Abbotsford Heat defenceman T.J. Brodie was rewarded for his strong start to the season on Wednesday, as he was recalled by the Calgary Flames.
The 21-year-old Chatham, Ont. native has been the Heat’s top blueliner this fall – no small feat on a veteran crew that includes the likes of Brendan Mikkelson, Clay Wilson, Jordan Henry and Joe Piskula.
The swift-skating sophomore pro’s offensive numbers – one goal and two assists in 12 games – haven’t been off the charts, but his +4 rating is tied for tops on the team with defensive partner Piskula, and he’s led the Heat in ice time on a regular basis.
Brodie will join the Flames in advance of their road game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday. He’ll be filling in for Anton Babchuk, who was placed on the injured reserve with a broken hand.
Heat head coach Troy Ward said Brodie was “the right fit” for the Flames at this point. Along with his ability to move the puck effectively, he’s improved his play in the defensive zone.
“He has the seize the opportunity, that’s the basic thing,” Ward said of Brodie. “Sometimes it’s a numbers business, and you have to come back down regardless of how well you play because you have to pay your dues. That’s just life. But he has to seize the moment. He has to manage the puck well.”
Brodie, a fourth-round draft choice by the Flames in 2008, began last season in Calgary, but was sent down to Abbotsford after three games. He turned in a very good 2010-11 campaign with the Heat – he finished second in team scoring with 34 points in 68 games, and was the team’s lone representative at the AHL all-star game.
To replace Brodie, the Heat summoned John Negrin from the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies. Negrin, a third-round pick by the Flames in 2007, was plagued by injuries the previous two seasons in Abbotsford. The Heat’s depth on defence this fall made it difficult for him to crack the lineup, and he was assigned to Utah on Oct. 14 to get some game action. He posted one goal and five assists in nine games with the Grizzlies.
“He’s got his confidence back,” Ward said. “He’s comfortable with the puck and how he wants to play with it.”
The Heat are set to face the Houston Aeros on Thursday – the first of a season-high seven-game road trip. All seven games are against fellow West Division teams.
“This will be the first benchmark to see where we stand within the division,” Ward noted. “I really want to see how we handle ourselves and where we stack up.”