PENTICTON, B.C. — Emile Poirier wants to be this season’s Josh Jooris.
Flying under the radar with big-name prospects like Johnny Gaudreau and Sam Bennett getting most of the attention, Jooris impressed for the Calgary Flames at the 2014 edition of the Young Stars rookie tournament before doing the same at training camp to eventually earn a forward spot on the NHL roster.
“He was amazing. He works really hard,” Poirier said of Jooris. “He deserved it. When you see that it encourages you to work hard like him.”
The six-foot-two 200-pound Poirier took part in this year’s Young Stars tournament, which also included rookies from the Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets. He had missed the previous event and the Flames’ training camp last year following off-season shoulder surgery.
Back healthy after a solid second half to the 2014-’15 campaign, Poirier is eager to show what he can do when the Flames open their main camp later this week.
“I’m way more mature and I know what’s going on with one year of experience,” said the 20-year-old from Montreal, who plays with a distinct edge to his game. “I know what to do, I know what my job is. I know the organization very well. I’m more ready this year.”
The 22nd overall pick at the 2013 draft, Poirier had 19 goals and 23 assists in 55 games for Calgary’s AHL affiliate last season after returning from his injury.
The left-winger, who played three years in the QMJHL for the Gatineau Olympiques, was also recalled by the Flames on a couple of occasions. He picked up one assist in six games.
“Over the course of the year Emile became one of the guys who would show up at the rink first,” said Ryan Huska, who coaches the Stockton Heat of the AHL and was behind the Flames’ bench in Penticton. “With his call-ups and a better understanding of what’s expected out of him, he started to make strides with his habits and how he’s expected to play with the Calgary Flames.
“He’s starting to understand that he has to play back into our own zone the same way he goes the other way. Now it’s just a matter of him applying it consistently.”
The Flames could have a few spots open at forward either this season or next, with veterans Jiri Hudler and David Jones set to become unrestricted free agents in July. Or Poirier could earn an NHL job on his own like Jooris did just 12 months ago.
“I think I’m battling for a spot on the roster,” said Poirier. “I’ll do anything possible to get in.
“You see all the guys that were here (at the rookie tournament) last year. You want to do the same thing.”
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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press