Linden Penner â?? Making Most of Opportunity

While he gets full marks for his hockey-ish name, RW Linden Penner’s favourite sport provided its share of ups and downs this past season.

* Down, getting released right off the bat by the Saskatoon Blades. (“Kind of disheartened.”)

* Up, enjoying a bountiful winter with the Whitecourt Wolverines of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. (“Good experience.”)

* Down, not being drafted by a National Hockey League team.

* Up, being invited the morning after the draft to the Calgary Flames’ development camp. (“Pretty surprising. I was so stoked.”)

* Up, scoring twice in Saturday’s scrimmage at WinSport’s Ice Complex, which had been crammed with adoring fans.

“It was pretty cool to score those goals and have everyone cheering,” said Penner, an unheralded 18-year-old. “I’ve never skated at this level before, so it was definitely a big jump for me. But I enjoyed it. It was pretty fun out there.”

Keen to get the hat trick, though?

“No,” he chuckled. “Two was enough.”

Also scoring were C Sean Monahan, RW Coda Gordon, C Markus Granlund.

But in a game that featured the NHL-groomed likes of C Sven Baertschi and C Roman Horak, it was Penner who stole the show.

Taking a swell feed from C Josh Jooris, Penner opened the scoring by ably picking the top glove-hand corner on goalie Jon Gillies. Later in the session, sniffing around the net, he crammed home a garbage goal.

“That first goal? I don’t score skill goals very often — I score greasy ones like the second one,” said the Sherwood Park native, who collected 34 points, including 14 goals, in 40 appearances for Whitecourt. “I mean, that was pretty cool. I was pretty impressed.”

A productive scrimmage won’t hurt his self-esteem.

“Definitely my confidence will be higher than if I wasn’t here,” said Penner. “But I’ve just got to keep my head down, keep focusing and training hard. I’m excited to go out there. Hopefully, it will be a good opportunity for me.

“I’m going to try out. No guarantees. But I’m going to work really hard to crack a spot on that roster. I’ve heard Kevin Constantine is the coach that’ll put you in The Show if you have it. So I’m pretty excited.”

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