SUN Hockey Pool

Cammalleri on target

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:59 AM ET

A year ago, it probably would have seemed inconceivable.

Michael Cammalleri and the Canadian Olympic hockey team would never have been mentioned in the same sentence.

But when you play for the Calgary Flames and have more goals than Jarome Iginla, people take notice.

And one doesn't have to look too hard to see the native of Richmond Hill, Ont., has an innate scoring ability.

"The day we got Mike I remember saying that I thought he could score 40 goals," said Flames centre Craig Conroy.

"Now that he's almost at 30, people are coming up to me telling me that they didn't think I was serious when I said that.

"But I saw him score 30-some goals in Los Angeles. He's just a natural scorer. You just have guys that are, and he's one of those guys."

Heading into last night's game against the Oilers, Cammalleri, 25, led the Flames with 29 goals.

He's also second to Iginila in team scoring, with 55 points.

GETS ALONG

"He's fit in well here," Conroy said. "He gets along well with everybody. He's not overbearing or anything like that. Sometimes you get people that can be overbearing, they come in and feel like they have to work extra hard to fit in.

"He just kind of came in and hung out. But with his personality, you knew he was going to be a good fit."

The second-round pick -- 49th overall -- of the Los Angeles Kings in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft was acquired by the Flames in a trade this off-season.

Cammalleri was expected to provide secondary offence for the Flames behind Iginla. So far, he's exceeded those expectations.

"You never know for sure what you're going to get from a player unless you have some familiarity or some history with him," said Flames head coach Mike Keenan.

"We're certainly pleased about his development here and how he continues to improve and help our hockey club. He reads the play well offensively and he shoots the puck well."

Cammalleri spent six seasons in the Kings organization before heading to Calgary.

His best year came in 2006-2007, where he scored 34 goals and added 46 assists for 80 points in 81 games.

Last season his production dropped off after injuries limited him to just 63 games, but he still managed 19 goals and 47 points.

"This is what I was hoping for coming here," Cammalleri said.

"We'll see what happens. If we're playing in June then it'll be everything I hoped for. But at this point it's been good."

His production this season has made him a fan favourite in Calgary.

"I've really enjoyed playing in Canada," Cammalleri said. "Calgary in particular has been pretty cool, the fans are extremely passionate, the city is passionate about their team, it's a pretty special thing.

"I think for us as players, there's definitely a responsibility that goes with that.

'PRETTY SPECIAL'

"When people's happiness depends on our success as a team, it's a pretty special responsibility and it's something we take seriously, and so far, the fans in Calgary have been exceptional."

With over 20 games left in the season, it's expected Cammalleri will set a new career high for goals in a season.

If he gets on a roll, the 40-goal plateau wouldn't be that far fetched.

"I'm not really worried about that," he said.

"I think we worry about how we're playing as a group and what we're trying to accomplish.

" If the goals go in for me or if they go in for someone else, it doesn't matter, as long as they go in."

His scoring prowess is the main reason he's being mentioned as a possible member of Team Canada at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

He's already represented his country at World Junior and World Championship tournaments.

"That would probably be the highest honour given to me at this point," Cammalleri said.

"I've played for Team Canada five times and I've really enjoyed it every time.

"To get a chance to be on that team would be great. I'll do everything I can to get a look."

DEREK.VANDIEST@SUNMEDIA.CA


Videos

Photos