Signed as an unrestricted free agent by the Calgary Flames on July 6, 2004 after finishing up his Western Hockey League career with Brent Sutter and the Red Deer Rebels, hulking forward Justin Taylor was set to go to work on making an impression on brother Darryl that fall.
Due to a year-long NHL lockout, Taylor’s plans of making an impact in training camp were delayed.
Joining Calgary’s split American Hockey League affiliate Lowell Lock Monsters for the 2004-05 campaign, Taylor adjusted well to the professional game. With a 6’4, 200lb frame, it wasn’t hard for the left winger to adjust to the physical nature of the AHL. He had 11 points in 62 games and registered a -3.
A professional season under his belt, Taylor wanted to impress at 2005 training camp, but felt little pressure to perform. Understanding that there are a limited number of roster spots available, Taylor admitted he was just trying to absorb the environment.
“It’s a very tight competition and everyone’s fighting for a job,” admitted Taylor. “I don’t think there was a whole lot of pressure because you just go out and try to do what you’ve been doing all camp. I’m just trying to work as hard as I can every day and soak up the whole experience, learn from the older guys. It’s what you’ve got to do in a situation like this, take advantage of them.”
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Taylor seemed to take advantage of his opportunity to dress in Calgary’s first preseason game, an exhibition bout against their ‘Battle of Alberta’ foe the Edmonton Oilers. Edmonton is Taylor’s hometown and he relished the opportunity to play in the city he grew up.
Not only did Taylor play well, but was a shootout selection, where he was stymied by Oilers goaltender Mike Morrison.
“For your first exhibition game to be in your hometown, that’s just special,” beemed Taylor. “I had a ton of family and friends at the game. To get a chance to get to the shootout was something I did in the American League a little bit last year. It’s a fun thing. There’s definitely a special experience I’ll never forget.”
What seemed to surprise Taylor most wasn’t the fact that he was picked for the shootout, but the fact that Zambonis cleared a lane down the middle of the ice, allowing for easier puck movement and stickhandling for the shooter.
“I was surprised to see the Zambonis out there and it’s a good idea,” said Taylor. “You do the strip down the middle and it opens up your options even more. Usually you’re limited to a shot or a shotty deke. I liked it.”
Taylor’s potential boss, Darryl Sutter, agreed.
“I liked the two Zamboni system,” he remarked, in typical Sutter fashion.
Despite his strong game in Edmonton where he was one of the best Flames on an inexperienced Calgary squad, Taylor was re-assigned to Omaha, where he’ll fill out a roster spot for the AkSarBen Knights.
Re-assigned on September 18th, Taylor was one of 16 placed at the helm of new Omaha coach Ryan McGill, former coach of the New York Rangers AHL affiliate Hartford Wolf Pack.
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