SUN Hockey Pool

Juniors, prospects axed from Flames

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:18 AM ET

CALGARY - Their future with the Calgary Flames appears bright.

That didnít take away the sting of being sent back to the junior ranks for either of the teamís blue-chip prospects, Sven Baertschi and Max Reinhart.

ďItís tough,Ē said Baertschi, the 18-year-old Swiss winger drafted 24th overall by the Flames this summer.

The disappointment in his voice comes through clearly through the phone as he prepared to hop on a plane.

ďI was hoping I would get the chance to start the season with them. But itís their decision,Ē Baertschi continued. ďOne thing is for sure, they want to start with the best team available. If I donít fit in, itís not their fault.Ē

Itís not his fault, either.

Despite showing the kind of skills and hustle that will one day make him an excellent professional, Baertschi simply isnít big enough yet. He put up a good fight but wasnít able to win enough battles along the boards in his pre-season action to prove he was ready to make the jump from the WHLís Portland WinterHawks to the NHL.

ďIím 18, so I donít have the body of Jarome Iginla,Ē said Baertschi, still a little stunned his camp has come to an end. ďI was really happy with all the exhibition games.Ē

He played in all of them following a three-game stint in the Young Stars tournament in Penticton, B.C., and suited up in another exhibition clash against the University of Calgary Dinos, and you could see Baertschiís intelligence and talent shine through.

But you could also see his strength wasnít at a level necessary for the grind of a long season against the worldís elite.

ďI kind of expected to maybe play the next two exhibition games and maybe get a shot there in a regular-season game,Ē Baertschi said. ďBut if it doesnít work, it doesnít work.Ē

Because of an illness, Reinhart only got into one exhibition game after the prospects tourney, but the 19-year-old has the organization and its fans equally excited about his potential.

ďI accomplished most of what I wanted to accomplish this year in camp,Ē said Reinhart, whoís being shipped back to the WHLís Kootenay Ice. ďI showed them that last season wasnít just a fluke. I actually developed.

ďItís tough being sent back, but at the same time, gaining the expereince that I did, I understand there are a few parts of my game that I need to work on. Iíll take that back to Cranbrook with me and improve on them this season.

ďItís not such a bad thing to go back to junior. Itís an extra year to put on weight, get stronger and really develop my game.Ē

Heading to join the AHL Abbotsford Heat are forwards Carter Bancks, Stefan Meyer, Greg Nemisz, Gaelan Patterson and Ben Walter, defencemen T.J. Brodie, Chris Breen, Brendan Mikkelson, Clay Wilson and Joe Piskula and goaltenders Leland Irving and Joni Ortio.

Any of them could be called up this season. For the junior kids, though, thereís no coming back until next fall.

Neither of them want to let that next opportunity slip.

ďThereís a long way to go, but thatís what my goal is. I want to be able to say Iím ready to make that next step,Ē Reinhart said. ďA lot of that will be determined by how I play this year.Ē

ďThey told me, too, that Iím very close. Itís just little things that make the difference,Ē Baertschi said. ďI really try to work on those little details, so I can make sure Iím ready.

ďIíll just try to make sure next year, when I come into camp, thereís just one goal ó and thatís to make the team.

ďItíll be different next year.Ē

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNMacfarlane


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