September 23, 2017

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Comrie ready to take next step

Eric Comrie has a lot of material to work with if inquiring minds at the Winnipeg Jets prospects camp want to know how he spent his summer vacation.

The 22-year-old goalie from Edmonton was Canada’s third netminder at the world hockey championship in Paris and Cologne in May, playing behind Chad Johnson and Calvin Pickard but practising with the club and facing all-star shooters such as Winnipeg teammate Mark Scheifele, Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon, Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds and Sean Couturier, and Alex Killorn of Tampa.

The experience, he says, only reinforced his belief he belongs in the NHL.

“For myself, I see I can play there, I belong there. I’m stopping these guys,” he said, after Friday’s practice at Bell MTS Iceplex. “I know I can be there and I know I can compete with them.”

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Eric Comrie has a lot of material to work with if inquiring minds at the Winnipeg Jets prospects camp want to know how he spent his summer vacation.

The 22-year-old goalie from Edmonton was Canada’s third netminder at the world hockey championship in Paris and Cologne in May, playing behind Chad Johnson and Calvin Pickard but practising with the club and facing all-star shooters such as Winnipeg teammate Mark Scheifele, Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon, Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds and Sean Couturier, and Alex Killorn of Tampa.

The experience, he says, only reinforced his belief he belongs in the NHL.

"For myself, I see I can play there, I belong there. I’m stopping these guys," he said, after Friday’s practice at Bell MTS Iceplex. "I know I can be there and I know I can compete with them."

Canada won a silver medal at the world championship, losing to 2-1 in a shootout to Sweden.

Comrie then headed south to train in California and also spent a significant chunk of time in the Okanagan Valley, but there weren’t any wine tours on the agenda. He was on the ice with one of his old goaltending coaches, Lyle Mast, in Kelowna.

Finally, he spent about five days in the mountains, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, Matt Duchene of the Avalanche and Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen during some high-altitude training.

"Great summer," he said. "I think I came home (at the end of the season) and started skating five or six days after. I couldn’t really find a time to take a break."

Comrie doesn’t expect much down time for the foreseeable future, either.

Appearing in 51 games (19-26-2, with a 2.96 goals-against average and .906 save percentage) for the Manitoba Moose last season, he could get the bulk of the work during the 2017-18 AHL campaign, although Michael Hutchinson is the presumed odd man out with the Jets — now that Steve Mason is in the fold and will partner with Connor Hellebuyck.

Comrie, 6-1, 175 pounds, is prepared for the inevitable demotion, but intends on pushing hard through training camp to make management’s easiest decisions a bit more difficult.

"I want to compete as long as I can and stay up in the NHL as long as I can. They have three excellent guys there. We have tons of great goalies in our whole organization. And I’m excited to be a part of that and I’m gonna battle as long as I can and work as hard as I can every single day to earn a spot," he said.

"Anything to make the team is going to help us in the long run. For myself, I just use (the free-agent signing of Mason on July 1) as competition to make myself better."

Comrie, the brother of ex-NHLer Mike Comrie, earned a chance to start for the Jets at the end of the season, making his NHL debut on April 6 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. He stopped 35 of 39 shots in a 5-4 win in the team’s final road game of year.

It’s a memory he cherishes, but doesn’t rely on as motivation.

"For sure, that was really exciting. But I think now for myself, I’m taking what I can from it, just like any Moose game, learn from it and move on. It’s in the past. I can’t think about it too much," said Comrie, who gave the game puck along with his stick and jersey to his parents as mementoes of the special night. "It’s one game. I don’t want a one-game career. I want to play for a long time in the NHL, that’s my goal."

The Jets have about 20 prospects skating in Winnipeg and a similarly sized group in Penticton, B.C., this weekend for the annual Young Stars Classic tournament against prospects from the three other western Canadian NHL clubs.

The Jets opened late Friday against the Vancouver Canucks but lost 4-2. They play the Edmonton Oilers tonight at 9:30 p.m. and finish up Monday at 12:30 p.m. against the Calgary Flames.

jason.bell@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @WFPJasonBell

Read more by Jason Bell.

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