NASHVILLE — Brendan Mikkelson figured he was destined for minor-leagues bus rides.
However, being claimed off waivers by the Calgary Flames from the Anaheim Ducks has given the defenceman new life.
“I was prepared to go to Syracuse,” Mikkelson said from the Los Angeles airport as he waited to catch a flight and join his new team.
“As soon as I heard the call and let things sink in, I was very excited.
“I’m taking it a little bit as a fresh start.”
Mikkelson could use it. Now the key is to make the most of it.
Anaheim’s second-round pick, 31st overall, in 2005, Mikkelson arrived to the pro ranks with big promise.
He’s blessed with both the speed and size — at 6-foot-3, 205-lb. — to have an impact.
A prime example of what he can do came in Anaheim’s 4-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks last week.
He jumped into the rush as the trailer and made a perfect pass which led to Corey Perry’s goal. Yet, the 23-year-old who was born in Regina and grew up in St. Albert hasn’t been able to make the jump as a full-time NHLer.
He’s skated in 67 NHL games over the past three seasons, in which he’s netted five assists and 38 penalty minutes, but things haven’t clicked.
“That’s a tough question,” he replied when asked what’s holding him back.
“When you’re up and down a bit, it forces you to take a look at your play and yourself as a player. I would say it’s consistency. I’d play a couple of good games and then take a step back.”
To make room for Mikkelson, the Flames sent 20-year-old rookie T.J. Brodie to the AHL Abbotsford Heat.
Brodie earned a spot in the starting lineup with an excellent training camp and pre-season, but needs the ice time he’ll receive in the minors instead of being a bit part in Calgary.
Instead of Brodie being in and out of the lineup, Mikkelson will be in the position of trying to crack into the top six.
“He’s a guy still trying to find his way at the NHL level,” Flames head coach Brent Sutter said of Mikkelson.
“He’s got a little bit of experience and someone that can add depth to our organization in the back end and give a push here.”
The Flames were looking to add a defenceman due to injuries.
Adam Pardy is out of Calgary’s lineup indefinitely due to a dislocated shoulder, while Heat blueliner John Negrin — a third-round pick in 2007 — needs another knee surgery.
Screws put in place last year to help Negrin’s broken kneecap remain intact broke, according to Flames assistant GM Jay Feaster, so another procedure is necessary.
Negrin is expected to miss at least a couple of months.