There's a traffic jam in front of Dustin Boyd and navigating his way onto the Calgary Flames roster come opening night won't be easy.
Centres Daymond Langkow, Jamie Lundmark, Stephane Yelle, Matthew Lombardi, Andrei Taratukhin and Byron Ritchie are all on the same roadway -- call it the middle lane.
Five of them have one-way contracts, which all but guarantees them safe passage through training camp, right?
Wrong. This is the salary-cap era of the NHL. Better still, it's a club blueprint created by Darryl Sutter, a GM who has tinkered with his roster since taking control in the spring of 2003.
A strong camp performance from any of the top prospects gives the Flames options. And while Taratukhin is the odds-on favourite to displace a veteran Flame from centre ice, should such a thing take place, the 20-year-old Boyd knows what an amazing opportunity lies ahead.
"This is the first year I really have a legitimate shot at making the team so I want to come in here and show them what I bring to the table and what I can bring to the Calgary Flames," said Boyd.
"I've got to show the Flames I have what it takes to make the next level, that I can play with the bigger guys."
That's exactly what Flames brass wants to see. A youth movement, even if it winds up in an Omaha Knights uniform, bodes well for the future of the Flames.
"We've got some really good challenges going forward with our centre ice positions and our seventh defenceman," said Flames head coach Jim Playfair. "I'm really happy the way our competition level's set up."
Boyd knows what it takes to be part of a winning team. He played a key role in Team Canada's gold medal at the world juniors this year and helped his Moose Jaw Warriors make it all the way to the WHL Western Conference final in the spring. His 90-point season, including 48 goals, was a breakout campaign for Boyd and he says his recent success has given him even more confidence moving toward his pro career.
RUSSIAN ROCKET LAUNCH: Andrei Taratukhin gave onlookers a glimpse of what he has to offer in his Saddledome ice debut, pocketing a hard and accurate wrist shot into the top corner during one drill.
The Russian looked winded at times and might be a little behind in the conditioning department having missed out on development camp but coach Jim Playfair is encouraged by what he saw on Day 1.
"I talked to some of the players he's been skating with. He understands hockey really well. His English is not a barrier," said Playfair. "He understood what we're trying to do in the defensive zone. That's a big struggle for a young player. I was very happy with him today."
BEEF CHUCKO: Kris Chucko is listed at 6-ft. 2-in., 190-lb., but members of the media were betting against those stats after seeing the hulked-up winger in the hallway.
"I'm just following the program," Chucko said with a laugh, alluding to the workout plan conditioning coach Rich Hesketh handed out at this summer's development camp.
"Actually, since I got here in the summer, I've lost weight. Trimmed up. I guess it's moved around."