New learning environment

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:26 AM ET

Students across the continent will be dusting off their backpacks and heading back to school next week.

Matt Isbister won't be among them.

The 20-year-old Calgary product -- and younger brother of NHLer Brad -- decided to leave New York's Clarkson University last month and play for the Hitmen.

"Things just weren't working out there," Isbister said of his NCAA career. "I went there with high expectations.

"(The coaches) said I'd play on the powerplay and on the first couple lines and it didn't turn out like that. They kept bringing in more and more guys.

"I thought, I have one more year (of junior eligibility) left. And hockey is the route I want to take. So I wanted to come to a league where I'm going to play a lot and in front of a lot of scouts too."

He talked to the Everett Silvertips and the Kootenay Ice but before he could decide on his new WHL home, he got a call from Hitmen GM/head coach Kelly Kisio.

"Kisio called me and said they had listed me," he said. "It was one of my top options anyway so I was pretty happy.

"If I'm leaving (school) to showcase myself, what better place to come than here, a place that needs some scoring.

"And we're so deep up front. Guys like (Ryan) White and (Brodie) Dupont, it's incredible."

Isbister managed just a pair of goals and four points in 26 games over two seasons with the Golden Knights.

But don't let those sparse numbers fool you.

The 6-ft., 190-pounder has serious skills and Kisio can't wait to see them when the regular season kicks off Sept. 22.

"He's been real good," Kisio said of Isbister's camp. "He's skilled, can turn on the jets and is smart with the puck.

"He could definitely help the powerplay."

Isbister, an AJHL rookie of the year finalist when he played for the Calgary Royals in 2003-04 (nine goals and 26 points in 49 games), is among four players battling for three overage spots.

D-man Dylan Yeo, if he is able to return from a nasty wrist injury, would likely nail down one of the slots. That leaves Isbister, Steve Covington and Derek LeBlanc fighting for the remaining two spots.

Returning to Calgary, Isbister has been able to spend some time with his older sibling over the past few months.

"I see him most of the time in the summer because he lives here," he said of the former Portland Winter Hawk, who has suited up for Phoenix, the New York Islanders, Edmonton and Boston.

"We go golfing or out to dinner. But during the year, it's basically just Christmas.

"It was tough (staying in touch) the year he was in Edmonton and I was in New York for school.

"He has no idea where he'll be this year so maybe he'll be close by."

HIT PARADE: The Hitmen have 31 players remaining in camp, including 10 d-men. The crowd in the crease has been reduced toa trio of hopefuls -- two-year backup Daniel Spence, 19-year-old Brant Miller and 16-year-old rookie Martin Jones. Garrett Zemlak, 17, was released.


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