallen down the Flyers’ depth chart earlier this year after he missed the first month of the season due to a dislodged bone in his right hand, which he suffered while blocking a shot in a preseason practice.
While he was on the sidelines, Flyer prospects Ben Holmstrom, Eric Wellwood and Tom Sestito were given the callup chances to fill the holes in Philadelphia’s lineup, leaving Kalinski behind on the Flyers’ crowded depth chart. Even though Kalinski scored the game-winning goal in his return game on November 4 at Springfield, and had played 40 straight games since returning from injury prior to last Saturday’s trade, it became a case for him where his biggest mistake was suffering an injury that he had no way of avoiding.
“He’s a very versatile player who will get the chance to play a lot for us,” said Norfolk Admirals head coach Jon Cooper. “Especially with (Mike) Angelidis and (Trevor) Smith going up the Lightning. Jon can play all three forward positions and will have the chance to play on a lot of different lines. I expect to use him a lot on the penalty kill, too.”
Kalinski’s outstanding skating speed, and his ability to make quick turns as he dashes around the ice, are the keys to why he’s a very successful penalty killer. He’s been one of his team’s top defensive forwards at every level he’s played, starting when he set a Minnesota State-Mankato school record for shorthanded goals in a season (4) as a sophomore in 2006-07.
“I like to kill penalties,” said Kalinski. “I keep things simple when getting the puck out of my own zone, and I feel that I’m a gritty guy who can win faceoffs when he has to.”
Kalinski will have to step in and perform to his strengths immediately, as the Admirals embark on a three-game road trip this weekend with first place in their division on the line, having lost two of their most important players to the Lightning earlier this week.
“There isn’t going to be any trial by fire for Kalinski,” said Jon Cooper. “We’re actually going to be throwing him directly into the fire. We don’t have a lot of bodies right now and what Kalinski can do will be a major help for us.”
Kalinski is expected to make his Norfolk debut on Friday when the Admirals make a visit to Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena to take on the defending Calder Cup Champion Binghamton Senators. The Admirals will then travel to Hershey to play on Saturday, before finishing their weekend road trip against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Sunday.
The Admirals start the weekend tied with the Penguins for first place in the East Division with 69 points, which are three back of the St. John’s IceCaps for first place in the Eastern Conference.