By George Johnson
Austin Czarnik is on course.
“Shot my first-ever 79 at my new club other day,” reports the incoming Calgary Flames’ right wing candidate.
He and pal Cameron Schilling, a Winnipeg Jets’ prospect, are first-year members in good standing at Forest Lake Country Club, nestled in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., a towering 3-iron from Czarnik’s home in Birmingham.
“Man, that felt great.
“And then I shot 77 two days later at another club. After a whole summer of mid-80s. So I think it’s just a little tease.”
And he’s also on course.
“It’s been a pretty hectic summer trying to get ready for camp,” Czarnik acknowledges.
“But I’ve done everything in my power to be as prepared as I possibly can.
“I understand this is a really good opportunity for me. That’s the one thing I was looking for and we talked about before I signed. An opportunity. That’s all anybody can ask for.
“My goal is to make the team out of camp.”
With Boston’s top farm club, Providence, last season, Czarnik led the Baby Bruins in goals (25), assists (44), points (69, good for third in the league) and powerplay goals (13) while finishing a fastidious plus-13.
The 25-year-old, Detroit-born Czarnik, a free-agent signing July 1, has been described as “the best secret everybody knew” by Flames’ GM Brad Treliving.
“That’s nice of him to say,” acknowledges Czarnik. “That shows he has confidence in me. I felt that confidence when I talked to to the Flames. It means a lot.”
Czarnik’s regimen has been consistent – four days of conditioning/stretching/ and three working on skating.
Additionally, he’s also been involved in the Eastside Elite Hockey League (playing for HealthQuest), comprising of both college and pro players and designed to keep upper-level players sharp during the summer months.
Other NHLers, such as Detroit’s Dylan Larkin, are also part of the league.
Eastside has seven-week schedule that runs from mid-June to the end of July, and includes playoffs and an even an All-Star Game.
“We got knocked out this week,” sighs Czarnik. “So that’s the end of that season.”
Upcoming, the one that matters above all.
It’s no secret Czarnik, a natural centre, will get a good, long look at right wing, a position that needs beefing up, when the Flames re-convene in early September.
A one-way, two-year, $2.5 million contract is indicative of belief.
Despite his highly productive season for the Baby Bruins in Province last year, Czarnik made only 10 big-league appearances after suiting up for 49 games for Boston two seasons back.
“They’ve got a good team and it just wasn’t my time,” he reckons now. “They were up at the top of the standings the whole year so I can’t blame them for staying with the same lineup.
“What I had to do was maintain a good attitude.
“I just kept working, trying to – I hate to say it – set myself up for this year, believing something good could come out of the situation I was in.
“I wanted to set myself up to make a statement this year and I think I’ve done that. With the work I’ve done this summer hopefully it all translates into a being a Calgary Flame.
“I can’t wait to get there and have some fun.”