Michael Ferland received the official blessing of the Calgary Flames to return to the Brandon Wheat Kings on Friday night.
The debut was welcomed, of course, with the Western Hockey League club promoting the six-foot-one, 210 pound power forward’s return on their team website, proclaiming ‘He’s Back!’ on their homepage.
Ferland, a native of Brandon, was awaiting permission to play the rest of the 2012-13 season as an overager with the hometown Wheat Kings after floating the idea to the team’s play-by-play announcer Bruce Luebke earlier this week.
The Flames made it so, just in time for Brandon’s home game Friday against the Moose Jaw Warriors.
“We have very high expectations for Michael, and value the power forward traits that he brings to our organization,” said Flames GM Jay Feaster in a team release. “It was important to us to have him in training camp, give him some exposure to a pro hockey environment, and get a read on his development.”
Ferland suited up for just seven games this season in Abbotsford, registering no points and 10 penalty minutes and experienced growing pains in his first year of professional hockey. Demoted earlier this month to the Utah Grizzlies, he collected one assist and five penalty minutes in three games.
He amassed 96 points in 68 games last year for Brandon in what most thought would be his final year in junior. A fifth-round pick of the Flames in 2010, the six-foot-one, 210-pounder only started playing competitive hockey at age 14.
“It came down to trying to come back for another year of junior,” Ferland, 20, told Luebke after a Boxing Day skate with the Wheat Kings. “It’s only going to get harder to crack Abbotsford’s lineup with the team they have.”
The Flames echoed the same sentiments, expressing their commitment to their prospect’s development.
“Based on the depth of our team in Abbotsford, and the limited game minutes that Michael is currently able to get there, we felt that it would be in the best interest of his development to return to the WHL, where he can get the minutes that we want him to have, and continue to grow his skill and confidence,” Feaster said. “We continue to be bullish on Michael’s potential, and look forward to his contributions to the Flames in the future.”
When reached Friday, the Wheat Kings refused comment. Moose Jaw beat the Wheat Kings 4-3 while Ferland registered zero points.
Still, he was happy to be home.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’ve always loved playing in this rink,” Ferland said, following his first game back. “It’s great to be back here with the boys again, the coaching staff, and like I said I love playing here.
“I haven’t really been playing much. I just kinda want to get my groove back. I thought I played a lot tonight. It’s probably the most I’ve played all year, and I’m looking forward to our next game.”
ICE CHIPS ... Brandon will visit Calgary on Jan. 2 to play the Hitmen (7 p.m., SN960).
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