SUN Hockey Pool

Sneak peek was prophetic

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:05 AM ET

The prophecy came true.

At least for Ryan Howse.

A few years ago, Howse was in Calgary with the rest of his midget team from Prince George for the Mac's Tournament.

Being a squad from Northern British Columbia, Flames coach Jim Playfair greeted them, first at one of their games, and then brought them to the Saddledome for a visit.

Playfair's words that day have stuck with Howse ever since.

"The one thing was, 'Some of you guys might not be too far away from this. Maybe, one day, one of you guys will be sitting in this room,' " recalled the forward drafted in the third round last month. "It's pretty neat to have him say that and a couple of years later, I'm sitting here."

A couple of good, albeit tough, years later with the WHL's Chilliwack Bruins.

This past year was so tough, some days the carrot was hard to see.

Battling through a disappointing campaign with the Bruins, there were days Howse admits being down in the dumps.

Even with the draft looming, it was tough to have all the spring in his step.

"I think it was testing me," Howse said. "You have to learn how to battle through those things and not let it bother you or get you down. Sometimes, I'll admit, it did get me down and I was frustrated, and it happened more than once, but I learned to bear down and battle through that and be more consistent."

Battling through the frustration was well worth it in the end. Howse led the Bruins, who won only 19 games, with 31 goals and 44 points and was chosen by the Flames 74th overall.

"I thought it would be Calgary or Dallas," he said. "Dallas flew me out before the combine and met with me. I thought it would be a waste if they didn't draft me. When I met with Calgary at the combine, the meeting went really well, they showed interest, and here I am now.

"I had no idea where I was going to go, second round or the seventh round. I talked to a few teams and they didn't give me a hint, so it was up in the air. I didn't know what to expect, just sat and waited for the call. When it was Calgary, I was pretty happy."

He should be. Going that high in the draft wasn't expected a few months earlier.

Howse -- Chilliwack's first ever draft choice, third overall in the WHL's bantam draft -- was ranked 51st among North American skaters when the Central Scouting Bureau released its mid-term report. He climbed to 37th for the final rankings, proof positive his performance on a struggling team with very little offensive support didn't go unnoticed.

"When I noticed that, it made me pretty happy," he said. "At the start of the year, I was ranked low and the next one it still wasn't very good. But it started getting better and better, so I knew it was a good sign."

Even more important is the fact the Flames traded up to nab the 5-foot-11, 195-lb. forward who tends to play on his off wing. Calgary dealt away a pair of picks to move up 10 spots. He didn't know what wheelings and dealings went into the draft choice, since he decided to forego a trip to Montreal and stayed home while it was going on.

"I knew I wasn't going to be a first-rounder, and not likely a second rounder, so we decided not to go," he said. "I thought it was best to stay with my family and celebrate. It ended up a perfect day."

Now comes the future.

Howse is ticketed to spend the season in Chilliwack, and the onus will be on him to take his game to the next level. Chilliwack will be in tough to make the playoffs again this season, going through the progression from expansion team to an established squad.

He'll be counted on to continue scoring -- his forte is speed off the wing -- but also develop his whole game, especially on the defensive side of the puck.

"Now that we've got the new coach in Marc Habscheid," he said. "I've heard defence is a first priority and top priority. I'm excited to hear that and know that's one area of my game I really need to work on.

"If I get stronger at that, become faster and stronger and bigger, hopefully in the years to come, I will be sitting in here."


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