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Baertschi sent to play with Abbotsford Heat

In the lineup on an emergency call-up basis, Sven Baertschi mixed it up in his NHL debut (QMI...

In the lineup on an emergency call-up basis, Sven Baertschi mixed it up in his NHL debut (QMI Agency)

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:30 PM ET

CALGARY - Sven Baertschi is a look-on-the-bright-side sort.

So despite the gloom-and-doom of the NHL’s labour situation, it wasn’t shocking the Calgary Flames’ most exciting prospect preferred to think about the positives Friday after learning he’d officially been assigned to the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat.

“I know how the coaches are in the AHL, and I know there’s going to be some great guys around there, so that’s something I look forward to. Finally, I’m happy that I have a good place I can play,” Baertschi insisted. “Some guys probably have it worse. Some guys can’t go play in the AHL.”

A gaggle of guys eligible to skate in the top minor-league loop were formally assigned Friday as the NHL prepares to enter lockout mode Saturday at 9:59 p.m. MT.

Baertschi is the headliner on a list of 18 Flames prospects now headed to training camp with the Heat.

Also among the notable names who’ll be suiting up for the Flames affiliate during the work stoppage are defenceman T.J. Brodie, centre Roman Horak and winger Lance Bouma, all of whom logged icetime at the Saddledome this season.

Meanwhile, more established minor-leaguers Akim Aliu, Paul Byron, Krys Kolanos, Joe Piskula and Ben Walter were all exposed Friday to the waiver-wire — a must because of their service time — and are expected to be assigned to the Heat before Saturday’s expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement.

The news that Baertschi will start his first full professional campaign in Abbotsford, B.C., is no surprise.

The 19-year-old winger was eligible to return to the Portland Winterhawks for another campaign, but he has nothing left to prove at the junior level after winning the Western Hockey League’s playoff scoring race with 14 goals and 34 points in 20 post-season tilts.

He’s also shown he probably doesn’t need any more minor-league seasoning after lighting the lamp three times during a five-game emergency audition with the Flames last March.

However, with the lights out in NHL rinks until who knows when, the AHL is the next best option for up-and-comers.

During the lockout that spoiled the 2004-05 NHL campaign, Jason Spezza and Michael Cammalleri finished one-two on the AHL’s scoring charts. Eric Staal, Jay Bouwmeester, Marc-Andre Fleury and Ryan Miller — among others — also spent that winter in the minors.

Baertschi’s agent received a couple of calls from professional squads in Europe, but the team’s first-round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft didn’t want to stray too far from the Saddledome during the lockout.

“(The emergency recall) was my chance to show the people of Calgary that I’m ready to play in this league, and it went well during that time,” Baertschi said. “Now, it’s just another challenge. I want to make sure that people know that it wasn’t just luck, and that’s a big challenge for me now.

“In the end, there’s a lot of guys that want to make it in the NHL and a lot of guys try their best. I’m one of them.”

Ice Chips

The NHL and the NHLPA have a hearing with the Alberta Labour Relations Board for next Friday. The case is part of proceedings to decide if it’s legal to lockout the players in this province.

wes.gilbertson@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNGilbertson


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