Calgary Flames 2008 Prospect Development Camp: Boyd, Chucko, Pelech, and Negrin

M MacDonald Hall@@DocMacHallSenior Analyst IAugust 14, 2008

Calgary Flames prospect defenseman Matt Pelech (No.56) works the puck with other members of the development camp's Group "B".

The Calgary Flames 2008-09 training began just a couple of weeks ago with the Prospect Development Camp at the Pengrowth Saddledome. The six day training and assessment camp hosted Flamelings new and old, all eager to prove their worth and earn the best possible placing within the various leagues.

Most will return to their North American junior teams or home to European leagues, or head off to take a roster spot on Calgary’s AHL affiliate, the Quad City Flames. A select few may have a chance to crack into an NHL roster spot at some point in the season as a two-way floater, or hope against hope, earn a full time position with the big club. M MacDonald Hall attended the last three days of camp (24, 25, 26 July 2008) and reports the sights and sounds of the season’s first assessment in a short multi-part series.

Part Two reintroduces a few familiar names to the Flames Prospect Camp, and updates fans and analysts alike as to their progress thus far.  Like most prospects, this group's future will rely heavily on "if".  If they can put it all together....

One of Calgary’s more promising youths seems not to have lost his trademark speed and hockey sense over the summer months. Dustin Boyd was wearing his No. 41 sweater at the camp, and while he didn’t seem under particular scrutiny his presence at the prospect development seemed out of place.

The 22 year-old is by now familiar to Flames fans after playing 61 games for the big club over the past two seasons. He is also the only prospect camp attendee listed on the Calgary Flames roster, though he is under two-way contract. This fact, perhaps coupled with his somewhat lacklustre freshman/sophomore season may explain his presence at training. After increasingly impressive junior performances and a 66GP-27G-33A-60PT AHL rookie season, Calgary may have expected more than the seven goals and 12 points he tallied last year (16 NHL points in total including 2006-07). Though these have not been confirmed as the reason for his attendance, it seems the only explanation aside from voluntary enrolment.

Despite his slightly disappointing offensive output, Boyd remains part of Calgary’s future because of his all-around game and potential for growth. He was averaging a respectable number of minutes-per-game last year under head coach Mike Keenan, and was considered to be defensively reliable and an added offensive asset. Speed, agility, and hockey smarts round out the Manitoba product’s skill set. If he can put all his tools to work within the big league setting, Boyd will have a sound chance at an NHL future.

Of all the players attending this year’s Prospect Development Camp, Dustin Boyd is the most likely to make the Calgary squad for any significant amount of time in 2008-09. Like everyone at camp, he had the occasional hiccough in practise, but all-in-all the 6’ - 190lber looked ready to go. Working with Group “A”, Boyd would often be paired with fellow talent Kris Chucko, and the two together showed the offensive flair and work ethic which caused them to be drafted in the first place.

Chucko stood out from the rest in numerous drills with an impressive scoring touch and excellent hand-eye co-ordination. He potted various “good” goals in one-on-one and two-on-one training, and generally worked well with team-mates in add-on scrimmages. Though the Burnaby, BC native has had offensive success in the past, it has not been his greatest strength in recent years. He nabbed 87 points in 53 games in the BCHL just before his 2004 NHL draft, but hasn’t broken the 30 point mark since. His dedication to his on-ice training at camp suggested Chucko is aiming to improve his game.

In one instance, the aggressive 6’2” winger spent a great deal of what seemed to be his own time working on his puck-tipping skills. Standing at the side of the net as another prospect ripped point-shots, Chucko looked calm yet focused as he made contact with a notable amount of rubber. The fact that he was practising with an empty net may make the feat may seem less inspiring, but it was a good challenge and absorbing to watch. Other skaters took turns giving it a try, yet none worked nearly as long or had a fraction of the success rate as the right-handed Chucko.

All said, the commitment to continuing development reflects well on the 22 year-old, and the camp helped to highlight many of his hockey qualities. What wasn’t on display, however, was his trademark style of play: physical. His smooth hands may help his game, but it’s his body that drives him to the net and opponents to the ice. He can power through a lot whether it’s working the corners or shaking a tenacious checker, and he has been known to fight well above his weight category.

Unfortunately, the question of discipline has come up in the past. Unnecessary penalties and poor positioning have cost his team before. Hopefully, rededication to his greater goal will help to centre the potential power forward and help him progress as high as he is capable of going, sooner rather than later.

Two more familiar faces from prospect camps past were defensemen Matt Pelech and John Negrin. Pelech has the potential to be called up to Calgary at some point in the event of injury, and the WHL-bound Negrin is developing so well he could be there soon enough himself.

Known mostly as a sound defensive-defenseman, Matt Pelech had a breakout offensive record in 2006-07 with the OHL Belleville Bulls before returning to form for his rookie AHL season with the QC Flames last year. Though he will probably spend 2008-09 in Quad City developing his professional game further, the 6’5” - 227lbs rearguard possesses a promising skill-set that will serve him well at higher levels - if  he can become more consistent and thoughtful with his in-game decisions. It is plausible that this deficiency was partially responsible for his multiple OHL team trades.

Not always the most noticeable member of Group “B”, the Toronto-born Pelech will need to stand out in his second year of AHL play. When he did step up well in camp, it was his girth and power that really defined his presence on the ice. His size and strength will help him immensely to make an impression on Calgary staff, but he must avoid injury. The season before his draft (2005), Pelech suffered from a broken jaw on two seperate occasions after a pair of fights, resulting in an abbreviated 31-game year for the defenseman. Staying in play is the only way to get ahead in this game, and his increased on-ice discipline should aid in that effort.

Youthful John Negrin, on the other hand, shone brightly amongst the relatively experienced Group “B”. Certainly not known for offensive prowess, Negrin displayed a smooth, all-around style as he manoeuvred his 6’3” - 194lbs frame through the trials. Passing and stick handling were clean and capable and his overall presence was conspicuous.

More impressively, he seemed eager to accept the instruction of development coach Wayne Fleming during point-shot drills (among others) and competently incorporated the advice into his play.

Bound for his final WHL season with the Kootenay Ice next year, Negrin should have a good opportunity to continue his development and solidify his game.

In his short WHL/BCHL career the West Van product has tallied only five regular season goals and four playoff points.  However, last year saw Negrin set personal highs for games-played, assists, points, PIM, and post-season appearances, and with the skill displayed at camp he will look to improve further in 2009. His on-ice discipline seems to be well tuned, as Negrin had the least number of regular-season penalties amongst defensemen at prospect training.

If Calgary’s 2007 3rd round draft pick exhibited anything in the week’s training, it was potential. Negrin’s superior skating ability, puck control, and size were demonstrated up and down the ice. His overall defensive capabilities are also reputedly well-rounded, and he was placed in many high-pressure situations last year with the Ice. If he can use the upcoming season in Cranbrook to further improve his offensive strength, Negrin may find himself very well positioned for a positive hockey future.


Vital Statistics - Dustin Boyd, Kris Chucko, Matt Pelech, John Negrin

Dustin Boyd (LW/C) ~ 6’0” - 193lbs. Born: Winnipeg, Manitoba - 16 July, 1986. Shoots: Left. 2007-08 Regular Season Stats: Calgary (NHL) GP-48 G-7 A-5 Pts-12 PIM-6 -also-Quad City (AHL) GP-18 G-2 A-7 Pts-9 PIM-4  Best Season: 2005-06 Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL) GP-64 G-48 A-42 Pts-90 PIM-34

Kris Chucko (RW) ~ 6’2” - 200lbs. Born: Burnaby, British Columbia - 13 March, 1986. Shoots: Right. 2007-08 Regular Season Stats: Quad City (AHL) GP-80 G-15 A-15 Pts-30 PIM-38  Best Season: 2003-04 Salmon Arm Silverbacks (BCHL) GP-53 G-32 A-55 Pts-87 PIM-161

Matt Pelech (RD) ~ 6’5” - 227lbs. Born: Toronto, Ontario - 4 September, 1987. Shoots: Right. 2007-08 Regular Season Stats: Quad City (AHL) GP-77 G-3 A-6 Pts-9 PIM-141 Best Season: 2006-07 Belleville Bulls (OHL) GP-58 G-5 A-30 Pts-35 PIM-171

John Negrin (LD) ~ 6’3” - 194lbs. Born: West Vancouver, British Columbia - 25 March, 1989. Shoots: Left.  2007-08 Regular Season: Kootenay Ice (WHL) GP-71 G-1 A-41 Pts-42 PIM-68  Best Season: 2007-08 Kootenay Ice (WHL) [see previous]

More Flames Prospect News, Coming Up…

Analysis of prospect goaltenders Matt Keetley, Kevin Lalande, Leland Irving, and James Spratt; introductions to freshly drafted Flames prospects including Spitfire RW Greg Nemisz, SoCal C Mitch Wahl, and Swedish D Alexander Deilert; a look at the newly acquired LW Kyle Greentree‘s first Calgary camp; overview and wrap-up of the 2008 Calgary Flames Prospect Development Camp. Plus, a comprehensive listing of on-ice participants at this year’s Calgary Flames Prospect Development Camp.

Also read up on the previous chapter, filled with more Flames prospect news.

Part One: Calgary Flames 2008 Prospect Development Camp - Back to Backlund, Ryder Riding High! focuses in on Mikael Backlund, Daniel Ryder, and a sample of the atmosphere created by a fresh sheet of ice, literally and figuratively. 

For more information on some of the players present at this year’s camp, follow the links to Calgary's 2008 NHL Draft, and stay tuned for further instalments of this series on the Calgary Flames 2008 Prospect Development Camp. To read about the summer changes to Calgary’s roster, check out Calgary Flames Roster News: Old Flames, New Faces - Sutter Shakes It Up

~*The author is endlessly appreciative of the community and fan support from the Calgary Flames organisation.  Thanks for providing the opportunity to share Flames fever with the remotest corners of hockey fandom.*~

M MacDonald Hall is the Bleacher Report Calgary Flames Community Leader, and will be adding to the NHL department over the summer and throughout the 2008-09 season. Future articles include a breakdown of Calgary Flames playoff performance in the 21st Century, roster changes and information, and Flames-specific trivia. M’s Bleacher Report archive includes an assortment of Flames/NHL articles.

M also writes on various other topics, sport and non-sport related. Enquiries regarding NHL writing or other subjects may be directed to M's Bleacher Report profile or via email.



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