A major question was answered at Calgary Flames camp on Thursday as players hit the ice for the first time.
Tyler Toffoli was the odds-on favourite for top-line duty alongside Elias Lindholm and Jonathan Huberdeau. Sure enough, the veteran righty got the first spin.
The third line — anchored by Michael Backlund — featured his familiar flanker Blake Coleman on one side. They flashed great chemistry at times last year, especially in the playoffs. On the other side was Dillon Dube, looking to build on his 18-goal season.
But what about the other big addition this offseason?
On Thursday, that could have referred to both Nazem Kadri AND camp tryout player Sonny Milano, who lined up together on the second line.
Milano has a massive opportunity in front of him, and that was evident immediately just by virtue of who he skated with. Fellow PTO Cody Eakin is essentially a placeholder for the injured Andrew Mangiapane on the other side. But the young and skilled Milano is getting his shot early. If he can develop chemistry with Kadri, his patience and acceptance of the PTO could pay off with a new contract.
“It was definitely a long offseason. I was hoping for a contract but that’s rare right now and I’ve just got to be positive. There’s definitely a spot open and I’ve just got to make the best of that,” Milano told reporters.
“You just want to be yourself, play your game, show your best and how you can help this team.”
Milano had a good season with the Anaheim Ducks last year, scoring 14 times and earning 34 points in 60 games. He was the recipient of the Trevor Zegras lacrosse pass from behind the net that owned the highlight reels last season.
Yet he didn’t receive a qualifying offer from the Ducks. With arbitration rights, there was talk the team wasn’t willing to pay what he could be awarded. He missed time with injury last year and had much of the previous season wiped out by a concussion.
Not much was said when Calgary Flames head coach spoke with Milano last week. But where Milano landed Thursday said a lot.
“It was pretty brief. They seemed happy about me coming and told me there’s a spot open and I’ve just got to get it,” Milano said of his conversations.
“Obviously Kadri had a hell of a year.”
His year wasn’t bad either, but teams weren’t big on giving out contracts to anyone with question marks this offseason.
Milano said a number of times he thought he was worthy of a contract. But he will have to show that in this opportunity with the Calgary Flames.
“Definitely a playmaker but I think I get the puck around the net, I can finish it,” he said when asked how he describes his game.
“I thought I was worthy of a contract; I guess I just have to do it again and prove it.”