CALGARY – Well, at least someone has something to celebrate these days.
While the bulk of the world is holed up at home, tackling puzzles, Sudoku and maybe even home schooling, the Calgary Flames pulled off a little business Friday.
General manager Brad Treliving had a little bounce in his step after adding two highly-touted U.S. College defencemen, including one who is widely considered the most sought-after unsigned collegian this year.
The Flames inked Minnesota State University Mankato’s Connor Mackey and North Dakota’s Colton Poolman to one-year, entry-level contracts starting next season.
“I really do think these two kids have a chance, and we think Connor is close to playing,” said Treliving of the two left-handed rearguards.
“Mackey is a big kid who can skate – very mobile. We’ve been tracking both for awhile.”
Mackey cited his lengthy relationship with the Flames for making his decision easy to sign with the Flames despite being pursued by most teams in the league.
He attended the Flames development camp in 2017 and has maintained a relationship with Flames collegiate point man Billy Powers as well as assistant GM Craig Conroy.
“The interest they’ve had for me was pretty high and it never changed over the years,” said Mackey, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound Illinois native who was named to the WCHA first all-star team this past season and was USHL Defenceman of the Year in 2017.
“I also thought it was the best fit for me to grow as an NHL player. I’ve been to the city before and I wanted to be a Calgary Flame.”
The 23-year-old had seven goals and 24 points in 36 games as a junior and is touted as a two-way, puck-moving defenceman who considers his skating and hockey IQ to be two of his biggest assets.
His father, David, is a former Medicine Hat Tiger who played 126 NHL games for the Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues and Minnesota North Stars.
Poolman’s bloodlines also played a role in his success, as his brother, Tucker, plays for the Winnipeg Jets. Their father is the longtime strength and conditioning coach for the UND hockey program where both brothers played.
“Thick, strong body – he can’t bluff that,” chuckled Treliving of the 6-foot-1, 198-pound 24-year-old, who was a two-time captain at UND, where assistant GM Brad Pascall attended.
“Highly competitive and a high character guy. Intangibles through the roof. He’s got a little more bite in him. He’s going to be a hard matchup defender.”
Treliving said the moves had nothing to do with the fact the five of the Flames nine rostered defencemen (TJ Brodie, Travis Hamonic, Derek Forbort, Erik Gustafsson and Michael Stone) are pending UFAs and another (Oliver Kylington) is an RFA.
“This is routine business – two guys we’ve been looking at for a long time,” said Treliving. “Our staff has been working on this for a long time and now is the time you look to sign them. As unique a situation as this is with the season ending, we’ve been keeping at our business. This doesn’t preclude us from doing anything.”
It was the end of a bittersweet couple of weeks for Mackey, who chose not to turn pro last year as he wanted one last shot at a national championship. Minnesota State University was the third-ranked school in the U.S. on March 9 with more wins than any other team, at 31-5-2.
“We had a good team, so for the season to come to an end had everyone super bummed out,” said Mackey.
“But turning the page to the NHL, it was a crazy few days. I’m super-pumped I chose Calgary.”