The Brandon Wheat Kings got a late Christmas present on Friday when the Calgary Flames cleared the way for Mike Ferland to return to junior hockey.
After spending the first half of the season playing professionally, Ferland has been practising with his old Western Hockey League team since Boxing Day. The Flames made the move official yesterday by reassigning the 20-year-old Brandonite to the Wheat Kings and he was in their lineup last night at Westman Place versus the Moose Jaw Warriors.
“It’s unexpected and very good news for our organization,” Wheat Kings general manager Kelly McCrimmon said. “This is a process that was initiated through Mike’s agent. … Mike’s excited to be back, which is important, and obviously with what he’s accomplished in the league already, we expect he’d be a very good player.”
Selected by the Flames in the fifth round of the 2010 National Hockey League Entry Draft, Ferland has played sparingly in his first season as a professional, seeing action in only seven games with Calgary’s top farm team, the American Hockey League’s Abbotsford Heat, plus three more games with the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies. An assist with the Grizzlies is the only point he’s managed this season.
But Ferland is one of the most feared players in the WHL; a tough winger who also produced 47 goals and 96 points last season and was named to the Eastern Conference second all-star team.
Ferland believes that a strong second half here will set him up well going into training camp next season with the Flames.
“It’s great to be back here with the boys again, the coaching staff, and … I love playing here,” he said.
“I haven’t really been playing much. I just kinda want to get my groove back. I thought I played a lot tonight. It’s probably the most I’ve played all year, and I’m looking forward to our next game.”
While his presence is sure to help a team that has a 13-20-2-2 record, Ferland’s arrival also created a new quandary for the club, pushing them one over the WHL limit of three overage players.
The Wheat Kings have two weeks to move one from a group that also includes forward Nick Buonassisi and defencemen Ryley Miller and Tyler Yaworski — a window that coincides with the WHL’s Jan. 10 trade deadline.
“It’s uncommon at this time of year to have four 20-year-olds,” McCrimmon said. “There are rules in place. We have a timeframe to get back within the league limit and we’ll play that process out.”