SUN Hockey Pool

Chucko aims to bust out

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:14 AM ET

CALGARY - The re-signing this summer of Kris Chucko had some people scratching their heads.

Drafted by the Flames in the first round in 2004, the 24-year-old has been called a first-round bust by virtue of his two NHL games since.

How does he like that label?

"Obviously, it pisses you off," Chucko said of the reputation he's had to fight for four pro seasons since leaving the University of Minnesota.

"It is tough. It's something to be proud of, something you work at. At the same time, everyone knows it's just a number.

"You can't help where you're picked. You just have to go do your work. That's what I try to do."

He's got his work cut out for him, but not just because of the battle to live up to expectations that accompany his draft position.

Chucko faced a more grim challenge last season when he suffered a concussion just after Christmas and sat out for months.

"It was kind of a whiplash hit," he said. "As the game went on, I felt worse and worse. I met with the doc and I felt pretty bad after.

"About two or three days later, I just went into a state that I don't ever want to go back into -- basically living in darkness for a couple of weeks."

Sleep was the only thing that didn't make him nauseous.

"I couldn't read, couldn't listen to the radio, couldn't watch TV," Chucko said.

He couldn't even eat out.

"I tried to go out for lunch about three weeks in, just with my girl. We went to a sushi place and got in the restaurant. There were noises from everywhere. I said, 'We have to get it to go.'

"I went and stood on the street because I wanted some fresh air. Cars were going by and I started to get sick on the street.

"I basically went into a dark room and laid there and tried to sleep as much as I could."

Going through the initial treatment of his first head injury, Chucko wondered why the list of symptoms included depression.

He found out quickly enough.

"Why would I be depressed?," Chucko said.

"But then two weeks in and you haven't done a thing but sit in the dark and you're like, 'OK, I'm starting to see the depression starting to come now.'"

Despite all that's been heaped on his shoulders, the 6-foot-2, 190-pounder is far from negative about his future.

"I didn't come here to get sent down," said the Burnaby, B.C. product, who has 66 goals and 127 points in 275 AHL games.

"We're all here to make an impression. And if we don't make it, hopefully the impression is made when it's time to call somebody up.

"I've never been the naturally skilled guy. I've always had to work for what I get. It's never come easy.

"I'm always the guy that has to work the hardest. At the end of the day, that's kind of what I pride myself in."


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