You never know what to expect when you’re heading into your first taste of the National Hockey League, but for Moose Jaw Warriors forward Atley Calvert it was a positive experience all-around.
The 19-year-old Moose Jaw Minor Hockey and Prairie Hockey Academy product was back at Warriors practice on Wednesday morning after spending the previous week playing for the Buffalo Sabres in their annual Prospects Challenge tournament.
It was just a taste of the highest level of hockey -- the event featured rookie teams from six NHL clubs playing a week-long pre-season tournament -- but it was one Calvert enjoyed being a part of.
“It was a pretty good experience, I just tried to take as much as I could from it,” Calvert said. “It was a blast and I had a great time.”
Calvert turned some heads in his time at the event. He was listed among five players to watch by FanSided’s sabrenoise.com, and as the event kicked into high gear, was among a handful of skaters who drew rave reviews for their play on the Sabres’ fourth line.
As for the games themselves, Calvert pointed to the main difference almost every WHL player sees at that level, but was happy to be able to adjust as things progressed.
“It was fast, but at the end of the day you’re still playing hockey,” Calvert said. “So I just tried to keep it simple and just have as much fun as a could… everything is just amped up to another level and you just have to play. Eventually, you get used to it and I learned a lot about that level so it was a good experience.”
Calvert has made a penchant throughout his career of not being afraid to go into the hard areas, and he didn’t deviate from that style of game down south.
“It was good bouncing around with those guys,” he said. “A lot of them are bigger and stronger but it’s no different than bumping into people out here or up there, it’s all the same for me.”
Of course, this is still the NHL we’re talking about. The tournament was just the first step in a lifelong dream of playing with and against the best in the world, and it was hard not to be a little wide-eyed at the whole thing.
“It was pretty cool,” Calvert said. “It’s very professional, they have a great organization up there and I was proud to be a part of it for a week.”
You don’t leave an event like that without picking up a few tips and tricks, too, with the Sabres encouraging Calvert to continue playing his style of game on his return to the Warriors.
“Just take what you learned here and keep working hard,” he said of Buffalo’s exit message. “They said to keep the pace as fast as you can, just try and get better, take what you learned here back to your team and play your hardest.”
And that all leads into the action this weekend. The Warriors open the 2022-23 campaign on Friday night in Regina against the Pats before hosting Regina for their home opener Saturday night. Game time is 7 p.m. at the Moose Jaw Events Centre.
“It’s good and I’m really looking forward to it,” Calvert said. “ Not everyone is back yet, but that’s not going to change our goal. We want to go 2-0 here to start out, we don’t want to waste any time getting out of the gate and we’ll be going for those wins this weekend."