Being sent back to the Western Hockey League last October by the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers was one of the more sobering moments of Carsen Twarynski’s career.
But once the initial pangs of disappointment wore off, it didn’t take the 20-year-old Kelowna Rockets’ forward long to see the bigger picture.
“Originally, being (sent back) wasn’t what I wanted, but really it’s been a blessing,” said Twarynski, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound native of Calgary. “It was probably the best thing to be sent down to develop my game, to keep improving, try get a contract and be ready to go pro when the time comes.”
Twarynski, a third-round draft pick of Philadelphia’s in 2016, was hoping to sign a pro deal coming out of Flyers’ camp and potentially begin the 2017-18 campaign with the American Hockey League’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
When that didn’t happen, Twarynski chose to treat it not as rejection but rather as motivation to raise his game to the next level.
Twarynski has responded with a team-leading 29 goals in 49 games this season, including 17 in the last 21 games.
“I could have sulked around for 10 games but that wouldn’t have gotten me anywhere,” said Twarynski, who the Rockets acquired from Calgary prior to the 2017 trade deadline.
“It was now or never for me seriously, my career and livelihood were on the line, so to come in with a bad attitude, it could have been my last chance. The offense has been coming, the team is doing well, so I’m pretty happy with the way everything is going.”
As one of three over-age players on Kelowna’s roster, Bruce Hamilton said much was expected from Twarynski this season.
The Rockets president and general manager hasn’t been disappointed.
“He’s fighting for a pro contract and that in a nutshell is what it’s come down to,” said Hamilton. “When we traded for Carsen, we wanted a big body, and I’d say overall, particularly with the scoring, he’s exceeded expectations. We still think he can have more of an impact physically.
“But with our guys away at world juniors, Carsen really stepped up, he’s been a go-to guy for us and we’ve been really happy,” Hamilton added.
“I’ll be surprised if Philly doesn’t sign him.”
The Flyers have until June to sign Twarynski to a pro contract or the Calgary native will be cast into the free agent market. It’s no surprise which story line Twarynski wants his career to follow.
“That’s the best-case scenario for me, by far, to sign with the (Flyers). It’s a really good organization with a lot of good, young players right now, and I think it’s a really good fit for me. It’s definitely where I want to be and I’m going to do everything I can to try and get a contract.”
In the meantime, Twarynski plans to enjoy the ride with his Kelowna Rockets whom he fully expects to be in the mix when the WHL playoffs open this spring.
“I think we’re a contender, we didn’t make any massive deals but that’s fine because we like our team, we have a good culture here and we’re confident in our abilities,” Twarynski said. “We’re a team to be reckoned with, we feel like we match up well against any team in the league and we’ll be able to make a push for a league title.”
With 29 goals, Twarynski is on pace to score the most goals by a Rockets’ player since Rourke Chartier netted 48 during the 2014-15 season.