Bigger, faster and stronger.
In comparison to most major junior players, National Hockey League skaters are all of the above. Haydn Fleury discovered exactly that when he attended the rookie and main camps of the Carolina Hurricanes, and yet he also noticed another major difference between juniors and pros — work habits.
“Just the pace that those guys play at and the work they put in each and every day to be pros who play for 10 to 12 years . . . just the habits they have, those are things I have to bring back to the team and help our guys out with,” the Red Deer Rebels defenceman said Thursday, prior to a practice session leading into tonight’s 7 p.m. clash with the visiting Medicine Hat Tigers.
“If I can adapt those work habits I’ll become a better player here and a better pro in the long run.”
Fleury was reassigned by the Hurricanes, who selected the six-foot-three product of Carlyle, Sask., seventh overall in this year’s NHL entry draft, to the Rebels late last week. He remains a work in progress, but is also a highly-regarded prospect and a player the Carolina organization hopes to see in ‘Canes silks sooner than later.
When Fleury received his pink slip, he was told by the Carolina coaching staff to continue working on the defensive side of his game with the Rebels this season.
“I just need to keep getting stronger, keep maturing my game and avoid making the big mistakes when I’m trying to skate the puck,” he said. “They told me to just keep it simple, manage the game better and be ready to make their team full time next year.”
Fleury, as the Rebels No. 1 rearguard, will certainly get all the ice time he requires this winter to continue to progress while showcasing his skills.
“I need to be very trustworthy for the coaches this year. I’m 18 now and I can’t be making the mistakes I was making when I was 16 and 17,” said Fleury, who attended the Hockey Canada national junior team summer development camp in Quebec in August.
“I felt really good (at the summer camp) and I thought I played really well and put myself into a good position coming into this season,” he continued.
His chances of being invited to the final selection camp in December will hinge on how he performs between now and then.
Tonight’s game will be Fleury’s third since being returned to the Rebels. He’s without a point through his first two outings and is minus-2 in the plus/minus category.
“I have to get back to my game as fast as I can. I struggled a bit in the first two games, but I felt good in practice this week and I’m ready to take big step here for us,” he said.
Rebels associate coach Jeff Truitt isn’t surprised regarding Fleury’s rather slow start to the season. He’s also confident the big blueliner will be back in fine form in short order.
“He made great strides last year and now that he’s back from Carolina there will be a bit of a period of adjustment. What he has to do now is build on that foundation on a team-first concept,” said Truitt.
“It’s a little tough being in a National Hockey League camp, then coming back here and wanting to do everything on your own. What has to happen now is he has to really buy in, and he can and he has. It’s just a matter of now that he’s in that period of transition he has to understand exactly what we’re doing.
“We’ve made some changes from last year’s strategies and he has to be able to understand those things.”
Fleury will, with his skating and puck-moving skills, be a major part of the team this season, Truitt added.
“We’re looking for big things from him, obviously. He’s an experienced guy now and it’s time for him to take another step up.”