Saturday, July 13, 2013

'Old Man' Baertschi Making Camp Fun for Everyone

Of the 44 prospects at the Calgary Flames development camp, Sven Baertschi can be considered middle-aged. Born in 1992, he falls somewhere in between the oldest attendee -- Swiss goaltender Reto Berra, age 26, and its youngest participant -- Morgan Klimchuk, who turned 18 in March.

However, in terms of his NHL resume, Baertschi's 25 games is second only to Roman Horak's 81 and that leaves him in the role, at least figuratively, as one of the camp's elder statesmen.

"There are (birth year) 95's here so yeah, I do feel old, I’m growing out my beard right now," Baertschi said with a chuckle after Saturday's scrimmage at WinSport. 

Making it Fun for Everyone

Always smiling, Baertschi's a guy with an infectious personality and over the first three days of the one-week camp, he took it upon himself to try and get the younger guys -- and older guys for that matter, to relax and enjoy themselves.

"I’ve been through a lot, I was able to play with the Flames last season and also play with Abby. For me it was the same thing. I came in and I had guys like Lance Bouma, Greg Nemisz and TJ Brodie. They were there to help and show me around and everything. Now I am the guy trying to help guys," said Baertschi, who still qualifies as a NHL rookie in 2013-14.

"What I found is a lot of guys were nervous right off the hop, as soon as camp started. It was the same for me and of course you’re a little nervous, but on the other side, you have to enjoy the process. I didn’t see many guys smiling the first couple days and I was like c'mon guys, I know it’s the NHL, but you can still have fun here," Baertschi said.

As the camp has gone on, Baertschi says he and some of the more experienced guys have been able to get the other prospects to relax more.

"You want to be focused and you want to put in your work, but there are certain times at camp where you just have to have fun," Baertschi said. "I’m that type of guy, I want to have fun no matter what it is. Usually you play better hockey when you’re having fun, you practice better when you're having fun. You’re still focused but you just enjoy it a little more and that’s part of the game. You don’t want to lose that as soon as you come to the rink."

Mid-Season Form in Mid-July

Saturday was the third straight day on the ice for the camp's participants, coming on the heels of practice sessions on Thursday and Friday. Baertschi came into camp supposed to be the best guy on the ice and he didn't disappoint, picking up a pair of assists in the entertaining scrimmage. Had there been a score sheet, his name could have been on it a few more times too if only some of his teammates were able to finish off his set-ups.

Despite how game-ready he may have looked to the public, however, he insists he can and will be much, much better.

"I’m very rusty, to be honest. I’ve got blisters, my hands still feel like they're wooden. This is just the third time I’ve actually been skating this summer," said the Swiss left-winger. 

Building up his strength has been Baertschi's summer priority resulting in most of his training time being spent in the weight room. He said it felt good to get back on the ice, where he most loves to be.

"It always takes a couple practices but then you’re back into it. The tough part is that all my gear got flooded at the rink so I came in here with brand new everything," he said. That included new skates that needless to say, aren't yet broken in like his old pair. "I never get blisters from skates, never, this is the first time and my feet really hurt right now. When you haven’t been in new skates for a while and then you get bumps, it’s a little different. Every step you take, ow, ow, ow. But, it’s a pain I have to deal with right now."

Fun Playing with the Finn

Baertschi was the Flames first round pick, 13th overall in 2011. Calgary's second round pick that year, 45th overall, was Finnish centre Markus Granlund. The two played on the same line Saturday morning with Coda Gordon from the Swift Current Broncos patrolling the right side. Asked to assess the play of Granlund who scored once during the game and once more in the just-for-fun post-game shootout, Baertschi had high praise calling Granlund a dynamic forward and really smart guy.

"What they learn in Finland is you always have your head up. It doesn’t matter if the puck is on your stick or not, your head is always up. As soon as the puck touches his blade, he doesn’t look for the puck any more because he knows it’s there, he can feel it," Baertschi said. "So when you play with him, he always sees you because his head is always up. You don’t have to yell at him because he sees you already. He makes good plays out there and he can also shoot the puck, he has a really accurate shot."

Baertschi can see the day where the two Europeans are NHL teammates, maybe even linemates.

"It would be great. He’s a guy who is developing really good, he's been getting stronger the last couple years and that’s the next step to get from junior hockey or European hockey to the NHL, to be strong and be physical. Just from last year to this year, I can see that he’s carrying the puck much better, he’s stronger on the puck."

Related Reading:

No comments:

Post a Comment