Bigger is better for Aulie

Flames draft pick Keith Aulie is a real-life hero. (File Photo)

Flames draft pick Keith Aulie is a real-life hero. (File Photo)

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:32 AM ET

News of Keith Aulie's selection by the Calgary Flames at the NHL draft was cause for celebration in the house.

Of course, with how things could have gone nearly a couple of years ago, every day is reason to celebrate in the Aulie home in Rouleau, Sask.

A few days before Christmas in 2005, Aulie's father Bill was planning to clear the farm dugout for a skating party.

Keith's billets were making the trek from Brandon -- where he plays for the WHL Wheat Kings -- and it was a perfect time to enjoy the best of the season.

"When I got home for Christmas the week before the U-17 (tournament), my dad and I thought we'd clean off the dugout, clean the snow off the dugout or pond or whatever you want to call it, so we could skate on it when my billets came," the teenager recalled. "So dad took the tractor out and started driving across the dugout, cleaning off of the snow, and all of a sudden he fell right through to the bottom.

"The windows shattered on the tractor, so he was right in the water. I was nearby and raced over, got down on my stomach on the ice and started looking for him in the water.

"When I saw him, I could see him feeling for an opening, I just grabbed and pulled him out of there."

Good thing Aulie was well on his way to becoming a 6-ft. 6-in., 220-lb. behemoth.

"I threw him quite a ways because the adrenaline," Aulie said with a chuckle. "He said after, the thing that hurt the worst was landing on the ice when I threw him so far.

"It was a pretty crazy experience to say the least."

Aulie was awarded the Rescue Commendation and the Red Cross Rescuer Award. Down the road, the Flames are hoping Aulie, 18, will be as adept at saving goals, too.

Despite his frame, Aulie is a good skater -- although he admits he has to improve -- and is willing to play a defensive role.

His size certainly fits the bill of the Flames' desires. They have a couple of big defencemen on the roster already in Robyn Regehr and Dion Phaneuf and a few waiting in the wings.

"Yeah, I've noticed that," Aulie said.

Certainly, Regehr is a player for him to emulate.

"From talking to them before the draft, I've really noticed a lot of similarities between my game and his. I love watching him play and think I can be that type of player," he said.

Aulie was targeted by the Flames -- especially scout Al Tuer -- as a mid-round pick. They dealt a pair of fifth-round picks to Buffalo to grab Aulie in the fourth (116th overall), news that gave Aulie an extra boost.

"Oh, that's a huge honour for me, to know what they had to do," he said.

"That's an unbelievable feeling. That makes all this that much sweeter.

"I got a sense they were looking at me but didn't know what to expect."

Aulie has NHL size but that doesn't make him a sure bet. He knows he has plenty of work to do, especially on his mobility.

"It's a continued work in progress. I think I have a natural skating ability, it's just growing into my body and getting quicker and more agile will take a bit more time," he said. "The natural skating, backwards skating and smoothness of my stride."


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