Newest Hitmen defenceman Kanzig excited to play in front of Calgary fans

 

Flames prospect comes over from Victoria Royals in trade for disgruntled forward Greg Chase

 
 
 
 
Calgary Flames prospect Keegan Kanzig takes on Klarc Wilson of the Vancouver Canucks during the Youngstars Tournament in Penticton, B.C. in September.
 

Calgary Flames prospect Keegan Kanzig takes on Klarc Wilson of the Vancouver Canucks during the Youngstars Tournament in Penticton, B.C. in September.

Photograph by: Ted Rhodes Ted Rhodes, Calgary Herald

Sometimes, the most logical choice is the best one.

The Calgary Hitmen took that route, striking a deal with the Victoria Royals and acquiring Keegan Kanzig, a simple, puck-moving defenceman on Wednesday night, finding value for disgruntled forward Greg Chase and also adding a second-round pick in 2016.

It also makes sense considering Kanzig is a Calgary Flames prospect — who is sure to benefit from working under the careful watch of the neighbouring National Hockey League franchise.

“The Flames involvement, I think, will be like any one of our players that isn’t owned by a hockey team,” said Mike Moore, the Hitmen general manager and vice-president of business operations who also surrendered a fifth rounder in 2015 and eighth rounder in 2016 in the deal. “They’re there to help us every day. They’re a tremendous resource. They’ll be a tremendous resource for Keegan. He’ll be right under their nose.

“It’s just an added opportunity to play in front of a team he wants to play for down the road.”

At six-foot-six, 248 pounds, the physically intimidating Kanzig was a third-round selection of the Flames in the 2013 NHL draft and signed a three-year entry level contract last December.

The 19-year-old Athabasaca, Alta., native is into his fourth WHL season with the Victoria Royals and had six assists and 51 penalty minutes in 21 games this season.

Assigned to work on his foot speed when departing the Flames’ training camp in the fall, little did Kanzig realize that he’d be back — permanently — in the Scotiabank Saddledome so soon.

“It’s a great city,” Kanzig said in front of the Hitmen dressing quarters, just down the hall from the big boys of the Flames. “I’ve heard lots of good things about (the Hitmen) organization and I’m very excited to be back in Calgary.”

Kanzig had received the news prior to hitting the ice for a home game against the Kelowna Rockets.

“I was right in my pre-game routine,” he said. “I knew something was going down and I was told that I was traded. I was bit distracted, but when I found out I was going to Calgary, my disappointment disappeared pretty quick.

“I was looking forward to coming here.”

Chase had a falling out with the Hitmen and, on Nov. 4, he was a healthy scratch for a game at the Saskatoon Blades. Shortly after, he was sent home to Sherwood Park and requested a trade.

Since then, the Edmonton Oilers draft pick, who was selected by the Hitmen 22nd overall in the 2010 bantam draft, has been playing a waiting game while Moore worked on a deal. The Hitmen, 11-8-1 overall, are 3-1-2 since Chase was a healthy scratch.

Kanzig is set to debut on Friday as the Hitmen host the Moose Jaw Warriors.

Hitmen head coach Mark French was asked about the relief to get a deal done, for the dressing room — specifically.

“Not to try and get away from your question, it is a good question but it’s more for the players than for me,” he said. “As a coach, I just focused what we were getting from the guys in the room.

“I think this is a nice acquisition to complement what we already have.”

Kanzig becomes the fifth Flames prospect since the 2000-01 season to play for the Hitmen — others include Brent Krahn, Wade Davis, Shaun Sutter, and Jiri Cetkovsky. Total NHL games of that group? One (Krahn, and with the Dallas Stars).

Still, it doesn’t hurt — for the player, the Hitmen, and the Flames — to have him play, what is likely his last season in the WHL, in the Saddledome.

“That’ll be exciting, too,” Kanzig said. “I think it’ll add a little bit of motivation. No matter where you play, there’s motivation to perform well and to be at your best. But when you know the Calgary Flames are right next door and in the rink all the time, it might add that little extra.”

kodland@calgaryherald.com

Follow on Twitter/KristenOdlandCH

 
 
 
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Calgary Flames prospect Keegan Kanzig takes on Klarc Wilson of the Vancouver Canucks during the Youngstars Tournament in Penticton, B.C. in September.
 

Calgary Flames prospect Keegan Kanzig takes on Klarc Wilson of the Vancouver Canucks during the Youngstars Tournament in Penticton, B.C. in September.

Photograph by: Ted Rhodes Ted Rhodes, Calgary Herald

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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