Competition heats up at training camp

The sheer number of bodies at Abbotsford Heat training camp is a sure sign there’s little room for complacency.

Heat players participated in a scrimmage on Wednesday during training camp at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre.

Heat players participated in a scrimmage on Wednesday during training camp at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre.

The sheer number of bodies at Abbotsford Heat training camp is a sure sign there’s little room for complacency.

As of Thursday, there were 39 players in camp – enough to fill both the home and visitors locker rooms at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre.

Defenceman John Negrin, who has been around for Heat training camp each of the past three seasons, says the competitive atmosphere has gone to another level this time around.

“Going to camp in Calgary, hearing from the management, you knew there were some changes going on,” he said. “They told us from the start, if you’re not playing well, someone’s going to be taking your spot.

“All the guys here are really skilled, competitive players, and it makes for a tough camp.”

The plethora of players in Heat camp is a product of a desire to build greater organizational depth through their ECHL affiliate, the Utah Grizzlies. The Heat have been hard-hit by injuries the past two seasons, and have had to scramble at times to find ECHL call-ups to fill in.

“We just didn’t have the depth a year ago,” Heat head coach Troy Ward noted. “We’re going to probably afford them (the Grizzlies) more players this year.

“That’s not to the liking of the men in the room, though. That’s not what they want to hear. Last year, we were saddled here with sometimes 26 or 27 players with all the injuries. This year we’re going to saddle up with 23 or 24. That’s all that will be around on a full-time basis, because I think too many people just breeds complacency.”

Ward said that if the Heat keep 24 players, the breakdown would be 14 forwards, eight defencemen and two goalies.

Of the 39 players in Heat camp, 25 are on two-way (NHL/AHL) or AHL contracts. The rest are either under contract with Utah, or in camp on a tryout basis.

With the NHL parent Calgary Flames currently carrying 31 players, more will be sent to Abbotsford in the coming week, which is sure to ramp up the intensity even further.

“There’s two battles going on,” Ward analyzed. “There’s a battle going on throughout the team right now to stay here, and then there’s going to be a battle for maximum ice time. Some guys who played 18 minutes on last year’s team might only play 12.”

One of the more interesting competitions is shaping up on the blueline, where four returnees – Negrin, T.J. Brodie, Chris Breen and Joe Piskula – join newcomers Clay Wilson, Brendan Mikkelson and James Martin in Heat camp.

Factor in that Jordan Henry and Derek Smith are still in Flames camp, but are on two-way contracts, and that adds up to potentially nine defencemen for eight spots, providing Calgary’s seven blueliners on one-way NHL contracts stay healthy.

That numbers game is not lost on Negrin, who is facing a pivotal campaign after a recurring knee injury sidelined him for big chunks of the past two seasons.

“From the start of camp, I knew there were a lot of guys here,” the 22-year-old West Vancouver native noted. “But I think if you get too caught up in that stuff, if you’re worrying about it, it can affect your game as well. You’ve just got to wake up in the morning, be happy, enjoy what you do, work hard, and good things will happen from that.”

Just Posted

Police arrest the suspect in an attempted armed bank robbery on June 2 at the Scotiabank at Gladwin Road and South Fraser Way in Abbotsford. (Photo by Garry Amyot)
Abbotsford bank robbery suspect who was stopped by customers faces more charges

Neil Simpson now faces total of eight charges, up from the initial two

Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat greets fans outside of the Abbotsford Centre prior to the Canucks exhibition game against the Ottawa Senators in 2019. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)
More jobs posted for Abbotsford AHL team

Five new opportunities accepting applicants, Comets forward Lukas Jasek signs in Finland

Singer Ben Cottrill performs during the 2019 Arty Awards at The Reach Gallery Museum, the last time the event was held in person. Cottrill received the award in the performing arts category. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)
Nominations now open for 2021 Arty Awards

Annual event hosted by Abbotsford Arts Council, with ceremony Sept. 25

Xauni de Figeuiroa of Abbotsford has been selected to attend a virtual space camp hosted by the Canadian Space Agency at the end of July.
Abbotsford student selected to attend virtual space camp

Xauni de Figeuiroa among 52 youth selected from across Canada

Kindergarten kids from Evans elementary school in Chilliwack painted rocks with orange hearts and delivered them to Sto:lo Elders Lodge recently after learning about residential schools. (Laura Bridge photo)
Kindergarten class paints rocks with orange hearts in Chilliwack for local elders

‘Compassion and empathy’ being shown by kids learning about residential schools

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials watching U.K.’s Delta variant struggles, ‘may need to slow’ restart plan

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Highway notices like this come down effective June 14. Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

Calgary Stampeders’ Jerome Messam leaps over a tackle during second half CFL western semifinal football action in Calgary, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CFL football will be played this summer in Canada

Governors vote unanimously in favour to start the ‘21 campaign on Aug. 5

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read