Street speeding up the charts, but will he crack the Flames?
Former Wisconsin star aiming to turn heads in a short period of time at training camp
It’s true that Ben Street has never played a minute in the National Hockey League.
But considering his University of Wisconsin years (2005-10), it’s hard to deny the quality of his teammates — Joe Pavelski, Derek Stepan, Adam Burish, Tom Gilbert, Brian Elliott, Kyle Turris, Blake Geoffrion, Ryan McDonagh, Craig Smith, Justin Schultz.
Street had been the college equal of many of them. So why not, a couple of years later, in the NHL, too?
“It gives me a bit of confidence,” Street said after Day 2 of the Calgary Flames’ abbreviated training camp. “I mean, those are the guys I skate with all summer. You try not to get too awestruck when you come up to an NHL camp. There are guys who you grew up watching on TV and idolizing, and now you’re tying your skates in the same room as them. I try (to say to) myself, ‘OK, I’ve played with these guys before — guys at the same level.’ You try to turn that into a confidence-builder for yourself.”
At any rate, it’s getting to be time, isn’t it?
Street turns 26 next month. But he insists he’s in no mad panic to cash big-league cheques.
“You can’t press,” said the five-foot-11, 200-pounder. “There’s a lot of guys who haven’t made it to the NHL till they’re 27, 28. I’m not taking the typical route where I’m trying to make a team at 21 . . . but it’s only my third year of pro, so I still feel young.”
Camp, seven days total, doesn’t permit the luxury of patience, the luxury of pre-season appearances.
“You just try to insert yourself in whatever way you can,” the centreman said of this week’s strategy. “Obviously, they’re trying to figure out their new system, so it’s tough to make a difference when you’re doing controlled system stuff. So when we get a chance in (Monday afternoon’s) scrimmage, you make sure you cross your t’s and dot your i’s, in terms of being in the right space. But you’ve got to make sure you do something . . . to get noticed.”
Wise enough, Street knows that even a great turn may not vault him directly into Sunday’s season opener. But with what figures to be an injury-plagued regular-season looming, he’d like to muscle onto general manager Jay Feaster’s speed-dial.
“Whatever happens at this camp, if they need a guy . . . they remember what I did and call me back up.”
Already, the London, Ont., native has earned rave reviews for his work with the Abbotsford Heat of the American Hockey League, collecting 25 points in 35 outings.
Hence the in-house applause.
“That was what I was working toward,” said Street. “Whatever (reports) they get from Abbotsford is good — that’s all gravy — but I need to make sure that while I’m here, while their eyes are on me, I’m doing the right things.”
Undrafted, Street spent the past two winters in the Pittsburgh Penguins system. Looking up at a depth chart that included the starry likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and (at the time) Jordan Staal, the young man was understandably eager for a new starting point — and a more reasonable path to the NHL.
Which led him to Calgary.
It’s not by chance that Street jumped at the Flames’ offer.
“I know they were deficient in faceoffs last year,” he said — no doubt aware that the Flames were the very worst NHL team in that particular department. “Up the middle, they expressed to me that they need a bit of help. At the AHL level (on faceoffs), I’ve been clipping along pretty good.
“It is different when you get up here, though. There are certain guys who get paid a million dollars a year just to take faceoffs because they’re amazing at it. It’ll be a challenge, but I think I’ve done a good job at the AHL level learning some tricks.”
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