Coquitlam’s Street signs with Flames/Heat, Rheault departs to join Panthers

It was nearly a decade ago that Troy Ward successfully recruited Ben Street to the University of Wisconsin.

Coming off a 27-goal season with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins

Coming off a 27-goal season with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins

It was nearly a decade ago that Troy Ward successfully recruited Ben Street to the University of Wisconsin.

Next season, he may finally get to coach him.

Street, a 25-year-old Coquitlam native, signed a two-year, two-way contract with the Abbotsford Heat’s NHL parent club, the Calgary Flames, last week. Should he end up playing close to home with the Heat, he’d see a familiar face behind the bench.

“I recruited Ben to the University of Wisconsin from the BCHL [where he starred with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks], and about the time he got there, I left to pursue another opportunity,” Heat head coach Ward said. “We’ve been in contact over the years, and I’ve worked with him in the summers, training with him.”

For Street, it will be nice to have the opportunity to play closer to home, and for Ward.

“He’s a great developer,” Street told Black Press on his cell phone Wednesday from Madison, Wis. “His methods don’t just click with me, but with other guys, too. His motto is ‘I’m the teacher, you’re the coach.’ He teaches you how to do things but you’ve got to figure it out on your own.”

After playing out his NCAA eligibility with the Wisconsin Badgers, Street began his pro career in 2010-11 with the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers. Ward helped pave the way for the 5’11”, 185-pound centre to move up to the AHL, putting in a good word for Street with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins coach John Hynes.

Street excelled with the Pittsburgh Penguins’ affiliate, notching 12 goals and 11 assists for 23 points in 36 games to finish out the 2010-11 campaign, and posting 27-30-57 in 71 games last season.

With the Flames retooling after missing the playoffs for a third straight year, Street believes his chances of making their parent club eventually are better than they seemed with the talent-rich Penguins.

“That was one of my biggest reasons for my decision [to sign with the Flames],” Street said. “I really like my chances in terms of moving up. I have nothing but good things to say about the Penguins’ organization but there wasn’t a whole lot of room there, especially down the middle. With me being a centre man, I think I’ll have a better opportunity with the Flames.”

Ward had minimal input on the Flames’ decision to sign Street when he hit free agency on July 1, but he believes his best days are ahead, based on his increased offensive output as a second-year AHLer.

“Ben’s got a really good feel for the game, both offensively and defensively,” Ward said. “He’s really good on faceoffs, and he can play on the penalty kill and the power play. His shot is very much an NHL shot.”

Street’s father, Rob, said he’s ecstatic over the prospect of seeing his son play more in living colour only a one-hour drive or so down the freeway.

“It’s really exciting,” Rob said. “He’s worked really hard to get this opportunity and hopefully it will be the next step for him to get to the big leagues.”

Ben plans to drive with his girlfriend and dog from Wisconsin next week to train for the rest of summer in the Vancouver area before attending the Flames’ training camp in September, and likely joining the Heat after that.

“Abbotsford’s about as close to home since I played junior in Salmon Arm,” Ben said, adding with a chuckle: “My parents’ travel budget will be cut down considerably.”

– with files from Larry Pruner, Black Press

HEAT SIGN MCKELVIE

The Heat also added defenceman Zach McKelvie last week, inking the former Providence Bruin to a one-year AHL contract.

The 6’2″, 200-pounder is defensive-minded in his approach, posting one goal and one assist in 39 games with the Boston Bruins’ affiliate last season.

A trio of Heat forwards – Paul Byron, Akim Aliu and Dustin Sylvester – will solidified their returns to the organization after signing one-year contracts last week.

Byron and Aliu inked two-way NHL deals. Byron scored 21 points (seven goals, 14 assists) in 39 AHL games last season, hitting his stride offensively late in the campaign on a line with Sylvester and Krys Kolanos.

Aliu found a home on the Heat’s third line and contributed 10 goals and four assists in 42 games.

Sylvester, who signed an AHL contract, was named the Heat’s rookie of the year after posting 15-19-34 in 64 games.

Goalie Leland Irving has received a qualifying offer from the Flames, but he’s the last of the team’s restricted free agents who has yet to agree on a new deal.

RHEAULT FINDS NEW HOME WITH PANTHERS

Jon Rheault and Brian Connelly, key contributors for the Heat last season, both bid adieu in free agency.

Rheault, a speedy, versatile forward, signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Florida Panthers, while offensive-minded blueliner Connelly reached a two-year, two-way pact with the Minnesota Wild.

Connelly was an AHL second team all-star who finished second among league defenceman in scoring last season (6-46-52 in 72 games). But losing Rheault might sting the Heat even more. He was one of the squad’s longest-tenured players, having arrived in Abbotsford late in the Heat’s inaugural season of 2009-10, and Ward called him “the heart and soul of the team” last season.

Rheault was open to returning, and he had the option to come back on an AHL deal. But the Flames declined to match the Panthers’ offer of a two-way NHL pact.

“I have nothing but unbelievable things to say about the Calgary and Abbotsford Heat organizations and all that they’ve done for me over the past two or three years,” he said. “At the same time, I’m very excited for the opportunity in Florida, and I feel like this is the break I’ve been waiting for. Hopefully this leads to playing in the NHL soon.”

Rheault struggled through a series of injuries last year – had a hamstring injury towards the start of the campaign, a concussion at midseason, and finally a late-season abdominal injury that necessitated surgery after the Heat were eliminated from the playoffs.

But he was effective when healthy, and posted 16-17-33 in 47 games.

He departs as the fledgling franchise’s all-time leading scorer, though as those types of records go, his total of 72 points is rather modest.

“I don’t think that’ll last very long, especially with the likes of Ben Walter and Krys Kolanos still in the system,” he noted with a chuckle. “I’m happy with that accomplishment, but I look forward to one of those guys breaking it.”

“Jon is a tough loss for our organization, most importantly as a man,” Ward said. “He was a good teammate to a lot of guys. Obviously we’re going to miss his speed and a lot of the things he did for us – he was on the penalty kill, he was on the power play, he ate up a lot of minutes. Those are tough minutes to lose. But we’re excited that he gets a new opportunity, and we feel like we’ve been a big part of his life.”

WARD LIKES WHAT HE SEES

Ward is running the on-ice sessions at the Flames’ development camp in Calgary this week, featuring a collection of Heat players, draft choices and free agent invitees.

The Heat bench boss said the players expect to shine have, for the most part, done so. He pointed to top prospects Sven Baertschi and John Gaudreau, and Heat alums Carter Bancks and Greg Nemisz as being among the standouts.

“Carter Bancks, I thought, was exceptional on Day 1,” Ward noted.

Just Posted

Students from W. J. Mouat Secondary hold the banner they earned for taking top spot at the recent national Let’s Talk Career competition. (Submitted photo)
Mouat Secondary in Abbotsford wins national Let’s Talk Careers competition

School among 245 across nation that competed to be named ‘Canada’s Most Informed’

A tenant walks in front of her home on Boundary Road on Friday, June 18, 2021 after it was destroyed by fire the night before in Chilliwack. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack family homeless after fire rips through house on Abbotsford border

Turtle rescued, no one seriously hurt following Boundary Road fire in Chilliwack

Wild rabbits are all over Chilliwack, but people often think they’re someone’s lost pet and try to ‘save’ them. But the owner of Chilliwack’s Reptile Room says good intentions can have bad consequences for wild animals. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Owner of Chilliwack’s Reptile Room asks people to leave wild animals in the wild

Amber Quiring says people who think they’re helping are actually doing more harm than good

Chilliwack Fire Department on scene at a house fire on Boundary Road and No. 4 Road on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (David Seltenrich/ Facebook)
Fire crews respond to house fire on border of Chilliwack and Abbotsford

Flames, dark smoke reported coming from front of house when crews arrived

Brandon Hobbs (turquoise shirt), brother of missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs, gathers with other family and friends to distribute posters in Chilliwack on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Search efforts expand to Chilliwack and beyond for missing Abbotsford man

Family, friends put up posters in Chilliwack, Agassiz, Hope for missing 22-year-old Adam Hobbs

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Thousands of protesters make their way through the downtown core during a Black Lives Matter protest in Ottawa, Friday June 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
MPs’ study of systemic racism in policing concludes RCMP needs new model

Chair of the House public safety committee says it’s time for a reckoning on ‘quasi-military’ structure

A case filled with packages of boneless chicken breasts is shown in a grocery store Sunday, May 10, 2020, in southeast Denver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-David Zalubowski
One million chickens euthanized during labour dispute at Quebec slaughterhouse

Premier says waste amounts to 13 per cent of the province’s chicken production thrown in the garbage

Premier of Manitoba Brian Pallister speaks at a news conference at the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg on Wednesday, April 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Lipnowski
Provincial leaders want more federal money for health care, plan to meet in fall

Premiers ask Ottawa to increase its share of overall health spending to 35 per cent from 22 per cent

A section of the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies is seen west of Cochrane, Alta., Thursday, June 17, 2021. A joint federal-provincial review has denied an application for an open-pit coal mine in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, saying its impacts on the environment and Indigenous rights aren’t worth the economic benefits it would bring. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Panel says Grassy Mountain coal mine in Alberta Rockies not in public interest

Public hearings on the project in southern Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass region were held last fall

An old growth cedar stands in a cut-block within the Caycuse Valley. More than 100 prominent Canadians, have signed an open letter calling for the immediate protection of all remaining old-growth forests in B.C. (Submitted)
Brian Mulroney and Greta Thunberg among 100 celebrities pushing to save B.C. old growth

List includes Indigenous leaders, scientists, authors, Oscar winners

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on Friday, February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
U.S. border restrictions to remain in place until at least July 21

Safety minister says Canada, U.S. extending restrictions on non-essential international travel

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