SUN Hockey Pool

Nemisz holding his own in Flames lineup

Flames forward Greg Nemisz battles against Sharks defenceman Jason Demers at the Scotiabank...

Flames forward Greg Nemisz battles against Sharks defenceman Jason Demers at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alta., March 13, 2012. (AL CHAREST/QMI Agency)

WES GILBERTSON, QMI AGency

, Last Updated: 12:03 AM ET

CALGARY - Turns out two recent first-round selections are holding their own on the Calgary Flames' third line.

Everybody has been talking about the offensive exploits of emergency callup Sven Baertschi.

But skating in the shadow of his 19-year-old linemate, broad-shouldered centre Greg Nemisz -- still a youngster himself at 21 -- has also looked more like a legitimate NHLer in his fourth stint with the big club.

"I definitely feel the most comfortable I've ever been up here," Nemisz said. "You learn every time you're up. Being around these guys, you pick up little things and you try to use it. It's been a journey, but I'm learning a lot, and I'm still young, so it's been good."

He's been good lately.

Nemisz has been skating up the middle on the Flames' third unit, flanked by Baertschi and veteran Tom Kostopolous. Now in his eighth full NHL season, Kostopolous has 604 NHL appearances on his resume. Including Thursday's showdown with the Phoenix Coyotes, Nemisz (13) and Baertschi (4) have combined for 17 big-league outings.

"It's been a lot of fun to play with both young guys," Kostopolous said after Thursday's morning skate at the Saddledome. "With the two of them, the similarities have been the excitement and their enthusiasm and the attitude they've brought to the rink every day. They're different in games. I think Nemisz can be a big, strong centreman, a two-way player. He's good defensively, he can contribute offence, and he can just be a solid all-around player.

"And then Baertschi has that extra bit of skill where he's nifty with puck, creates things offensively, and he's got that speed down the left side. Both of them, I think, are great prospects for Calgary. In another few years, they'll be real dominant in this league."

Baertschi has shown offensive sizzle since his emergency summons from the WHL's Portland Winterhawks, but Nemisz has also served a reminder he should be part of future plans at the Saddledome.

Although the majority of his shifts with the AHL's Abbotsford Heat have come on the wing, the 6-foot-3, 197-pounder hasn't looked out of place at centre. After Thursday's morning skate, head coach Brent Sutter called Nemisz a "smart player" and said he's "responded well" to the switch.

Baertschi, meanwhile, could hardly believe centre wasn't his natural position.

"I actually asked him, 'You play centre, right?' And he said, 'No, normally I play the wing, but I play centre sometimes.' I'm really impressed with the way he plays," Baertschi said. "He just does a great job out there. He's working really hard. He goes to the net. He does the dirty work back in our zone. As a winger, it's the easiest thing ever if our centre brings out the puck, and we can take off and go. If our centre does a great job, we're moving forward."

Nemisz, who has worked to improve his skating and fitness level, feels like his career is moving in the right direction, too.

The 25th-overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, his development has been slowed by injuries, including a shoulder issue that cost him about five weeks earlier this year. He's a likely candidate to return to the Heat once a couple of Flames forwards get healthy -- Lee Stempniak (ankle) and Lance Bouma (upper-body) both skated with the main group Thursday morning -- but Nemisz is only thinking about making the most of his current opportunity.

"It's been awesome. Every game is so intense, and that's how you become better," Nemisz said. "You play all these big games that matter so much, and if you can perform, it's a big step in your career."

wes.gilbertson@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNGilbertson


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