No one expected Adam Klapka to be a finished product in his first game with the Calgary Flames.
That’s not a reasonable expectation for any player coming out of the AHL.
The Flames wanted Klapka to keep his game simple and focus on the things he was good at. By all indications, the 23-year-old has done a good job of that. He’s played on the fourth line, thrown hits and tried to be a power guy.
And through three games in the NHL, Klapka feels there has been progress each time.
“I come in every day and watch the videos, work on my details every day,” Klapka said Saturday. “I feel more comfortable in each game and getting better and better. “I think it takes a little time to get to the NHL level, but I hope it comes soon.”
Klapka is one of those players who has intrigued Flames fans over the past few years since the team signed him to a two-year entry-level contract in 2022. He was undrafted, but stands 6-foot-8 and weighs At 235 pounds, he certainly seemed like the type of guy who could find a place at the top level.
And after rapid development during his first year with the Calgary Wranglers in 2022-23, Klapka’s offensive game took another step forward this year. He scored 10 goals and added 11 assists in 33 games this season, earning him a call-up to the Flames roster last week.
For now, the team isn’t depending on him to put up big offensive numbers, but he’s done what his coaches asked of him in his first stint as an NHL player.
There is room for improvement, but the foundations are there.
“There’s certainly a big learning curve for a young man like him,” Flames head coach Ryan Huska said. “What he has done in games is try to finish shots, you see him handling the puck a little more. We have to make sure every shift he is consistent with that, and that is part of learning and growing as an NHL player.”
Klapka should be given the time almost all AHL players need to adjust to the speed and intensity of the game in the NHL. That’s expected.
Puck protection is an area where Klapka still feels there is work to be done, but he is putting in extra time before and after practice. He believes part of his game is yet to come.
And the rest? It’s the NHL, he’s learning and trying to make the necessary adjustments to his game if he wants to thrive against the best players in the world night in and night out.
“Guys are smarter here,” Klapka said. “Sometimes they let you go, but after a second they attack you. The guys are just smarter than the American Hockey League, it’s the best league in the world, so I just focus on playing fast, not losing the puck, putting pucks in the outside zone, hitting someone and getting to the net . . Every game I feel better and better.”
After clumsily entering the boards in Thursday’s loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, Flames forward AJ Greer will miss the next eight weeks with a broken foot.
The Flames announced the unfortunate news on Saturday morning.
“AJ was the only player on that fourth line that had any consistency in his game,” Huska said. “He There was the physicality that he brought, he was a guy with energy in the room for us, without a doubt, and he has contributed offensively for us. We will surely miss him.
“One of those unlucky ones, but knowing him, he’ll push the limits to come back sooner rather than later.”
Greer has been a consistent, physical presence on the Flames’ fourth line since being picked up off waivers from the Boston Bruins at the end of training camp.
The 27-year-old has contributed six goals and four assists in 47 games. Last week, he talked about how much he and his family have enjoyed his time since the Flames picked him up.
“We love our life in Calgary and hopefully we want to stay,” Greer said. “That is the ultimate goal. “I want to stay here and I want to sign a contract extension and be a valuable asset to this team.”
BACK TO PRACTICE
Martin Pospisil joined the Flames for Saturday’s morning skate, his first time out with the team since he was injured in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 18.
He wasn’t expected to play in Saturday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks, but seeing him return to his teammates was good news nonetheless.
“It’s the next step for him,” Huska said. “If everything continues as it was during our break, we hope he will return for our game in Boston.”