Friday, February 23, 2024

‘A pure character kid’: Pachal proving to be nice fit with Flames

Four games into his Flames career, the defenceman acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights has made a positive impression

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Shortly after hearing the news that Brayden Pachal had been claimed off the NHL’s waiver wire by the Calgary Flames, Manny Viveiros tapped out a pair of text messages.

The first, to Pachal, who he’d coached the past three seasons in the minors.

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“I just said, ‘I’m so happy for you. Now, you’re going to get an opportunity to be where you belong — in the National Hockey League,’ ” Viveiros shared. “To get an opportunity to be more of a regular, I think it’s going to make a big difference for him.”

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And the second, to Flames assistant coach Dan Lambert, who oversees Calgary’s blue-line brigade.

“I know Dan and I told him, ‘You just got a good kid, a really good kid. He’s going to give you everything he has,’ ” Viveiros said.

Now four games into his Flames career, Pachal has certainly made a positive impression. The 24-year-old helped his new crew to a 3-1 record on their just-wrapped road-trip, although they concluded their travels with a shutout loss Monday in the Big Apple. Asked for an early assessment, coach Ryan Huska described him as “a breath of fresh air.”

Indeed, this rugged right-hander from Estevan, Sask., has come as advertised, immediately providing a physical presence. He has been credited with 10 hits already, and dinged with 10 penalty minutes. His steady, no-frills style has allowed his defence partner Oliver Kylington to be more active in the rush.  

Since being claimed off waivers from the Vegas Golden Knights and hustling to join the Flames in Boston, Pachal has been on the ice for just one goal-against in 51 minutes of even-strength action. In enemy rinks, where the home coach will typically tap his stars whenever the bottom-pairing blue-liners hop the boards, that is an encouraging sign.

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Calgary Flames defenceman Brayden Pachal checks New Jersey Devils Simon Nemec during a game on Feb. 8.
Calgary Flames defenceman Brayden Pachal checks New Jersey Devils Simon Nemec during a game on Feb. 8. AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

“He’s taken advantage of every opportunity he’s had as a player, and I think they’ll really appreciate him in Calgary,” predicted Curtis Hunt, Pachal’s general manager during his stint with the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders. ”A good prairie kid. Works hard. And just a quality person. A smile on his face every day. He loves the game and loves to compete and loves to play that kind of gritty, hard-nosed game.”

That seems to be the consensus from Pachal’s previous stops.

Hunt referred to this undrafted defenceman as “a pure character kid.”

Viveiros, now working in the WHL as bench boss for the Vancouver Giants, added: “Brayden is one of my favourite players that I have coached over the years, and there’s been a lot of really good ones.”

What’s more telling than a glowing reference is that both men stitched a ‘C’ on his sweater.

You don’t often see a 22-year-old captain in the AHL, but Viveiros figured that Pachal was ready for that role with the Henderson Silver Knights in January 2022, midway through his third professional campaign.

Brayden Pachal Calgary Flames stats

“We were going up and down our lineup and who exemplifies our group, our identity, the culture that we wanted to install, and it was an easy choice for us,” Viveiros explained. “He was a guy that you knew was going to be one of your hardest workers in practice and you knew you were going to get the same from him every day. He never took a day off. For me, and especially for a young team in the American Hockey League, that’s what you want your captain to be.

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“Lead by example … That’s something Brayden did every single day.”

In Prince Albert, one of the perks of the captaincy was that Pachal was first to leave his fingerprints on the Ed Chynoweth Cup when the Raiders won the league crown in 2019. (He’s already hoisted the Stanley Cup too, although he only suited up for one playoff appearance last spring with the Golden Knights).

“He was like the glue for us,” Hunt said, reminiscing about Pachal’s impact on a squad that won WHL bragging rights and a trip to the Memorial Cup. “He brought us together and kept us humble and kept us on course. It was just, ‘Get your hard hat and your work boots and your lunchbox and that workman’s mentality, and let’s go out and take care of business.’ That’s kind of what he did for us.

“As captain, he had a way to make players accountable, yet doing it humbly and respectfully as to not create animosity or defensiveness. And you know, he backed it up with his play. He was a real good Raider for us.”

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He’s a Flame now, hoping to find a long-term fit after being a frequent health scratch over the first half of this season in Sin City.

Wearing No. 94 on his back, Pachal will officially introduce himself to the Saddledome crowd in Thursday’s clash with the San Jose Sharks (7 p.m. MT, Sportsnet One, Sportsnet 960 The Fan.) 

“He’s going to compete every night,” Hunt promised.

“He’s just very hard to play against,” Viveiros echoed. “From the blue-line in, he makes it difficult for the opposition’s forwards to come around the net. He’ll block shots. He’ll do whatever he can to help his team out. He’s just the ultimate, ultimate teammate.”

ICE CHIPS: A spectator for four in a row on the road, centre Cole Schwindt was reassigned Tuesday to the AHL’s Calgary Wranglers.

wgilbertson@postmedia.com

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