SUN Hockey Pool

Byron feels he's got a decent shot at Flames

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:04 PM ET

CALGARY - Paul Byron knew the score long before the puck dropped in Tuesday’s pre-season game.

He had an inkling during Monday’s practice.

Byron, the diminutive young centre acquired by the Calgary Flames in the trade with the Buffalo Sabres which saw Robyn Regehr go the other way, skated on a line with Alex Tanguay and Rene Bourque.

Considering that session was in anticipation of the clash with the Vancouver Canucks hopefuls — a 5-1 Flames win — it didn’t take a brain surgeon to figure things out.

The chance he was hoping would arise from the trade was at hand.

“Absolutely. Can’t complain about playing with those two guys,” Byron said in the aftermath of Tuesday’s game. “They’re a couple of the best players on this team, and they’re very gifted and very skilled guys. I’m thankful for that opportunity.

“I knew going in I had to try and make the most of that opportunity and think I did.”

Byron certainly did that. The 22-year-old collected an assist on Tanguay’s goal and dished out a couple of hits during a good first-step performance.

It’s amazing to see what somebody can achieve when given an opportunity, not to mention having some experience under their belt.

“Last year, I only played two (pre-season games), and they were my first two games, and I was a little more nervous,” Byron said. “I felt more relaxed, more calm and poised, and I think it was really important to be like that and not worry about nerves.”

It didn’t hurt to be playing on a line with a right-winger who is coming off consecutive 27-goal seasons in Bourque and a left-winger known for his sublime set-up skills while also boasting six seasons with 20 or more goals.

“They were telling me to just keep going,” Byron said of the advice he received from the vets throughout the game. “We were playing well early on. They were trying to have fun out there, and I was trying to have fun with them.”

Sounds strange to hear a player who is on the bubble in the battle for a spot on a NHL roster say he was just trying to have fun, but Byron is in that mindset for a good reason.

He truly believes the Flames want him to push for a spot on the opening night roster and become a full-time NHLer.

“I think I can bring something to the table this team doesn’t really have. I feel I can create a lot of speed and a lot of energy, get on the forecheck hard and be first on the puck,” he said. “I think that’s something the team might have been lacking last year, that little bit of energy when it was needed. Hopefully, I can be that guy to bring it.

“I think I’m in a different position now. I’m 22 years old and played a couple of years in the American Hockey League. I’m competing for a spot now, trying to make a name for myself and earn a spot on this team. In Buffalo, I figured I’d be in Portland (of the AHL).

“I’m in a different role and with higher expectations for myself.”

Although a scorer in junior and the minors — he netted 26 goals and 53 points in 67 AHL clashes last season — Byron doesn’t believe offence is his key to playing at the NHL level.

“I need to bring a lot of intensity, a lot of compete level,” he said. “I think I bring a lot of speed and help the other guys on the team by how hard I compete when they see such a small guy battling hard.”


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