Negrin fine-tuning his game in hopes of becoming a Flame
Prospect in WHL with Kootenay for another year
Kristen Odland, Calgary Herald
Published: Thursday, November 06, 2008
John Negrin was walking into familiar territory Monday night.
But rather than slipping into Calgary Flames home silks -- which the 19-year-old defender had done up until the end of September -- he tugged on his Kootenay Ice sweater and faced the Pengrowth Saddledome's other tenants.
And although his group lost 6-2 to the host Calgary Hitmen, the 70th overall pick from the 2007 NHL draft is trying to make the most of this Western Hockey League season.
Flames prospect John Negrin hits the ice in the crease to lend a hand to his goaltender during Kootenay's game against the Hitmen on Monday.
Ted Rhodes, Calgary Herald
"A goal of mine this summer was to play for the Calgary Flames this year," said Negrin, one of the club's final cuts from their preseason camp. "But now that I'm back in Kootenay, I'm going to work on the small things and try and be on that roster next year."
Negrin returned to the WHL on Sept. 27 to play, coincidentally, in the Saddledome against the Hitmen and notched two assists in a 3-2 shootout loss.
But despite playing under the same roof with the big boys only a few nights earlier in a pre-season tilt against the Florida Panthers, Negrin still had to switch gears.
"The first couple games back were really different and it was a big adjustment," he said. "I think when you're playing with the older guys and the professional hockey players, everything is just so fast. You have to make quick decisions.
"And then you come back (to junior) . . . it is a little different."
However, the redhead from Vancouver has a lot going for him already.
Negrin is one of Kootenay's top five scoring leaders and in the WHL's top 10 defenceman this year for points, with three goals and 11 assists.
Nationally he's made a mark too, winning the world junior under-18 championship in 2006 and earning a spot on the WHL's team for the 2008 ADT Canada Russia Challenge on Nov. 17.
On top of it all, Negrin generated rave reviews from Flames' brass at September's camp, rookie tournament in Camrose, and two NHL pre-season contests (where he had six penalty minutes and was a minus-1).
So, rather than treating the move by the Flames as a snub, he saw an opportunity to improve.
"My exit meeting from camp went really well," said the six-foot-three, 200-pounder who is Kootenay's lone drafted player. "They told me the things I need to improve on to make it to that next level.
"It's going to take a lot of hard work, I'm going to have to work on my strength and my defensive game. There's building blocks for sure.
"But my goal is to play in the National Hockey League as soon as possible. And do whatever it takes."
In Monday's WHL action, he unleashed a booming slapshot on Hitmen netminder and Los Angeles Kings property Martin Jones in the first period and logged four shots of the team's 29 total shots during the game.
But his steady defensive habits were the most notable. In the third period, Negrin caught up to Calgary's speedy forward Brandon Kozun on a breakaway and stripped him of the puck.
"(Monday) was one of his best games that he's played in Calgary during the two years that I've been here," said Ice head coach Mark Holick. "He's been our best defenceman from Day 1."
Negrin and Co. dug themselves an early grave when the Central Division and WHL-leading Hitmen scored twice in the first period and three times in the second. But Holick's only criticism of Negrin, which couldn't be helped Monday, was that he did too much.
"The only time that John gets into trouble is when he tries to do too much . . . you're down early and he takes it upon himself to get the boys back in order," said Holick, who's group hosts the Hitmen in Cranbrook Friday. "We've got 13 first-year players and nobody thinks we're going to do anything this year but we're battling in the mix.
"He's a big reason why."
© The Calgary Herald 2008