Youngster set for battle

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 5:21 PM ET

You could probably forgive a Calgary Flames prospect for feeling a little discouraged these days.

With the NHL club bringing in proven players like Tony Amonte and Darren McCarty, earning a spot with the defending Western Conference champs won't be easy.

Eric Nystrom is among a group of youngsters who will be trying to show they deserve a shot when training camp kicks off Tuesday.

Yet he's anything but disheartened as he prepares for his first camp.

"I wouldn't say it's discouraging," Nystrom says. "You want your team to do well. It just means there's going to be more competition.

"I think all the prospects are coming in to have a shot at making the big team. They made some big signings and have a lot of depth. But I'm going in there hoping to beat somebody out.

"And if you can crack a team like this, it'll be great because Calgary's going to be a contender this year."

Nystrom's father, Bob, who suited up with the New York Islanders during their dynasty run, played two seasons with the Calgary Centennials junior team. Eric would also love to kickstart his pro career in the Stampede City.

"There's a certain mould of players that fits in the Calgary system," the 22-year-old says.

"I think my game is a good, two-way game.

"I have to be physical, work hard in my own zone and hopefully bang home a few rebounds. That's as simple as my game is and I think it's a good way to play.

"If I do that as well as I can, I should have a shot at making the team."

The 6-ft. 1-in., 205 lb. left winger was selected 10th overall by Calgary in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. He spent the past few weeks skating with other NHLers on Long Island.

"There are a ton of pro guys around here," he says. "I actually skated with (Flames d-man) Roman Hamrlik a couple of times. He's pretty excited to come out.

"I was up there in June for a development camp. It was awesome to get out there and meet some of the prospects and potential teammates. And I've been out there for a few rookie camps but this will be my first real camp."

Nystrom, who captained the University of Michigan last season, says he made some big strides.

"It was my best season by far," says Nystrom, who scored 13 goals and 32 points in 38 games. "I went through a slump in my junior year and that's something that happens over the course of your career.

"To be able to bounce back and have a great year was important for me.

"It was huge, especially with this being a transition year for me. A little confidence never hurts."

Nystrom doesn't want to be handed a ticket to Omaha but said if he's asked to spend a year in the AHL, he'll make the most of the situation.

"Tons of guys in the NHL have had to pay their dues. And if that's something you have to do to make it, it's certainly worth it."


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