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Flames excited by maturity they see in Klimchuk

by Aaron Vickers

CALGARY -- By his own admission, it's been a whirlwind ride for Calgary Flames prospect Morgan Klimchuk.

Signing his three-year, entry-level contract on Dec. 17, it took the Regina Pats standout just a little under six months to go from a potential first-round pick to inking his first professional pact.

It's just been one "dream come true" after another for Klimchuk.

"To actually sign my first pro deal is something that's obviously every kid's dream growing up," he said. "To actually get it done, it feels great.

"For them to put that faith in me and actually sign me to a deal is something that's a huge honor. That's all I can really say. It's a goal to get drafted and to go to my hometown is something that's very special and to be officially joining the organization now by signing a contract, I'm over the moon right now. I'm very excited.

"I'm just very thankful for the opportunity."

The Flames wasted little time making the Calgary, Alberta, product their second signing from the 2013 draft class after No. 6 pick Sean Monahan, who is currently plying his trade in the NHL.

It's for good reason too, according to Craig Conroy.

"He's a young man and he's got a lot of things to improve on, but I think at this point we love that even in our interviews leading up into the draft, how serious he was and how he wants to be a player," said Conroy, the special assistant to the general manager. "He's going to have to put a lot of work in, but we feel at some point with all that work and the way he wants to be a player, that one day he's going to be in the NHL."

Klimchuk's arrival could come sooner than later.

The 18-year-old has been impressive for the Pats this season, scoring 12 goals with 29 points in 26 games.

But as much as his offensive contributions have meant to the Western Hockey League club, it's what Klimchuk has brought Malcolm Cameron's team in other areas that's been most impressive.

"He's just a mature kid," said Cameron, who serves as Regina's head coach. "I think a lot of it is his preparation, what he puts in each and every game, each and every practice. Seeing that, you have to be reminded he's only 18 years of age. He's 18 going on 25 in terms of his maturity. He makes the players around him better and makes his guys better people."

That maturity is what made Klimchuk a must-sign for the Flames.

"As much as we liked what we saw on the ice, it was his personality away from the rink," Conroy said. "Being a Calgary guy, we know that he trains hard and does all those little things and will do whatever it takes to reach the next level. His attitude has been unbelievable for us. That was a big reason why we drafted him, and now moving forward as he gets bigger and stronger, his game is going to mature and eventually hopefully we'll get him in Calgary one day."

Conroy and the Flames have had plenty of opportunities to observe the personality Klimchuk has displayed in trying situations.

Just days before the draft, the 6-foot, 180-pound winger was left off Canada's National Junior Team summer development camp roster despite being a top-10 scorer at the World Under-18 Championship three months prior.

No bother. Two days after the snub, Klimchuk's silver lining came in the form of hearing his name called at pick No. 28 by the Flames.

But when his first opportunity to skate with his future teammates at Calgary's training camp came in September, Klimchuk was relegated to the sidelines with an abdominal wall strain previously sustained while with the Pats.

"He's going to have to put a lot of work in, but we feel at some point with all that work and the way he wants to be a player, that one day he's going to be in the NHL."
-- Flames special assistant Craig Conroy

Again, Klimchuk carved out a silver lining, silently observing from the sidelines and learning the difference between what it takes to go from a Western Hockey League standout to an NHL regular.

He took those lessons to heart, and with an eye on representing Canada at the World Junior Championship, Klimchuk applied what he's learned in Regina.

But a hip flexor injury suffered against Russia in his second Subway Super Series game in late November halted any designs on representing Canada on the international stage.

Though he hasn't played since, Klimchuk remains upbeat.

"I was happy with how I played there in both those games and how the first half of my season went," said Klimchuk, who will return when the WHL schedule resumes after Christmas. "It's over and done with. Now I have to focus on my team and how I'm playing. That's something that I'm looking forward to doing and getting back in the lineup."

Another sign of his maturity, Conroy pointed out.

"And that's his personality," he said. "That's what we saw when we talked to him. He's going to overcome things, and he's going to do that with effort and hard work. He's willing to put the time in and he's not going to let things hold him back.

"That's what we like."

And it's what could have him representing his hometown team sooner rather than later.

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