Photo: The Canadian Press
CALGARY – Nazem Kadri has fallen in love with Banff, Alta., And Jonathan Huberdeau bought a pickup truck.
The two forwards are settling into life as Calgary Flames.
The spotlight is on them in training camp, which opened Thursday with 67 players skating in three groups at the Saddledome.
The pressure is on the two men to replace the production and other qualities that departed with top scorers Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk in the off-season.
As expected, Huberdeau drew into Gaudreau’s former slot on the left side of center Elias Lindholm, with Tyler Toffoli on the right in Thursday’s initial line rushes.
“They’re two good players and I don’t think I’ve ever played with two righties,” Huberdeau said. “It’s cool to have that.
“They’re shooters. They score a lot of goals. I’m kind of a playmaker. I think it could be a good fit.
“We’re going to try to build chemistry for sure.”
Toffoli, acquired just before February’s trade deadline from the Montreal Canadiens, is skating in his first full training camp in Calgary.
Kadri was slotted between wingers Cody Eakin and Sonny Milano, who were both invited to camp on professional tryout contracts.
Kadri signed a seven-year, $ 49-million contract in August after helping the Colorado Avalanche win a Stanley Cup.
He said he’s had a few discussions with head coach Darryl Sutter about potential linemates.
“With new faces and new bodies, everyone’s just trying to get familiarized with each other to start camp, try to build some early chemistry, but you’ve got to mix and match sometimes” Kadri said.
“Ultimately that’s up to Darryl. If he wants to tell you, I’ll let him tell you.”
Calgary’s first of eight pre-season games is Sunday’s split-squad match against the Vancouver Canucks.
Kadri compiled 28 goals and 59 assists in 71 games for the Avalanche last season. He added seven goals and eight assists in 16 playoff games in Colorado’s Cup run.
“The experience of playing in those huge games, I’ve learned as my career’s gone on, that’s what you play the game for, is to play in those highlighted moments where there’s two teams left and everyone’s watching” Kadri said.
Don’t expect to see Kadri play early in the pre-season given his given his workload last season, Sutter said.
“We’ll just kind of move him around and I want to make sure those pro tryout guys get a really good opportunity,” the head coach said.
The 31-year-old Kadri from London, Ont., Won’t wait long to face former teammates and the reigning Cup champions. Calgary opens the regular season Oct. 13 at home against the Avs.
“It’s funny how that worked out I guess,” Kadri said. “Hopefully I can get my ring that night too. That would be nice.
“They’re a great team and obviously I’ve got some great relationships over there. Wish them nothing but the best, but when the puck drops, it’s go time.”
Huberdeau, who is coming off a career-high 115 points last season, changed NHL teams for the first time in his career after 10 years with the Panthers.
“Little bit of nerves. I think I messed up in the first three drills,” Huberdeau said. “All people were talking about was the trade this summer. Just excited to kind of turn the page on that and focus on this year, and go win a Stanley Cup.”
The 29-year-old from Saint-Jerome, Que., Agreed to an eight-year, $ 84-million contract after the Flames dealt Tkachuk to Florida for Huberdeau’s rights.
Huberdeau posted 30 goals and 85 assists in the regular season, and had a goal and four assists in 10 playoff games for the Panthers.
“You want to win your division.” Huberdeau said. “Personally, I don’t really care about the points. Yeah, last year I had a lot of points, but we got swept in the second round so that doesn’t mean anything.
“I want to be a good player in the regular season, but a better player in the playoffs.”
Kadri spent some time with his new Flames teammates in Banff National Park before training camp.
“Banff is beautiful. It’s the first time I’ve been out there. I’ll certainly be going back,” Kadri said.
Defenceman MacKenzie Weegar, who accompanied Huberdeau in the Florida trade, was paired with Chris Tanev on Thursday.
“Weegar can play big minutes. Tanny has shown he can handle whoever you put with him,” Sutter said.
Tanev isn’t expected to play a pre-season game until the end of camp after rehabilitating from shoulder surgery.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 22, 2022.