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Photo Credit: Photo courtesy the Stockton Heat/Andre Ringuette (Freestyle Photography)

WATCH: Zary swats rebound over sprawling Ferguson for his first goal of the season

It took a little longer than many anticipated, but Calgary Flames top prospect Connor Zary is on the board for the Stockton Heat with his first goal of the 2021–22 season.

Zary missed most of Calgary’s 2021 NHL training camp and the first eight games of the American Hockey League season with an ankle injury he sustained in an exhibition game on Sept. 20.

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The 20-year-old forward currently occupies Stockton’s No. 3 centre role at 5-on-5, playing between Heat veterans Byron Froese and Justin Kirkland, but he scored his first goal of the season from his usual net-front spot on the team’s second power-play unit.

Stockton fell 4–3 in overtime to the Henderson Silver Knights on Saturday evening. Zary scored the second Heat goal of the game to give his team a 2-1 lead late in the first period.

After helping the Heat cycle the puck down low in the offensive zone, Zary returned to the foot of the crease and surveyed the developing play. Glenn Gawdin set Kirkland up for a one-time shot at the right circle that Henderson goaltender Dylan Ferguson managed to stop, but not absorb.

Zary quickly pounced on the loose puck and swatted it past a sprawling Ferguson. Kirkland and Gawdin picked up the helpers on Zary’s first goal (and point) of the 2021–22 season, which came at the 17:42 mark of the first period.

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Zary previously played nine games for the Heat in 2020–21 while he waited for the Western Hockey League to start its season. He slotted in at left wing on Stockton’s top line, scoring three goals and seven points in nine games while playing alongside co-leading scorers Matthew Phillips and Adam Ruzicka.

The Calgary Flames originally selected Zary with the 24th-overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. After wrapping up his temporary tenure with the Heat last season, Zary returned to the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers and scored 24 points (six goals, 19 assists) in just 15 games. He missed seven WHL games in 2020–21 while dealing with an upper-body injury.

The Heat will aim to extend their season-opening 11-game point streak when they hit the road for a back-to-back set against the Ontario Reign on Nov. 21 and 22.