Rookie hopes to Crack roster

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

CAMROSE -- A friendly reminder of his big goal at the Saddledome a couple of years back brings a wide smile to Adam Cracknell's face.

Arguably, it had been the highlight of the Calgary Flames prospect's days since being drafted in the ninth round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

The pre-season game-winner against the Vancouver Canucks slipped his mind, though, replaced by the more recent memories of a trip to the ECHL final with the Las Vegas Wranglers.

"I forgot about that," said Cracknell of the third-period powerplay marker that paced the Flames to a 3-1 win over the Canucks on Sept. 20, 2006.

It was his first NHL action, and --until last night's rookie tournament contest at the Edgemont Centre against the Edmonton Oilers prospects -- he hasn't donned the Flaming C since.

"It was just a great feeling -- a pass from Dion Phaneuf," recalled the 6-foot-1, 191-lb. right-winger. "I just shot it -- pretty much just blind. It went in.

"It was very exciting. It felt like an NHL goal for myself, and my parents were there. It's a great feeling just wearing that jersey and experiencing what they do every day."

Cracknell also got to experience the same lows the Flames felt after their loss in the 2004 Stanley Cup final when his Wranglers fell short of the Kelly Cup last spring.

Softening the sting are all the steps forward he took during his second season in the ECHL. They are steps he hopes will boost him to the American Hockey League's Quad City Flames on a full-time basis this fall.

"You know what it takes now to get to the finals. We played a lot of games. You've got to know how much preparation it takes and how healthy you've got to stay," Cracknell said. "It's crucial to be on your game every night."

And crucial to be on his game in both ends of the rink.

Flames GM Darryl Sutter has credited the 23-year-old with an NHL-worthy shot but hadn't seen enough defensive awareness to promote Cracknell to the AHL in the past.

"It's something I had to work on. I felt I got better even being down in Vegas. You play a lot more. I logged a lot of minutes, and I was a crucial player in the D-zone and the O-zone," Cracknell said. "I tried to be better in the (defensive) zone and learn a lot more, and I think I did."

He certainly didn't fall short offensively.

After a 29-goal, 59-point regular season, Cracknell added nine tallies and 22 points in 21 playoff appearances to help push the Wranglers to the final against the Cincinnati Cyclones.

He hopes to do the same in the AHL if given the chance, suggesting he's learned to lean on his defensive awareness to create even more offence.

A strong camp might convince the Flames, who have been patient developing a player taken 279th overall in the 2004 draft.

Only 12 players were selected after Cracknell.

"It's just a number to me" Cracknell said. "It got my foot in the door. I'm happy to be here, and I'm still here.

"I'm gonna prove to them that I can play here."


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