It’s a good news, bad news situation for Calgary Flames prospect watchers this weekend.
The good news is that the Brandon Wheat Kings have a chance to advance to the Western Hockey League finals with a win tonight at home against the Calgary Hitmen. The bad news is that Keegan Kanzig’s season, and junior career, are likely nearing their end (with the Hitmen down 3-1 in the series). The better news is that 2013 first round pick Morgan Klimchuk – the only first rounder from the last two drafts not to have dipped his toe in the NHL pond yet – is having a very good series.
In Wednesday’s Game 4, he had the game-winning goal and two assists in what may end up being the final junior game he plays in the Scotiabank Saddledome – his hometown rink. We caught up with Klimchuk outside the Wheat Kings locker room, just down the hall from the Flames room, after the game.
You’ve been with Brandon for awhile now. How does it compare to your experience playing with Regina?
You know, in a way it’s the same. I think I play the same role here as I did in Regina. It’s a little different because night-in, night-out, we have a lot of guys that can put the puck in the net, so there’s not that much pressure on a guy. But it’s pretty similar; play a lot of penalty kill, power play, against the other team’s top line most nights, so it’s pretty demanding.
As someone in the organization, how do you view the Flames’ success this season?
It’s been a pleasure to watch. Honestly, you can’t say enough about how well they’re doing, everyone from top to bottom. They got my respect for sure, because they’ve definitely earned it.
One of the more exciting things for fans right now is that it’s the young players driving the Flames’ success this year. As a young player in the organization, does their success energize you?
Yeah, that’s exactly it, and that’s exactly what you want. You want to have young guys that are contributing and kind of balancing out the act from the older guys as well. I knew the whole time that guys like Bennett and Ferland and Granlund and all those guys were really special players, and they’re getting a chance to show it now and they’re taking advantage of it. It’s not really a surprise, but I’m really happy for them.
You’re obviously very focused on your playoff run right now, but have you given any thought to your future or turning pro?
Yeah, it’s kind of, you gotta put that to the back of your mind because right now, my focus is the Eastern Conference Finals and obviously taking it day by day. Whether it’s a practice or a game, you can’t look too far ahead.
A lot of players talk about leaving on top [editor’s note: Jon Gillies just did that, for instance], would adding some hardware at season’s end impact any decisions you make about your future?
No. It’s going to be one of those things that I deal with at the end of the summer. I gotta focus day-by-day, like I said. It’s a bit cliche, but it’s the truth.