Chucko's debut quiet

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:13 PM ET

RALEIGH, NC -- Olli Jokinen was playing his first game for the Calgary Flames.

Jordan Leopold made his return, too.

With their offensive performances, the trade-deadline acquisitions were easily the big story in Thursday night's win 5-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.

So much so, the NHL debut of 2004 first-round draft choice Kris Chucko was nearly swept under the rug.

"That's probably a good thing," Chucko said after partaking in the morning skate in Carolina before last night's game against the Hurricanes. "Those guys deserve it. They're very good and are going to be big parts of this team. To be able to go out and just play and not worry about everything else around it probably helps you.

"It's the second day before I got to talk (to you), and that's fine with me. You know what, if Olli goes and scores two goals (against the Hurricanes), I won't talk to you tomorrow, and that's all right. I'm just going to go out and do my role and hopefully I'm here to talk to you on day 3, 4, 5."

Nothing wrong with some long-term thinking. Of course, the NHL has been a long-term process for Chucko, who'll celebrate his 23rd birthday next week.

He may have been chosen 24th overall, but even Chucko knows he was considered a 'project' by the Flames.

He has size, but the 6-foot-2, 195-lb. right wing from Burnaby, B.C., must continue to work constantly to improve his skating.

The good news is he's taken a bigger role with the AHL Quad City Flames, and made the most of it with 20 goals and 38 points, playing mostly on the top line with Jamie Lundmark and Kyle Grentree.

"I've started penalty killing, too, and playing with Lundy and Greentree has been great for my development," Chucko said. "Coach (Ryan) McGill has put a lot of confidence in me,. I'm playing lots and playing all the roles I've always wanted. It's a stepping stone to get here, and this is the year I've been able to step into that role and I'm putting a few more in the net than years past.

"To be a penalty killer, the coach has to have faith in your skating, lateral movement and all that. That was a big (boost)," he said. "Also, handling the load, the minutes, PK brings. I think the real growth for me has been coming to the rink every night and being effective every night. Last year, I think I showed signs of it late in the year and here and there, but I really focused on bringing it every night and think I've done a pretty good job so far."

It just took a while for him to receive his big-league shot. Chucko is the sixth player summoned from the minors this season, but says he has no ill feelings to have been so far down the list when having something of a breakout season.

"They're good friends and it's exciting for them. Everybody's working their butt off, so they all deserve it. You have to keep working, and with success, hopefully, your time will come and eventually it did," he said. "You have to keep a good attitude because you never know when it'll come, and if don't, you're not going to get called up by having a bad attitude."


Videos

Photos