Hard work moves him

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:31 AM ET

The words, written with a felt pen, are for inspiration.

The phrase 'Hardest working player' adorns the top edge of Matt Keetley's blocker.

'How bad do you want it?' also is there for him to see.

For the Calgary Flames goaltender prospect, those are key sayings.

"The more you want it, the harder you're going to work, the more you save, the better you're going to get," he explained.

Look how far that attitude has taken him.

Not long ago, Keetley was an admitted overweight part-time forward, part-time goaltender playing community-level bantam hockey.

These days, the second-year pro is not far off being on an NHL roster. In fact, he already has NHL game experience.

"My nine minutes," said the 22-year-old Medicine Hat product, who took part in a 4-1 loss to Colorado Nov. 5 last season. "I do look back on it, but I don't want to look too much because people think 'I've been there, it's enough' I want to be there and want to stay there.

"It's crazy to think I have played in the NHL, but it's not even a taste, it's a smell, I want more and that's what motivates a person."

Motivation hasn't been in short supply for Keetley.

He was a long shot to have his name called in his draft year, despite posting an incredible 1.66 goals against average for the Medicine Hat Tigers, along with a 21-5-3 record.

In fact, he was told as much.

"I talked to a few teams and they told me they thought I was a gamble," he recalled. "I think that's when I realized I needed to take it to the next level.

"Calgary took a chance on me, I guess you could say, so I wanted to prove to them they didn't make a mistake.

"I think every year I've come into camp in better shape. Hopefully, I've proven to them I can play in the NHL."

He did stop two shots in his appearance against the Avs.

And you know he had to regale his buddies with the tale throughout the summer.

"I'll give them my two cents on my nine minutes, but it's not too much," he said. "Guys don't want to know about me, they want to know about the other guys, the Phaneufs and the Iginlas.

"It's funny, I'd go to movies with them and the rest of the team, and I was just one of the boys. That's how they treated me and it was really nice. I tell people about that and I think people are surprised.

"But just because you're an NHL hockey player doesn't mean you won't be the same person."

Some day, Keetley may have more NHL time to talk about, but most likely he'll be in the minors this season working to improve his standing within the organization.

Last year with the AHL's Quad City Flames, Keetley posted a very respectable 2.33 average along with a 10-8-3 mark in 26 outings.

This season, the fifth-round pick from 2005 should expect to see more action with the Baby Flames.

Curtis McElhinney is pencilled to be the back-up in Calgary, and Keetley is atop the depth chart for the minor leagues, albeit with 2006 first-round choice Leland Irving and Kevin Lalande -- who'll be out upwards of a couple of months due to a high-ankle sprain -- ready to push him for that ice time.

However, don't dispel the notion of seeing Keetley in the Saddledome for regular season action sooner rather than later.

Make no mistake about it, Keetley has earned high praise throughout the organization, and he's determined to keep climbing the charts.

"I know it will be hard with Curtie, he's as strong as nails and a great goalie," Keetley said.

"And it's tough competition with Irving and Lalande -- there are good goalies in this organization -- but it pushes everyone to be a better goalie."


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