Kootenay Ice captain Cale Fleury stands in front of his net during a 2016-17 game against the Prince Albert Raiders. (Brad McLeod)

Kootenay Ice captain Cale Fleury stands in front of his net during a 2016-17 game against the Prince Albert Raiders. (Brad McLeod)

Cale Fleury impresses at NHL Combine, elated with recent Kootenay Ice developments

Team captain performs well at fitness testing for top prospects, excited to work with new coaches

If there’s one thing Cale Fleury won’t have to worry about at the NHL Draft at the end of the month, it’s his ability to give a firm handshake.

At the NHL Draft Combine over the weekend in Buffalo, Fleury placed in the top ten in the musculoskeletal drill for “right hand grip.”

Squeezing 145 pounds, it was his highest ranked attribute.

“I didn’t know [I had such a strong grip],” Fleury laughed. “I was kind of surprised.”

Although Fleury is a lock to be selected at the 2017 NHL Entry Draft in Chicago, he is not projected to be a first-rounder.

Most experts have him projected to go around the third round, but his combine numbers were definitely among the best in the bunch.

With over 100 prospects in attendance, Fleury finished in the top 25 in seven different fitness tests including two agility and balance drills, both hand-grip tests, the bench press and both vertical and long jumping.

“I don’t know if it’ll help [my draft stock], but it definitely won’t hurt it,” Fleury said of his results. “I think the combine as a whole should be a good thing for me.”

In addition to the physical testing, Fleury was interviewed by twelve different NHL teams.

“[The interviews] are pretty basic,” he said. “[They’re just] like some of the ones I had throughout the season with some other teams coming into Cranbrook or just on the road.

“Questions about my family, a little bit about my season and just me as a player in general.”

According to Fleury, he received positive feedback on his results at the combine.

“One of my trainers that I work out with in the summertime is the Florida Panthers strength coach [and] he told me I did [well] in the testing,” he said. “For the meetings my agents talk with every team I meet with and they let me know the feedback from them.”

While a great deal of his time recently has been spent preparing for the draft, Fleury also can’t escape the excitement of the recent changes occurring to his WHL team.

Since returning to Calgary for the off-season back in April, the Ice have undergone significant changes including introducing a new ownership group, a new president and general manager, a new logo and a new head coach.

“I think the change [in Cranbrook] should be good for the team and the town,” he said. “I think the coaches they added have a lot of experience and they should be good, and I know the owners and the GM really want to make a change and I think they’re doing that.”

He’s said that Matt Cockell, the Ice’s new president and GM, has done a great job of reaching out and keeping him in the loop.

“[Cockell] has been talking to me throughout most of the decisions,” Fleury said. “He’s been keeping me in touch before he announced everything so that’s been really good.”

As for the new coaching staff, with former NHL defenceman James Patrick at the helm and Jon Klemm as an associate, Fleury is certain that he will receive excellent guidance.

“[Playing under Patrick and Klemm] should be awesome,” he said. “I talked to James [on Tuesday] and he kind of told me what his plan was, and it involves a lot of things for helping the defence.

“He knows a lot about our position, playing as many years in the NHL as he did, so it should be awesome.”

For now, however, the captain is just staying focused on the draft.

“I’m just going to keep training and start skating again,” Fleury said of his plans for the month of June. “I’ve been off the ice for a bit, just focusing on getting ready for the combine. So I’ve got to start getting ready for the development camps.

“My excitement [for the draft] is rising. I don’t really have to focus on trying to play my game and play hockey anymore, I can just focus on the draft. So I’ve been getting pretty excited.”

The 2017 NHL Entry Draft will take place on June 23 and 24 in Chicago, Illinois and Fleury will be attending the ceremony with his family.

Nolan Patrick, the nephew of new Ice head coach James Patrick, is the top-ranked North American skater eligible for the draft and has been projected to go either first or second overall to the New Jersey Devils or Philadelphia Flyers, respectively.