Behemoth defender and Flames draft pick closer to home with winning on his mind

Many young players, especially those in the Western Hockey League, have trouble adjusting to new teams after being traded. But for defenseman Keegan Kanzig, his move from the Victoria Royals to the Calgary Hitmen appears to have gotten off to a good start.

Trades often come as a shock to some players, and Kanzig, who had been playing since he was five years old, is no exception.

“I had no idea,” Kanzig recalled when asked about his trade, which happened on Nov. 19. “It was a real surprise. I found out the day it was announced, and that was that. I was on my way to Calgary.”

Brent Kisio, the associate coach and assistant general manager of the Hitmen, didn’t hesitate to elaborate on the team’s praise and pursuit of Kanzig, a left handed shooter whose maturity and patience provide him the tools to make the proper plays on the ice.

“We have always liked Kanzig. He brings a lot to the table,” Kisio said. “He is a strong physical presence and he brings leadership off the ice. He’s also a very reliable player defensively, which combined are all aspects that we could use effectively.”After spending more than three seasons playing for the Victoria Royals, Keegan Kanzig was traded back to his home province on Nov. 19. In seven games with the Calgary Hitmen since the trade, Kanzig has recorded three assists.

Photo courtesy of Brad Watson/Calgary Hitmen

The 19-year-old Athabasca, Alta. native utilized that skill set during his debut game for the Hitmen, helping to propel the team to a 5-2 win over the Moose Jaw Warriors on Nov. 21. At 6-6 and 242 pounds, his ability to create space on the point and put immense physical pressure on his opponents gave the Hitmen plenty of opportunities to attack the Warriors defense.

“It was a lot of fun,” Kanzig said when asked how he felt about his debut performance with the Hitmen. “They play an intense game, and it was huge to get the win. I was a little nervous, but that went away pretty quick after the first shift. “

He was initially credited with a goal in the second period, firing a wrist shot past Warriors goaltender Justin Paulic. During the second intermission, Kanzig’s goal was reviewed, and the goal was credited the Kenton Helgesen, the Hitmen’s captain.

Helgesen had strong praise for Kanzig’s debut with the club.

“I thought he did great. He definitely has some size and I know playing against him, he is very intimidating,” Helgesen said. “I remember getting beat up in front of the net by him, so I’m happy to have him on our team now.”

Kanzig was quick to comment on the helpfulness of his teammates and coaching staff to aid his transition to playing for the Hitmen.

“Everybody has been good. It’s a great group of guys in there, great coaching staff too from what I can tell so far,” he said. “Everybody has been a great help welcoming me in and helping me transition. The guys have been making it easy for me and I’ve really enjoyed my time here so far.”

Kanzig, who was drafted 67th overall in the third round of the 2013 National Hockey League Entry Draft, will be trying to crack the Calgary Flames roster when his junior career ends, but he remains excited to continue his tenure with the Hitmen going forward.

“I’m real excited about it. There’s a great group here. We have lots of skill, firepower and I’m really excited to see how we can do it. I’m real confident we can be successful.”

sross@cjournal.ca