SUN Hockey Pool

Brodie on the board

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:17 AM ET

CALGARY - Back at his childhood home in southwestern Ontario, there’s a room full of T.J. Brodie’s hockey accomplishments.

None of the souvenirs, though, hold a candle to the one that will be heading to Brodie’s parents’ home in Chatham in the near future.

Scoring his first NHL goal Sunday in St. Paul — the game-winner for his Calgary Flames in a 5-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild — Brodie figures he’ll take whatever the team creates as a memento after scooping the puck off the ice and ship it home to add to the collection.

“We’ll see what they do,” Brodie said after the game in Minnesota. “Probably just send it back to the parents and let them have it.

“I’ve got stuff all the way through minor hockey still. I’m sure they’ll just plop her in there.”

Plopping the puck through Niklas Backstrom’s legs in the first period of a 2-2 contest, Brodie admitted he was attempting a backhand pass to Tim Jackman and it just happened to get past the goalie.

But the goal wasn’t even the most impressive part of his game, and that’s why Flames fans have every reason to be excited about the prospect picked in the fourth round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

Fending off Colton Gillies in a one-on-one showdown in his own end and showing intelligence and confidence in his opportunities to handle the puck or join the rush, Brodie bounced back from a tough outing in St. Louis.

Against the Blues, he struggled at times.

He was the victim of a big hit from a much less fleet-of-foot Ryan Reaves, and was outmatched by David Backes at the blueline as the Blues star pushed the puck around the 21-year-old and then brushed by him on his way to a shorthanded goal.

“Yeah. It felt like one of those games where nothing could go right in St. Louis. Sometimes, less is better in those kind of games,” said Brodie, whose biggest fault at the NHL level may be his enthusiastic attempts to do too much. “I have to be aware on the ice who the other team has out there and keep my head on a swivel.”

Arguably the most positive thing to come out of the 1-3 road trip, Brodie’s improvement has been noted by head coach Brent Sutter, who has dressed the rookie for all eight games since Brodie was called up from the AHL Abbotsford Heat Nov. 10.

“He’s playing with lots of confidence,” said Sutter. “He’s a good, young player. He knows how to handle the puck and he’s smart with it.”

Last year, Brodie made his NHL debut with the Flames, starting the regular season with the big club. He suited up for three games before coaches realized he wasn’t ready to make the jump straight from the junior ranks.

After an equally rocky start in Abbotsford, where he was given the tough-love treatment by then-head coach Jim Playfair, he began to find the balance between offence and defence at the pro level.

Finishing with five goals and 34 points in 68 games with the Heat, Brodie became an AHL all-star.

He’s translating his experience into a solid start in the NHL now.

“I feel more confident, defensively especially. I’m using my stick better, trying to break up stuff, read stuff better,” he said. “I just feel more comfortable out there.

“Last year, I think once the season started I started gripping the stick a little bit too tight. It started to kick in that it was actually real. I didn’t really start thinking about it until the season started, then it started to hit me. I started to put pressure on.

“I play a better game when I’m relaxed. The comfort factor is big this year.”

He feels like he belongs. And now he has the souvenir puck to prove it.


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