Life on The Farm

Being a business management major, Jon Rheault gets the fine print. The details.

In other words, the 24-year-old Abbotsford Heat winger understands the situation he’s in with the Calgary Flames American Hockey League farm club.

"I understand there’s so much more to it than who’s playing well and when," said Rheault, Abbotsford’s No. 3 scorer who is currently stuck on an AHL-only deal. "There’s a lot on their plate from a business standpoint that they have to deal with. And I understand that.

"I try not to think about that. Obviously, that’s what I want, a two-way NHL-deal so I can get called up when I’m doing well. But there’s so much to the business and I do understand that."

But not that it makes life any easier on the farm.

Only a few months ago, acting general manager Jay Feaster made it clear that he wanted to start rewarding players and integrating the Flames’ prospects into their system. Early February, the team called up Lance Bouma who made his National Hockey League debut. When the Heat were in town to kick off the Heritage Classic festivities, Abbotsford head coach Jim Playfair determined Greg Nemisz, T.J. Brodie, and Chris Breen among players who are ready to be next in line.
And unfortunately, because of the terms of his contract, it won’t be in the cards this year for Rheault — no matter how good he plays.

"I want it so bad, I want that (two-way) deal," said Rheault who attended Providence College. "But you’ve really gotta let things play out like they will. I know that if I keep playing well and keep impressing people and continue to improve every year like I’ve done … eventually, someone — and I’m hoping Calgary — will take a chance on me."

Last season, however, was a completely different story.

First Rheault started the AHL campaign with the Manitoba Moose. Then, skipped over to Providence. Then to Manchester.

Finally, Rheault, who was with the ECHL’s Ontario Reign at the time, found himself helping out the injury-plagued Heat.

And that’s when his confidence was renewed. Rheault, a bit undersized at five-foot-11 and 200 pounds, scored nine goals in 18 dates.

This year, on an offensively challenged Heat squad, he’s No. 3 in scoring with 10 goals and 16 assists in 58 games.

Abbotsford’s leading scorer Matt Keith is in the same boat, with 17 goals and 12 goals in 59 outings but stuck on an AHL-deal.

Rheault said it’s hard to keep things in perspective — balancing the elation of how far he’s come in a year with the desire to take his game to the next level.

"It’s crazy," Rheault said. "You get so wrapped up with what’s happening and you want to be even further along. You keep pushing for the highest level. For me, that’s been one of my strengths and a weakness too — I won’t be happy until I make it to the NHL. My mom’s like, ‘You should be so proud of what you’ve done so far. And, it’s true, when you step back.

"But it’s hard when you are involved with it. I’m not at that top level yet. Until I am … you don’t want to be just happy with how far you’ve come."

"You want to be even further."

Such is the dilemma.

Right now, Rheault is rooming with Heat centreman Mitch Wahl and has found a home in Abbotsford. He’s not complaining about job security — but he’d rather continue to move along in the world

"It’s a road most people don’t know about," Rheault said. "It’s hard to bounce around, second guess yourself when you are sent down … I am proud of what I’ve done but I’m not done here and moving my career along.

"I’m happy I’m not playing for four different teams this year, living out of a hotel and stuff like that. But I’m still pushing for more."