Weisbrod singles out Wahl for early camp praise
Assistant GM says former top prospect clearly realizes he’s running out of chances
John Weisbrod took time Tuesday to single out a player for praise that might shock loyal followers of the Calgary Flames.
Mitch Wahl clearly ran afoul of the team brass last year in a season that saw him first loaned to the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs and then demoted to the Utah Grizzlies of the East Coast Hockey League. Then the Flames opted against extending the 2008 second-round draft pick an invitation to summer development camp.
Draw from that snub your own conclusions.
“I see a physical change in Mitch,” Weisbrod, the assistant general manager in charge of player personnel, said in a break from the action at Abbotsford Heat training camp. “He’s thicker and stronger, and it’s clear he has worked hard.
“This is a kid who I thought in the summer, he has every reason to physically and emotionally pack it in with us. l thought I would come in and either see a guy who was indifferent and out of shape and here because he had no place to go or I would see a guy who realized, ‘I’m up against it. My career is on the line. I’m going to put my best foot forward.’ ”
Through the first four days of camp, Wahl, 22, has put the proverbial best foot forward — although the odds remain stacked against him to earn one of the four centre spots up for grabs in Abbotsford.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the earnestness he came into camp with,” Weisbrod said. “It’s still going to be a hard situation. I feel like we have a lot of tough decisions to make, but I feel like with everybody here — his mind and spirit and body is pointed in the right direction.
“And that’s all you can hope for.”
NOT THROWING OUT BABY WITH BATH WATER
Forwards Michael Ferland and Ryan Howse might have finished near the bottom of the group in fitness tests, but Weisbrod says the Flames have zero intention of giving up on either player.
Growing pains, for some athletes, just come with the journey.
“Well, they’re both young pups and they’re both guys who still need to get it in terms of understanding what we expect,” Weisbrod said.” I mean, Ferland is sort of wide-eyed and new to it. They both have attributes, abilities on the ice that are hard to find and can’t be taught. You don’t throw the baby out with the bath water in that regard.”
At 20, this is Ferland’s first season as a pro. Howse, 21, battled with conditioning issues last year in Abbotsford to the point the Heat forced him to take a month off to get that part of his game — and his life — under control.
“I feel like they’re both young and immature guys still — which is understandable at their age — who have to figure out what pro hockey is all about.
“They have to figure out how to get out of their own way, so to speak.”
WHL RIVALS NOW MATES
Add Sven Baertschi to the laundry list of folks in the Calgary Flames organization high on the skills of one Maxwell Reinhart.
Baertschi knows first-hand the challenges Reinhart poses for the opposition from his Western Hockey League days with the Portland Winterhawks.
Reinhart played for the enemy Kootenay Ice and made life miserable at times for the Swiss sniper.
“He’s a really good two-way centreman,” Reinhart said. “Sometimes I was really surprised by him.”
One particular sequence will forever stick out for Baertschi as a sign of Reinhart’s hustle and determination.
“When we played in the finals two years ago against each other, I remember one time he had the puck in the offensive zone,” Baertschi said. “Somehow he lost it, and we went all the way down into their zone.
“The first guy who was back was Max. I was like, ‘what is he doing here?’ You can tell he’s a really good skater. He does the right decision almost every time.
“It’s definitely good to see him again, this time on my team.”
When asked about that particular play, Reinhart grimaced.
“I hate losing the puck,” he said. “Despise it.”
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