By Cleve Dheensaw
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2008
There wasn’t a sniff of a Mac’s Midget AAA title when forward Adam Cracknell was playing minor hockey at Juan de Fuca. Nor was there a Cyclone Taylor Cup in the cards in Junior B with the Saanich Braves or a Memorial Cup in the major-junior WHL with the Kootenay Ice.
The closest that Cracknell, a 2004 Calgary Flames draft pick, has come to a ring is this season with the ECHL’s National Conference-champion Las Vegas Wranglers.
While most North American hockey fans were watching the Stanley Cup final, the pro scouting departments of NHL clubs are watching the AAA-level AHL Calder Cup and AA-level ECHL Kelly Cup, and that isn’t lost on Cracknell.
He has not scored in the first two games in the Kelly Cup Finals, but hopes his strong playoff showing before that — Cracknell is tied for second in Kelly Cup scoring with 21 points in 17 playoff games — helps his standing within the Flames organization.
That’s what it’s all about in the minor pros.
The Wranglers are the farm team of the Flames and the Cyclones of the Montreal Canadiens and the Nashville Predators. Cracknell is among 10 players in the 2008 Kelly Cup final under NHL contract while another 11 are playing under AHL contracts.
“Hopefully, I’ll get on with the Flames’ AHL affiliate in Quad City next season and show what I can do and then work my way up from there,” said the 22-year-old before Las Vegas’ 1-0 win on Sunday.
It’s been done before — 355 times. That’s the number of former ECHL players who have gone on to play in the NHL, including 99 in the past three seasons.
Taking a Kelly Cup ring with him to the next level is what the next two weeks are about for Cracknell. The Kelly Cup switches to Sin City for the third and fourth games Thursday and Friday at the Orleans Arena.
“We are a very close team, off the ice as well, and we play for each other,” said Cracknell, whose father Peter is a federal prison guard at William Head.
They play in a city of distractions, but must remain focused.
“You can do anything you want in Vegas, at any time day or night, but you know enough at this level to keep your attention on hockey,” said Cracknell. The only disappointment for the former Belmont student was being denied a meeting with the hometown Victoria Salmon Kings in the National Conference final in front of family and friends. The Salmon Kings, however, were upset by the Utah Grizzlies in the conference semifinals.
But Cracknell will return to the Island for his annual summer training sessions with a group of NHL, AHL and ECHL pros who call Victoria home. And when he does, he hopes to have some new bling to flash.