Forward shapes up for another shot at pros

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:20 AM ET

Cooking his own meals this season will be a time-consuming job for J.D. Watt.

He's hungry for some pro hockey after spending an unplanned extra year in the junior ranks.

Eligible to join the AHL Quad City Flames or ECHL Las Vegas Wranglers last season, Watt was delivered a message by the Calgary Flames.

"I think the message from the Flames coaches and management last camp for me was come back to this camp in better shape. That was a big thing for them," said Watt, who did his best to please the organization in the off-season.

"I was very fortunate to be living in Calgary all summer and able to work out with (team strength and conditioning coach) Rich Hesketh. That's been my biggest improvement, my physical fitness. I felt like I improved in most of the areas of strength testing.

"Still a long ways to go, but I made big strides."

Not only is his level of fitness on the rise, the confident 21-year-old seems to be smiling a lot more than he did a year ago. Part of that is he's finally making the jump.

"Absolutely. I really wanted to be playing pro last year," said Watt, who split last season between the Red Deer Rebels and Regina Pats. "You kind of go back a little bit sour for the first bit of junior, but you get over it."

Adding to the letdown of being returned to junior was the fact neither the Rebels, nor the Pats had much success.

The Rebels didn't make the playoffs. The Pats lasted six games against the Swift Current Broncos, and Watt earned eight points in the series (2 goals, 6 assists), but it was a far cry from his 26 post-season appearances with the Vancouver Giants in 2006-07.

"We weren't successful on either team I played on last year. That's always a disappointment," said the 6-ft.-2, 202-pounder.

Former Rebels and current Flames teammate Brett Sutter has given Watt a sample of what this year will be like away from the rink after making the jump from junior.

"He said it was a lot different," said Watt. "Living on your own for the first time, no billets to cook you food and do your laundry ... that's a big change. I've talked to him lots about that kind of thing. I'm gonna have to learn what that's all about."


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