Special surprise Pardy

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:51 AM ET

With eight defencemen heading into Calgary Flames training camp with one-way deals in their back pockets, you knew the blueline was going to be a hot topic this pre-season.

What many people didn't expect was a ninth rearguard challenging to make the opening day roster.

Like Mark Giordano did two years ago, prospect Adam Pardy is making a serious push for one of the seven available spots.

"I think he's really earned the right to push for a job on our team this year," said Flames associate coach Jim Playfair.

"When you go back to four or five years ago when we started having our development camps, we recognized that our defence was an area we had to really look to improve from within."

Mission accomplished.

The future of the blueline looks bright with the likes of Pardy, Matt Pelech and John Negrin making strong impressions this fall.

Pardy is making the most noise.

He's doing it quietly.

He's not as flashy as Giordano was. Not as physical as Pelech.

But Pardy is making it as hard for his coaching staff to send him back to the American Hockey League as it has been for opposition danglers to get around the 24-year-old Newfoundlander this pre-season.

The fact he would have to clear waivers to be re-assigned to the farm club may give the team even more to consider when making final decisions.

Not bad for a sixth-round pick, 173rd overall, in 2004.

Seeing a lot of potential in the kid with a lanky 6-ft.-2 frame and solid skating skills, the Flames went to work on their project.

Pardy went from a disappointing start in the AHL with the Omaha Knights, to a more comfortable role with the ECHL Las Vegas Wranglers in his first pro season in 2005-06.

His first full season in the AHL was yet another step forward, as he suited up for 70 games with the Knights the next year.

Last season, he blossomed into an AHL All-Star.

The humble easterner hasn't let it swell his head, but the honour did open his eyes.

"That was pretty huge. Honestly, I didn't expect it," said Pardy.

"It just makes you realize that you are that close (to the NHL) and you have a real good possibility of making it. You've just got to push for it."

He's pushing for it. He just has to push a little harder this week with the remaining three exhibition outings expected to come against tougher competition as teams get in gear for the regular season.

"That's where the next level for Adam is -- can he push it up and maintain it against top players," said Playfair, who wants Pardy to become an even more-aggressive defender. "He's proven he can do it in the American League, he's proven he can do it in the early part of the exhibition season.

"It's about raising your level of play, and that's what we talked to him about today, as a matter of fact, about mentally preparing to be a better player going forward."

Whatever the outcome, there's no questioning how far Pardy has already come.

And while he's surprising some fans with his abilities, it's all seemed like a natural progression to him.

"I don't know if you'd say I'm surprised. I didn't really look too far into the future, just kind of looked at getting better as a player and as a person and make steps and get closer and closer," said Pardy.

"Three years ago, you probably wouldn't have said I'd be in this position right now, but I just kept working and got better as time went on."

His time as an NHLer may have come.


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