CALGARY — When Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving signed forward Michael Frolik, the GM described him as a “Swiss Army knife.”
The multi-purpose right-winger has spent training camp adapting to his new team and finding out where head coach Bob Hartley believes he’ll be the most useful.
Frolik has seen a lot of 19-year-old rookie sensation Sam Bennett on either his opposite wing or at centre on Calgary’s second line during the pre-season.
“Most of the games I’ve played with Sammy,” Frolik said Wednesday. “He’s a young guy, but a really skilled and smart player. I like playing with skilled guys who can make plays and I think he’s a guy who can do it.
“Every day I feel we build a little bit more chemistry and hopefully if we stay together, we keep building.”
The Flames conclude the pre-season with games against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday and Saturday before opening the regular season Oct. 7 at home against Vancouver.
After a pair of 42-point seasons with the Jets, the 27-year-old Czech signed a five-year contract with the Flames in July worth US$4.3 million annually.
Frolik won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013 as a defensive forward on their checking line, although he assisted on Dave Bolland’s Cup-winning goal. Chicago subsequently dealt Frolik to Winnipeg in a salary dump.
Frolik ranked among the top three performers in fitness testing to open Calgary’s main camp. He’s been a standout in the pre-season with a team-leading four points (two goals, two assists) and a team-high 14 shots in three games.
The six-foot-one 200-pounder from Kladno scored a pretty goal with a soccer move — kicking the puck with his right skate to his forehand — in a 4-1 exhibition win over Vancouver last week.
“I think I’ve proved during my career I can be an offensive guy and a defensive guy too,” Frolik said. “Obviously it’s a little more fun where you can play more offence. It’s kind of why I signed here because I could see the opportunity here that I can have here.”
He says he’s still getting the hang of Calgary’s galloping, high-pressure attack.
“There is a lot of offence here and the system is a little bit different than what I was used to,” Frolik acknowledged. “It’s a little bit more stretching and going behind the defence. In Winnipeg we kind of were always under the puck.”
If they continue as linemates, Hartley believes Frolik can be an on-ice mentor for Bennett. Frolik said he had a similar role in Winnipeg in Mark Scheifele’s rookie season.
“Obviously the coach cannot help any player while the play is going on on the ice,” Hartley explained. “A good veteran like Michael Frolik can, while the play is going on, talk to those young players, ‘Go there, I’ve got him,’ and come back to the bench and finish the explanations of what you want to get through to him.”
“(Frolik) is a very smart player, understands the game well. I think he’s going to become a big, big part of this team and at the same time a big helper for us.”
After the Florida Panthers drafted him 10th overall in 2006, Frolik moved to Canada and spent two seasons with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Rimouski Oceanic.
He lived with an English family and thus could understand and speak the language his first season with the Panthers in 2008-‘09. Hartley believes Frolik’s decision to come to North America as a teenager gave him a headstart on an NHL career.
“If you come at 17, 18 years old, you have a chance to go to school and learn the language. I think you put a big barrier out of your way,” Hartley said.
“I’ve coached Milan Hejduk in Colorado, I coached Josef Marha in Cornwall. The only way we could communicate for the first couple of weeks was with a piece of paper and a pencil.”