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Flames’ Nystrom ready to take next step

Eric Nystrom takes everything in stride. As in one step at a time. Having now graduated from the University of Michigan, the next step for Nystrom is professional hockey.

As a first-round pick of the Calgary Flames and son of 14-year National Hockey League veteran Bob Nystrom, you would think the kid is a lock.

Not so. Just ask Nystrom.

“Just because you are a first-round pick doesn’t mean you are going to make it,” says Nystrom, chosen 10th overall by the the Flames in the 2002 Entry Draft. “There are lots of guys who haven’t made it. Hopefully I am not one of those guys. You just do what you are told and do the best you can. If you are successful at it, it’s a great way to make a living.”

The 6-foot-1, 208-pound Nystrom captained the Wolverines in 2004-05 while setting personal highs for assists (19) and points (32). He was also named the CCHA’s best defensive forward in the process.

Coming out of college hockey and making the jump to the pro game isn’t easy at the best of times but because Nystrom played in varying roles — he was slotted in as a defensive specialist for his final two years at Michigan — his game is one that is well-rounded. Playing both ends of the ice is necessary — some would say compulsory — in the NHL and, during his past two seasons with the Wolverines, Nystrom learned to play at both ends.

“There were not a lot of college players committed to that (defense),” says Nystrom. “There were great one-way, one-dimensional players from an offensive point of view. I was willing to do it and I got put in that position. If that is what I am going to have to do to stick in the NHL or pro hockey, that’s what I’ll do.

“This year I kinda got into a defensive role but with a good offensive centerman. We just clicked and I had my best offensive season.”

Nystrom summers in Syosset on Long Island, where his father played for the Islanders for 14 years and 900 games. After attending a development camp in Calgary in early June, Nystrom was heading back to the Michigan campus to get in some training with teammates before heading home to continue the workout regimen.

“I’ll spend the summer training and getting ready to make a good first impression,” said Nystrom, anticipating his first pro training camp this fall.

“College hockey was good to me. It’s a different brand of hockey. Professional hockey, I think, suits my game a little more. It relies on position and bigger guys. College hockey there are a lot of smaller guys who can run all over the ice. Pro hockey seems to suit my game more so I am excited to get the chance,” said Nystrom.

Whether he starts in Omaha, with the Flames’ new American Hockey League franchise, or makes the NHL Flames in his first crack, Nystrom will always be looking to improve and take the next step. It’s just in his nature.

“I think at Michigan I was a little restricted in what I could do offensively. Right now it is a new page in the book and hopefully a chance to show a little more offense. If not, you can always fall back on good defense.”

This story was originally featured on calgaryflames.com and omahaaksarbenknights.com.