If Krys Kolanos’s comeback story were a movie script, it would be the feel-good hit of the year.
The 30-year-old forward, sidelined for a year and a half due to major hip surgery before catching on with the Abbotsford Heat last fall, is back in the NHL. He signed a two-year, two-way contract on Wednesday with the Calgary Flames, the Heat’s parent club, and was immediately recalled.
Speaking with The News via cellphone on Wednesday afternoon, the Calgary native noted that returning to the NHL with his hometown team is the stuff of storybooks.
“It’s very special to me,” he said. “I’ve always felt a part of the Calgary Flames – I watched them growing up, I had season tickets. I’ve been going to games ever since I was a little tyke, watched them win the Cup when I was eight.
“Now, it feels so right to be getting another chance. I’ve had a career that’s been sidetracked by injuries and setbacks, so I’m grateful. It feels right to be doing it in this setting.”
Kolanos, a former first-round draft choice by the Phoenix Coyotes, has 136 NHL games on his resumé – most of them accrued with the Coyotes between 2001 and 2004. But recurring concussion issues derailed his career for a time, and he became a hockey nomad, with stops in Finland, Germany and Switzerland; eight AHL cities; and brief NHL stints with the Edmonton Oilers and Minnesota Wild.
During the 2009-10 campaign, with the AHL’s Adirondack Phantoms, Kolanos began experiencing sharp, severe pain in his left hip flexor and groin. An overgrown labral head was creating friction and tearing up the cartilage and tissue around his hip joint. He underwent microfracture surgery, then sat out the entire 2010-11 season in order to ensure the hip was properly healed and rehabbed.
Kolanos attended Heat training camp on a tryout basis and earned a player tryout (PTO) contract. Lingering lower-body issues delayed his debut, but he made an instant impact upon being inserted into the lineup, notching a hat trick and an assist in a 5-1 win over the Grand Rapids Griffins on Oct. 28. His consistent offensive output on an otherwise scoring-challenged team led to an AHL deal for the balance of the season on Nov. 14.
Kolanos paced the Heat with 40 points (18 goals, 22 assists) in 34 games, a total which ranks him 10th in the AHL, and was a participant in Monday’s AHL all-star game in Atlantic City, N.J.
To facilitate his call-up, the Flames upgraded him to a two-way deal on Wednesday with an average annual value of $525,000 at the NHL level.
“I’m so grateful for the direction it’s all taken,” Kolanos marveled. “I’ve been surrounded by so many good people, and I couldn’t be any more blessed.
“I’m super-grateful to Flames management and to (Heat head coach) Troy Ward, for them having confidence in me and giving me that opportunity coming out of the surgery and being away from the game for so long.”
In a press release, Flames general manager Jay Feaster lauded Kolanos’s play with the Heat.
“Krys has been one of our best players in Abbotsford and has done everything we’ve asked of him to earn this opportunity,” Feaster said. “He has worked hard on being a responsible two-way player and we look forward to him contributing to our success at both ends of the ice.”
The Flames are desperate for scoring, having mustered just 25 goals in 12 games during the month of January, and Kolanos is hoping to help fill that void.
“I don’t think my mindset’s going to change at all,” he said. “I envision coming in and making a difference, making an impact. That’s what I always had set in my head to begin with.
“My plan is just to keep going with what I’ve been doing – to play with that passion and intensity and love for the game that fueled all this in the beginning.”
Krys Kolanos, recalled by the Calgary Flames on Wednesday, led the Abbotsford Heat in scoring with 40 points in 34 games.