Calgary Flames rugged forward Micheal Ferland sees how other half lives on top line
When last we saw Micheal Ferland, he was banging and crashing so dynamically he attracted the attention of not only Kevin Bieksa and Jim Rome but a few sign-toting Calgarians who wanted him to run for mayor.
Fast-forward to Friday’s first day of Calgary Flames training camp, and the 23-year-old is apparently still on top of the world.
Armed with a one-way, two-year deal worth US$825,000 annually, Ferland arrived at WinSport to news he would scrimmage on the first line with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau.
“I was pretty happy to see that,” said the second-year left-winger who looked comfortable playing on the right side.
“I’ll have to work on a few things in practice, like getting pucks out on the right side. But I’ll play centre if I have to with those two.”
A 47-goal scorer with the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings four years back, what makes Ferland’s future so intriguing is the possibility of taking the team’s top banger from the playoffs and using him in the top-six, where he could not only create space and provide muscle around the big boys but finish as well.
“I feel I can play on the top two lines, but if I have to play on the bottom-six I’m fine — I feel I can adjust my game,” said Ferland, one of last year’s feel-good stories for overcoming earlier alcohol issues.
“I feel I can go to the net and take pucks hard. I told them I’d have my stick ready at all times.”
More than anything, Ferland just wants to stick around.
Despite his NHL breakthrough last spring, Ferland knows he isn’t necessarily a lock to stay with the club, which is why he still rents in town.
“I just don’t want to buy a place and make the staff think I’m comfortable,” Ferland said. “I don’t want to buy and get sent down to the farm team.”
Demonstrating just how versatile he can be in the playoffs with two goals and three helpers in nine games, the 6-foot-2, 210-lb. banger is smart enough to know he can’t sustain the hit parade he threw at the Vancouver Canucks and the Anaheim Ducks over an 82-game schedule.
After all, he couldn’t even last a month last April without injuring himself.
“No, I don’t think I can manage eight hits a night, but I’m still going for five hits a night — that will be my goal,” said Ferland, who chalked up his playoff success to his increased confidence. “Last year that was kind of my role — I just wanted to hit everything that moved, but I don’t think I can play that way for 80 games for sure. I’m not just going to go out and hit everyone — I’m going to play, too.
“I just want to have a good camp and try to impress the coaching staff. Whatever happens, I just want to be on this team.”
So far so good, as Ferland opened his camp Thursday with solid fitness-testing, earning him the chance to strut his stuff alongside Johnny and Mony.
“I beat all my results from last year,” said the native of Swan River, Man., who spent his second-straight summer in Calgary under the watchful eye of Flames strength and conditioning coach Ryan van Asten. “My goal every year is conditioning — to have low body fat and keep my weight low — but this is the best shape I’ve been in in my life, and I’m happy with that.”
As the eighth-highest scoring player in the NHL last year, no one is suggesting Jiri Hudler’s days on the Flames top line are over. Hudler found himself skating alongside Sam Bennett and Mason Raymond on Friday, while Mikael Backlund was flanked by Lance Bouma and Michael Frolik.
However, skating Ferland with the big guns allows him to prove he can keep up, opening the door for so many possibilities as head coach Bob Hartley pieces together his forward lines.
How many goals does the junior sniper think he’s capable of scoring at the NHL level if given a chance?
“I’m not too sure,” Ferland said.
“I don’t really want to say a number, but hopefully, the goals will come.”
If things continue trending as they are, they most certainly will.