GLENS FALLS -- The portable locker stalls have reemerged. The black wooden box can serve as two players’ stalls and comes out when the dressing room gets crowded.
And that’s exactly what happens this time of year. AHL teams sign players coming out of college and juniors and the rosters expand. The Flames have signed six players to tryout contracts of some sort in the past two weeks.
There are two types of tryouts: professional and amateur. A professional tryout contract (PTO) is for players coming from another professional league, usually an ECHL player or someone who has been cut by another AHL team. Those coming directly from college or juniors sign an amateur tryout contract (ATO), including players who were drafted by Calgary.
Center Cam Reid and right wings Brant Harris and Brett Cameron are on PTOs. Goalie Clay Witt and defensemen Oleg Yevenko and Kenney Morrison are on ATOs. Cameron is also out of college, but he signed with South Carolina and played three games in the ECHL before signing with the Flames.
Coach Ryan Huska could see adding even more players. He could be mixing up practices to account for the sheer number of bodies.
After Wednesday’s morning skate, for example, all three coaches were on the ice working with the healthy scratches. Usually it’s only assistant coach Todd Gill and goalie coach Scott Gouthro, but with seven total scratches, they were all out there.
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“They have to get up to speed on what we’re trying to do,” Huska said. “You’re asking a lot of some guys who have been here for a week or a week and a half. We’re putting them in positions where they can affect the outcome of the game.”
Reid had one practice before his first game with the Flames. Harris didn’t even have that. Huska expects to have some of the newcomers in the lineup this weekend as the Flames take on Rockford and Oklahoma City, both at home. So he’s trying to give them a crash course in everything Flames.
“You just go over things with them,” he said. “You spend some time with them. At the end of the day, it’s a game they’ve played wherever they may be, so they know the fundamentals. You just need to give them a chance to play.”
There’s a lot to digest, especially for the players first starting their professional careers. Cameron, who first signed in the ECHL after finishing at Alaska-Anchorage, said it’s been a roller coaster and he hasn’t quite caught up. Yevenko, a 6-foot-8 defenseman out of UMass, feels blessed, fortunate and excited. As hard as the extra skates are, he said he likes them as he wiped sweat from his brow and declined to shake a reporter’s hand, offering a fist bump instead. How else would he learn?
Reid has played for five AHL teams over his three professional seasons, not to mention the two ECHL teams and a now-defunct Central Hockey League team. “It definitely happens fast,” he said. “You have to learn quickly.”