When the Calgary Flames began the long training camp process on September 6th with prospects camp, 30 young players broke camp with the goal of impressing the brass enough to keep them around.
Three weeks later, just one of them remains – centre Roman Horak.
A native of Ceske Budejovice, a city of 90,000 in the southwestern Czech Republic, Horak’s 2010-11 campaign was the second he spent away from his hometown junior team. Suiting up for the Western Hockey League’s Chilliwack Bruins, for the second straight year, Horak continued to impress. Finding chemistry with winger (and Flames prospect) Ryan Howse, Horak amassed 26 goals and 52 assists over the season.
Horak signed an entry-level contract with the New York Rangers, the team that originally drafted him, in early May. When Flames defensive prospect Tim Erixon refused to sign with the club, Horak was packed with two draft picks and sent to Calgary for Erixon. Now in his first training camp with his new organization, Horak is a little surprised at how far he’s come since camp broke.
“I just went out there and I tried my best and it worked out,” said Horak. “I think I still have a lot to prove. I’m just trying to play my game and we’ll see what happens.”
Originally one of two survivors of the prospect camp, along with sophomore pro Lance Bouma (who was assigned to Abbotsford on Friday morning), Horak acknowledged that training camps are long processes and that he’s trying to make the most of the situation.
“It’s always a battle for spots and training camps are tough,” said Horak. “Some guys are getting chances and some guys are not. Like I said, I’m happy to be here now and trying to do everything for it.”
Last season, three 20-year-olds made their NHL debuts with the Flames – Bouma, Greg Nemisz and T.J. Brodie. This season, Horak is the lone youngster remaining on the training camp roster that featured several other highly-touted prospects. While the Flames have a handful of cuts remaining, Horak’s hard work will at least give him a fighting chance to start the year in the NHL.
“I’m just trying to go out there and do my best and that’s it,” said Horak. “I didn’t set a goal. I never said ‘Yeah, I want to play in the NHL.’ It always would be nice if I got the chance, but we’ll see what happens.”
The Calgary Flames begin their regular season at home on Saturday, October 8 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.