SUN Hockey Pool

Chucko hopes fine-tuning turns into Flames' role

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:02 AM ET

Last season's surprise forward was David Moss.

Well, he was to everybody but Calgary Flames GM Darryl Sutter, who expected the big winger to challenge for a full-time role at training camp last fall.

This year, it could be Dustin Boyd, Andrei Taratukhin, Tomi Maki, Eric Nystrom, or maybe even Kris Chucko who carve out names for themselves in the NHL.

The latter would certainly be tracing Moss' footsteps should he find his way into the senior Flames lineup after just one pro season following a couple of years in the U.S. college system.

Chucko is well aware of the competition for the 12th and 13th forward positions with the big club this season and, like all the prospects in Calgary for this week's development camp, he's excited about the opportunity to show he's making strides.

"That's what you like to hear as someone who's hoping to crack the lineup, or at least see some action," said Chucko over the phone from Minnesota after a workout with a skating coach this summer. "With the new NHL, that's what teams are doing."

Chucko took about 10 days off after the AHL Omaha Knights' disappointing first-round playoff exit mirrored that of the Flames this spring. Then he got back to work.

His first professional season under his belt after leaving the University of Minnesota early to join the ranks, the Flames' first-round pick of 2004 knew how much better he could be.

"I'm someone who matured late and developed late, body-wise. I feel like I still have a lot of strides to make," Chucko said.

The Flames took Chucko with the 24th overall pick three years ago after a breakout season with the BCHL Salmon Arm Silverbacks during which the 6-ft.-2, 211 pounder scored 32 goals and 87 points in 53 games while racking up 161 penalty minutes.

In 76 games with the Golden Gophers over two years, he notched 14 goals and 34 points. With the Knights, he scored 14 goals and 14 assists while playing all 80 regular-season games.

The pro workload was an eye-opener for Chucko. He played less than half that many contests in college.

"I think we played eight games in 11 nights one time and I've never done that before. That was good for me," said the 21-year-old. "I was fortunate enough to play every game this year, which was a testament to (Flames strength and conditioning coach) Rich Hesketh's training program and my work (last) summer."

He and Boyd were the youngest members of the Knights, but Boyd had a better idea of what he was getting into after four seasons with the Moose Jaw Warriors in the Western Hockey League.

"I played a different style of hockey. It was probably a bigger adjustment for me than some of those WHL guys that go there," Chucko admitted.

"There were ups and downs along the way. I had some good games and a lot of games that were not so good. After the season, you take it all in. It's just about being consistent and able to do it every night.

"I think after a year of learning and seeing what it's about, it's going to be a lot easier to step in next year -- either (in the AHL) or in Calgary -- and be a consistent pro hockey player."

Boyd, who played 13 games for the Flames last year, may be one of Chucko's biggest competitors as the kids all do their best to impress this week before coming back in the fall with the veterans.

"It's a big summer for everyone. Everyone thinks they have a chance and everyone should have a chance," Chucko said. "Summers are huge, it's whoever makes the most progress and who works the hardest. I think it reflects in camp.


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