SUN Hockey Pool

Flames prospect makes most of shot

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:56 AM ET

PENTICTON, B.C. - Dustin Sylvester took a gamble by going to Germany to play in the second division last season.

It paid off.

Sylvester, 22, had no tangible professional offers in North America after racking up 35 goals and 93 points for the Kootenay Ice in the 2009-10 season in big part because of his size.

The best chance offered to the 5-foot-8, 180-lb. centre came from across the Atlantic in the city of Freiburg.

Instead of moping and feeling disillusioned, Sylvester took it.

My agent told me if I went over there and had a good year, put up some numbers, opportunities would come over here. I thought I did that for myself and its happened, said the Kelowna, B.C. product. Its kinda hard coming out of junior to get a division one contract in Europe if you dont have an European passport.

Now, Im just gonna give it my best shot.

Sylvester led Freiburg with 34 goals and 60 points. In turn, he received a tryout from the Flames and earned himself an American Hockey League contract Wednesday.

Ive been to three other camps before and felt I put my best foot forward. Its great the Flames are believing in me and giving me a shot, he said.

And they obviously are liking what they see.

Abbotsford Heat head coach Troy Ward, whos running the bench for the Flames prospects during the Young Stars tournament in Penticton, B.C., was duly impressed with Sylvester after the teams second game, a 4-3 overtime loss to the Vancouver Canucks.

Sylvester earned himself a second look in Wednesday nights tilt against the Edmonton Oilers and scored a goal in a 4-3 win.

Hes a big guy in that little body. Hes a really dynamic guy because he really understands how to give-and-go and share the puck, Ward said. And hes not afraid in the corners. He sticks his nose in there.

Hell invite traffic to him and guys will hit him, but he has a low centre of gravity, so guys will bounce off him, and he can make the play. When I coached Jaromir Jagr, he was the same way. He actually wanted guys to bump him, and hed use that bump for momentum to get away and make a play. Hes not afraid of contract and uses it to his advantage.

Sylvester said going to Europe was a great experience, especially since hed never been there before.

One good thing about going to Europe is you get to do some travelling. You only play on Fridays and Sundays, so you have downtime, he said. It was great to see a different part of the world. Its a university city and a nice city.

It was a bit of a culture shock, getting over the language barrier and whatnot, but I adjusted.

Still, you know full well his goal is to play professionally in this part of the world. The NHL has its share of players his size in the likes of Montreals Brian Gionta and Nathan Gerbe and Tyler Ennis in Buffalo. The Flames have big hopes for Paul Byron.

Sylvester is aiming to be another on that list.

All my life, Ive been told Im too small, and that motivated me a bit to prove people wrong. I think Ive done that my whole life and want to do more of it, Sylvester said.


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