By Flames.com’s Ryan Dittrick
Yasin Ehliz had plenty to ponder on the long flight from Germany.
What to do?
What to see?
Like a young Clarke Griswold in the throes of his family vacation-planning, the possibilities seemed endless.
“I was too excited to sleep,” Ehliz laughed. “I just couldn’t wait to get to Calgary.”
The Flames prospect arrived earlier this week for rookie camp, and after napping off the jet-lag from his round-the-clock voyage, he made a quick trip over to the Saddledome to indulge in the moment he’d long been dreaming of.
But first, he had to take to selfie.
“It was unreal,” Ehliz said of his first trip to the ‘Dome. “Before, I’d only seen pictures.
“To see it from the inside, with how big it is, and to be able to skate on that ice for the first time, it was amazing.”
Ehliz, who signed a one-year, two-way contract in June, is attending his first NHL rookie camp and couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity.
The bubbly personality and million-dollar smile says it all.
“I was able to visit earlier this year for the summer [development] camp, but this is different,” he said.
“I’m trying to soak it all in. I’m here to work and show what I can do, but after all these years, if I didn’t take a second and really enjoy it …”
Ehliz paused, looked around and smiled at first sight of the double doors marking the entry of the Flames dressing room.
“It’s just going to be so much fun,” he said.
Ehliz is somewhat of a superstar back home in Germany, where he’s played the past eight years with his hometown Nuermberg Ice Tigers of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, and has been a fixture on the German National Team for the past four World Championships.
He also does an excellent job connecting with fans on Instagram, where he has almost 17,000 followers.
But none of that compares to what he experienced over the winter, helping lead the Germans to a surprise silver medal at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.
Ehliz had two helpers in the gold-medal game, but it wasn’t enough to help his country claim the tournament’s top prize, just days after knocking off Team Canada in a thrilling semifinal upset.
“Everyone in Germany was going crazy,” Ehliz said. “Everyone was talking about us.
“Soccer is still No. 1 back home. It’s huge and nothing will ever top it. But the (energy) when we got back, it was unbelievable.
“We were like heroes.”
Amid all the fanfare, he still had half a season left with his home club in Nuermberg.
And he had a fire in his belly like never before.
The smooth-skating, 5-foot-9, 165-pound marksman finished fifth in team scoring, tallying 10 goals and 41 points in 46 regular-season games before adding another six points – five of them goals – in 12 playoff contests, on a team that featured former Flame Steven Reinprecht and longtime Calgary Hitmen star of the early 2000s, Brandon Segal.
“I felt like I finished the year strong,” Ehliz said.
“Confidence is huge when you’re a goal-scorer, and I had that.”
He carried that offensive impact over to the Worlds in May, scoring three times and setting up two others in seven games.
It was then when his agent relayed the news that the Flames had offered him his first NHL contract.
Ehliz nearly hit the roof when he picked up the phone.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God, really?!’
“It was an unbelievable feeling.
“I’m very lucky.
“I’m just so thankful. It was a good year for me and I think I earned it.”
Of that, there’s no doubt.
Depending on how his training camp goes, Ehliz could start the season with the Stockton Heat but for now, he’s enjoying the experience under the ‘Dome and is looking to make an impression on Bill Peters and the coaching staff in the short time he has.
“Getting to this level has been a dream of mine since I was a little kid,” he said.
“I can’t wait for that first game on Sunday.
“That it comes against Edmonton — the Edmonton-Calgary rivalry that I’ve heard so much about — it’s really cool.”