CALGARY — The Calgary Flames job market is tight heading into training camp, but general manager Brad Treliving likes the fact he has “old rookies” pushing for positions.
Right-winger Spencer Foo, 23, was a highly-coveted college free agent this summer when he signed with the Flames.
The Edmonton native spent time in Calgary recently skating with veteran Flames and preparing for his first NHL training camp.
Foo and the Flames head to Penticton, B.C., for the Young Stars tournament starting Friday against their rookie counterparts with the Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets.
“It’s obviously a big weekend for me,” Foo said Thursday after physical testing. “It’ll be the first time I get to put on that jersey and really kind of show why they wanted to sign me.
“I have high expectations of myself. Obviously the Flames do as well. I have to come out and perform to the best of my abilities and that’s what I’m planning on doing.”
After compiling 26 goals and 36 assists in 38 games for Union College last season, the Hobey Baker finalist announced he would forego his senior year even though his brother, Parker, will play for the Dutchman as a freshman next season.
The Flames signed the six-foot, 180-pound right-winger to a two-year, entry-level contract _ a US$925,000 annual salary plus bonuses according to CapFriendly.com.
Defencemen Juuso Valimaki, 18, will get attention in Penticton, B.C., because he was Calgary’s first-round draft pick in June at No. 16 overall.
But Foo and 22-year-old centre Mark Jankowski are considered the prime candidates to crack Calgary’s roster at some point this season, if not in training camp.
“The fact they’re both a little bit older I think gives them a leg up,” Treliving said. “They’re not wide-eyed.
“This is Foo’s first camp, but again, he’s not an 18-year-old kid. He’s been around here all summer. There will be some learning going on for him. This is the first time he’s been to an NHL camp.
“Mark’s been through this before. The interesting stuff for Mark now is going from eyes wide open at a camp, kind of lose-that-respect factor and get into ‘I’m-going-to-make-the-team’ factor.”
Jankowski, a first round-pick in 2012 at No. 21, had 27 goals and 29 assists in the American Hockey League last winter, his first full pro season out of Providence College.
The six-foot-four, 202-pound centre from Hamilton was called up for one NHL game in December.
Treliving’s re-signing of forwards Micheal Ferland, Sam Bennett, Kris Versteeg and Curtis Lazar in the off-season didn’t leave a lot of room up front for Foo and Jankowski.
The GM says there are “a couple” jobs up for grabs, however.
“We made a conscious effort a year or two ago to turn things over and we infused a lot of young players into our farm system,” Treliving explained. “Now you look at that group of young players. They’re not 18 coming out of junior. They’re 20, 21, they’ve had a year or two or three of American league experience, they’re ready to push.
“When you have a bottom push, when you have people coming into camp that legitimately are either going to play games for you during the year or are able to rip a stop away in September, October in training camp, now you become a high-functioning organization.”
The signing of Bennett on Wednesday to a two-year contract worth $1.95 million annually caps a busy off-season for Treliving.
But the Flames won’t be in the position they were last year, when top-line winger Johnny Gaudreau stayed away from training camp while his contract extension was negotiated.
“You want to get everybody here on time,” Treliving said. ”You need reps and you need your group together and the coaches are implementing all the things that they’re going to.
“Having everybody on the same page from Day 1, not only just from a playing standpoint, you don’t have to worry about questions about other things. You’re worried about the on-ice stuff.”