SUN Hockey Pool

Flames rookies dress to impress

Mikael Backlund headlines the Flames prospects beginning today for a week-long look-see by staff at...

Mikael Backlund headlines the Flames prospects beginning today for a week-long look-see by staff at the Saddledome. (QMI Agency/Darren Makowichuk)

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:12 AM ET

Hockey might be the last thing on your mind amid summer heat and football season.

But you can bet many curious Calgary Flames fans will flock to the Saddledome this week for a sneak peak at the prospects.

The annual summer development camp kicks off Monday afternoon at the Dome, with 34 of the organizationís hopefuls coming to Calgary to partake in power skating drills and training sessions designed to give them a better understanding of what it takes to make the NHL.

One of them has already had a taste.

Coming off his first pro season, Mikael Backlund headlines the group.

Playing 23 games with the Flames a year ago, the 20-year-old has a good shot at sticking with the Flames after training camp ends a couple of months from now.

With speed, skill and a whole lot of knowledge he accumulated splitting last season between the AHL Abbotsford Heat and the NHL Flames, Backlund should stick out during drills and scrimmages taking place this week.

Other veteran development campers, such as goalie Leland Irving and centre John Armstrong, will be scrutinized, too. Both Irving and Armstrong are entering the final year of their entry-level deals with the Flames but have yet to make their mark in the pros ó Irving unable to lock down a No. 1 role in the minors and Armstrong unable to simply stay healthy.

But letís be honest, the idea of watching the newcomers hit the ice in Calgary for the first time is what will likely bring father/son Flames fans enjoying some time off in the peak of summer to an ice-cold location.

Five of the six players taken last month in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft will hit the ice.

Defenceman Joey Leach, and forwards Bill Arnold, Michael Ferland, Patrick Holland and Max Reinhart will be on display.

So will undrafted free agents Chris Breen, a 6-foot-7 defenceman who played five OHL seasons, and Bryan Cameron, an offensive sniper who scored at least 20 goals in all five of his OHL campaigns with the Belleville Bulls and the Barrie Colts.

Goaltender J.P. Lamoureux recently signed up to push Irving and Matt Keetley in the minors, and heíll be tending the twine this week along with Irving, Edmonton Oil Kings netminder Cam Lanigan and Finn Joni Ortio.

Lanigan will be present as an invitee along with former Calgary Hitmen blueliner Giffen Nyren, who are both on amateur tryout agreements.

Thereís little competition involved, but plenty of questions will be answered.

Among them ó has Greg Nemiszís skating improved? The Flamesí first-round pick in the 2008 draft was on pace for his best season with the Windsor Spitfires last year but suffered a groin injury that forced him out of the OHL all-star game.Later in the season, he took 45 stitches on his thigh after being cut by a skate.

He never really recovered offensively and was shifted to centre for more of a two-way role. His skating is the biggest issue surrounding his jump to the pro ranks this season.

With power-skating sessions scheduled from Tuesday to Friday (9 a.m.), he and the rest of the Flames prospects will get plenty of opportunity to advance.

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca


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