Well-travelled Flaman a welcome addition to Rebels
The hockey season isn’t two months old and Jack Flaman is on his fourth team.
That being said, he’s just happy to feel wanted. And he’s tickled about being back in the Western Hockey League, although he wasn’t really gone that long.
“Red Deer’s a great place so I can’t complain,” the Red Deer Rebels forward Monday. “Everyone is really nice and I’m just happy for the opportunity. I just want to make it worth it.”
After the 20-year-old was released by the Vancouver Giants just over a month ago, he headed home to Vibank, Sask. The Lethbridge Hurricanes — with an open overage spot — expressed interest in adding him to their roster, so he had an inkling he’d be back in the major junior ranks at some point.
In the meantime, he decided to join the junior A Notre Dame Hounds. After one game with the SJHL team, he was en route to Lethbridge.
“It was kind of a weird situation,” he said. “I knew I was coming back (to the WHL). I went home for three or four days, then Lethbridge called me and we were in the middle of working stuff out.
“They said I could go play (with Notre Dame) so I thought it was a good opportunity to just keep playing to stay in shape. I played one game and after the game they said ‘get on the bus and get on out here’. It was a quick turnaround.”
Flaman played seven games with the Hurricanes before being acquired by the Rebels last Thursday in exchange for the WHL overage transfer fee.
With defenceman Tate Olson coming off the injury list, the ‘Canes decided to go with two blueliners — the other being Brennan Riddle — and Giorgio Estephan, a 35-goal, 89-point forward last season, as their three overage players.
Hurricanes GM Peter Anholt admitted it was a tough decision to part with Flaman, but wished him well.
“We’re happy to be able to have Jack stay in the league, albeit within our division, and we wish him all the best,” said Anholt.
The Rebels are actually Flaman’s fourth WHL team — he suited up with the Portland Winterhawks during the 2014-15 season, recording one assist in 34 games.
“It’s not easy leaving teams, you develop friendships” he admitted. “But you get used to it. It’s a business and I’m going to see them at the rinks. And everyone has a cell phone nowadays, so it’s not hard to get hold of someone.
“I’m just happy to be here and to have the opportunity to keep playing.”
Flaman has good wheels and the look of an energy player when he’s in full flight. As a WHL veteran, he also sees himself as somewhat of a mentor.
“I like to carry a lot of energy, get in on the forecheck with lots of speed,” he said. “I like to think I’m a pretty good skater but other than that I just try and do my job out there and make sure all the young guys are coming along.”
Flaman, who produced six goals and 21 points in 23 games with the Hounds and a goal and two assists in 42 games with the Giants during the 2015-16 campaign, is en route to what could eventually be his best offensive WHL season.
A 15-goal player with the Giants last winter, Flaman has five goals and seven points in 10 games this season. He recorded a hat trick in his second game with the Hurricanes and scored his first goal as a Rebel — a short-handed marker — in Saturday’s 4-3 overtime conquest of Regina.
While he’s capable of producing points, the five-foot-11, 205-pound centre takes great pride in being an aggressive, heads-up player who can contribute at both ends of the ice.
“I like to consider myself as pretty good down low,” he said. “I like to know what I’m doing at all times. I’m a responsible player who makes sure things are done correctly.”
It’s that on-ice awareness that attracted Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter to Flaman.
“We know what he is, we knew what we were getting,” Sutter said following last Friday’s 4-3 overtime win over Spokane.
“It’s nice to have a left-handed centre iceman, especially a guy who’s responsible and a guy who’s good on faceoffs, especially on that side of the ice. We haven’t had that. We’re very fortunate to get him and he fits in with our group. We have to play a certain way, we have to be a four-line team and we have to have everyone being responsible, and he’s a responsible player.”
The Rebels, coming off a weekend in which they gained five of a possible six points, are one of the youngest teams in the league with eight 17-year-olds on their roster. As a result, it’s been somewhat of an up-and-down season for the club with the best — presumably — yet to come.
“The guys are very skilled, but very young,” Flaman said of the 17-year-olds. “It’s going to take a little time for them all to get settled in. It’s still an eye-opener for them to be in the WHL.
“But guys like me and ‘Pawly’ (captain Grayson Pawlenchuk) and ‘Carts’ (Mason McCarty) are here to make sure they’re settled in and as the season goes on we’re just going to get better and better.”
As for Flaman, he has settled in nicely with his new teammates.
“Everyone is really nice and welcoming. It’s been a really easy transition, actually,” he stated.
The Rebels return to action Wednesday versus the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds.
Rebels vs. Seattle Thunderbirds, 7 p.m. Wednesday, Centrium
After opening their jaunt through the Central Division with a loss to Kootenay, the T-Birds have won their last two games — 4-3 and 7-4 at Calgary and Lethbridge Saturday and Sunday. Seattle has a 7-5-0-1 and is fourth in the U.S. Division and sixth in the Western Conference . . . Former Rebel Austin Strand leads all Thunderbirds point producers with 18, including seven goals. He’s third among WHL defencemen in scoring and his six power-play goals are tied for second-best in the league. RW Sami Mollanen follows Stand in team scoring with seven goals and 18 points, while three players — LW Zack Andrusiak (6g,5a), C Donovan Neuls (3-8) and LW Nolan Volcan (3-8) — have each registered 11 points, and Jarret Tyszka has also hit double figures with 10, all assists . . . Regular starter Matt Berlin is 28th among WHL goalies with a 3.61 goals-against average and 24th with an .890 save percentage.
Injuries: Seattle — G Carl Stankowski (lower body, minimum one month), D Aaron Hyman (lower body, day-to-day), LW Tyler Adams (lower body, indefinite). Red Deer — G Riley Lamb (upper body, day-to-day).
Special teams: Seattle — Power play 31.2 per cent, fourth overall; penalty kill 78.3 per cent, eighth. Red Deer — Power play 25 per cent, 10th overall; penalty kill 80.3 per cent, sixth.