Michael Ferland and his mom have overcome a lot in their lives. This weekend, the kid from Swan River, whose mother did everything possible to give him a chance to play hockey, will pay his mom back by playing his first NHL game with the Calgary Flames.
Thursday, the 22-year-old winger was called up by the Flames, after being sent to the AHL’s Adirondack Flames near the end of the Calgary training camp. However, he went to the AHL with the right attitude, was the team’s leading scorer with four goals and five assists and now, with Mikael Backlund injured, he will get his chance.
He is expected to be in the lineup when the Flames play host to the Nashville Predators on Friday night at the Saddledome.
Ferland’s road to the NHL has been difficult, but with the unbending support of his mom, the tough kid from Western Manitoba made the Brandon Wheat Kings, became a solid scorer in the WHL and was drafted in the fifth round (133rd overall) by Calgary in 2010.
He started his junior career in the MJHL with the Beausejour Blades where he played one game in 2008-09. He made the Wheaties in 2009 and played three solid seasons there before being dealt to Saskatoon during a 2012-13 season in which he had played some pro hockey
In fact, he had a really difficult first pro season. He went to camp overweight and was sent first to Utah of the ECHL, then to Abbotsford of the AHL before being dropped back to junior. He played four games with Brandon that year but was traded to Saskatoon for prospects and got some playoff experience.
He then overcame a trumped up off-season assault charge (the only reason he was charged is because he was aboriginal) and was found not guilty. After that, he got in the best shape of his career, but then a knee injury robbed him of most of last season.
This fall, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound winger who has been called, “one of the toughest players I’ve ever seen,” by Flames President Brian Burke, had a terrific training camp in Calgary and almost stuck with the big club.
“Michael had one of the most impressive performances of training camp,” said Calgary’s assistant GM Craig Conroy. “He averaged two points a game in the Young Stars tournament. It was a tough decision to send him down to start the season.”
Now, the kid from Swan River will get his first legitimate chance to play in the National Hockey League. Fact is, he is exactly what the Flames need: a tough guy who can score. If he can handle the NHL pace, he just might stick.