It was a watershed moment for the Everett Silvertips organization when four players were selected at the 2006 NHL Entry Draft in Vancouver. The Florida Panthers chose Brady Calla in the third round, 73rd overall.
Born in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Calla’s family moved to the Okanagan Valley when he was five years old. He grew up with the game through the Westside Minor Hockey Association programs and was selected by Everett in the 2003 WHL Bantam Draft in the fourth round. This season, Calla will likely play his 200th WHL regular season game.
“Brady is a real good kid,” says Keith Gerhart, the Silvertips radio play-by-play voice. “He’s been very durable here, plays every game it seems and he keeps himself in great shape. He’s got tremendous speed.”
During his first full season in the WHL, Calla scored 11 goals and 21 points as a 17-year-old. Last season, the 6’, 190-pound forward chipped in with eight goals and 33 points.
“His role changed last season. His goal production was down a bit, but his play really improved. He has become a good shot blocker and really played well on the power play with Zach Hamill (’07) and John Lammers (DAL). Brady has become a solid two-way player.”
A throng of fans from Everett attended the Entry Draft in Vancouver and watched as Peter Mueller (PHX), Leland Irving (CAL) and Ondrej Fiala (MIN) were chosen. Calla was there as well, with his parents Chris and Corrine of Kelowna. Hockey’s Future spoke with the Silvertips forward.
HF: What can you tell us about the experience at the Entry Draft?
BC: What a great experience. I was pretty nervous and didn’t know what was going to happen. When Florida chose me, I felt like I’d probably have a good opportunity there. I was very proud and really took the time to reflect on all the hard work over the years. I think it also shows what the organization in Everett is capable of. We’re developing good players and we’re winning hockey games.”
HF: When you broke into the WHL, you were immediately recognized for your skating ability.
BC: I remember in North Vancouver, where I was born, and really early my parents put me into power skating. It seems like it has paid off, learning the techniques and how to skate properly. I think it was a huge help, probably the biggest thing I had going for me through all minor hockey.
HF: Anybody you can think of who had an impact on your development in minor hockey?
BC: Honestly, every minor hockey coach I played for helped me along the way. Every single person on the Westside who was involved in hockey was helpful, even the people who criticized me at times. A couple guys my age were fun to play with. Scott Wasden, who plays with the Medicine Hat Tigers, we always had a friendly rivalry, friendly competitions that helped us to become better players. And Kevin Walrod of the Westside Warriors in the BCHL was another guy on the Westside I played with.
HF: What can you tell us about your rookie year in the WHL?
BC: It was unbelievable, really, to go to an expansion team and be a part of something new. I played with Zach Hamill, geez, I still do! It’s our third year together. And Tyler Dietrich was our linemate. It was a great time.
HF: How has your role evolved in Everett?
BC: My role has changed quite a bit. I’m looked upon to contribute as an energy player, a two-way guy. My defensive responsibilities have become important to the team. Scoring goals may seem like a big weakness right now, but I’m also working on bearing down around the net a lot more in practice and in games.
HF: Is there anything specific the Panthers have asked you to work on this season?
BC: Florida has challenged me to elevate my offensive skills. I feel like I Iearned a ton at training camp and it really opened my eyes to what I have to work on. I think my penalty killing was good at camp and they liked my physical play and my energy. My offensive skills have to improve. I have to continue to develop and then go back to camp next season and be more confident with the puck and show them that I have improved. Duane Sutter is in touch with me regularly and he’s challenging me to be more aggressive and to shoot the puck more. He’s kind of mentoring me in those areas.
HF: Your coach in Everett, Kevin Constantine, has had success in the NHL. Any thoughts on learning from his experience?
BC: Kevin is a really detail-oriented coach, really focused. And that’s what he expects from us. There’s no ‘lows’ playing for him, just ‘highs’. At times I know I have gotten down on myself because the requirement here is pretty systematic. But where I’m at now, I think back and feel like I didn’t even know how to play defensive hockey when I got here. But playing under Kevin has been a great opportunity.
HF: After a deep playoff run last year, expectations are high for the Silvertip this season?
BC: Every other year we’ve always been picked kind of as underdogs. Yeah, this year it’s different, but we don’t really change things as far as our approach to practice and games. Even when we saw preseason rankings that had us ranked first in the CHL, I think we’ll really just go about our business like we were an expansion team again.
HF: There seems to be quite a bit of travel during the WHL season. How have you learned to deal with it?
BC: Well, Spokane is five hours away and Tri-City is a little less. Portland is about three hours. I think guys really just have to understand that it is important to develop a routine that works. The travel isn’t too bad in our division.
HF: Anything specific about your routine?
BC: Well, for me, rest and nutrition are really important. I’m not necessarily superstitious, but I like to do the same things on game days. Some guys wake up in the morning and they can stay up all day and play well that night. Some guys like to have a rest.
HF: How important has it been to have good billets in Everett?
BC: Really important! I’ve had the same billets for three years now, Jean and Ross Johnson. It is a huge commitment. Sure, it isn’t home, but it’s become a second home for sure. Some guys have some trouble, maybe the situation turns out not to be a good fit. I think it’s important to have good billets and I’m grateful to have a good fit here.
HF: There is a banner in the Jim Lind Arena in Westbank, BC, where you played your minor hockey. It’s a salute to Steve Kelly, who won a Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Any thoughts?
BC: You know, I didn’t see the cup, but I’ve seen the banner at the rink. Yeah, it sure is a motivator.
Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.