Brodie gets top billing

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:54 PM ET

The e-mail came early Friday evening.

The message was a huge boost for T.J. Brodie.

On the eve of the first day of the on-ice portion of training camp, all the Calgary Flames were sent a message detailing the groups and what time they were skating at the Saddledome.

When Brodie, the first-year pro defenceman, saw his name, he realized he was with all the club's veterans and one of only a couple of prospects part of the early session.

"At first, I thought it might be a mistake," Brodie said with a laugh. "Then, I started to get ready. I was a little bit nervous coming in but anxious at the same time.

"It's pretty cool to be with all these guys you've watched on TV the last couple of years."

Eight blueliners were part of the morning session, a group which included Robyn Regehr, Ian White, Jay Bouwmeester, Steve Staios, Cory Sarich, Mark Giordano, Adam Pardy and the 20-year-old chosen in the fourth round of the 2008 draft.

"It's pretty intimidating first skating with all those guys," Brodie said. "At the same time, it's a great opportunity and a neat experience. If I want to get to the next level, I've got to play with the guys at the next level, and that will help out."

Brodie's performance during the rookie camp and prospects tournament warrants a serious look during main camp.

He likely needs at least a year in the minors and could use more size being 6-foot-1, 182-lb., but Brodie is indeed a rising star among the Calgary club's crew of prospects.

"He reminds me of Mark Giordano -- the way Mark kept coming in and showing us he had the quick feet, could see the ice and move the puck ..." said Abbotsford Heat head coach Jim Playfair. "The thing I like about Brodie is it's a natural way he plays the game. He doesn't struggle to try and jump up into the play. It's just a natural way he plays."

Brodie has been climbing the charts since his first camp. At the 2008 prospects tournament featuring games between hopefuls of the Calgary Flames, the Edmonton Oilers and the Vancouver Canucks, he immediately stepped forward.

Last season, split between Saginaw and Barrie of the OHL, he collected seven goals and 49 assists.

"He was Barrie's best player -- hands-down -- when we played them in the finals," said 2008 Flames first-rounder Greg Nemisz, who was a member of the Memorial Cup champion Windsor Spitfires.

Added former Barrie teammate and fellow Flames prospect Bryan Cameron: "There's no reason he can't be in the NHL soon. He's all-around such a strong player. There are some guys who have got it. It just comes to them naturally, and he's one of those guys. He has that awareness on the ice with the puck and without the puck, and it's something that, a lot of times, can't be taught."

All players arrive at training camp with high hopes, wanting to make the big club.

Brodie is no different, but he also knows he must develop a few aspects of his game.

At least he should have a definite shot down the road.

"I still have a ways to go -- I have to gain some weight," Brodie said. "But hopefully, this puts me in a good spot."

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