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Flames ink rugged Hathaway to one-year contract

Garnet Hathaway has been treated to a couple of appetizer-sized portions — a 14-game NHL look-see with the Calgary Flames two years back followed by a 26-game stint in the big leagues last season.

What the rugged right-winger is hungry for now is the full-meal deal.

“It just gets that taste in your mouth that you want the whole time,” Hathaway said Thursday after inking a one-year, two-way contract with the Flames as a restricted free agent. “You can ask anyone — nobody ever wants to be sent down — but definitely getting a feel for the lifestyle, playing more games and being up longer than I was the year before, I’m even more motivated. You really know what it takes, and I want it even more now.”

Hathaway is a fan favourite of sorts at the Saddledome thanks to his hard-hitting, hard-working style, but the 25-year-old from Kennebunkport, Maine, has logged the majority of his shifts with the American Hockey League’s Stockton Heat.

The highlight of his 26-game stay with the Flames last season came at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena, where he notched his first NHL goal on an edge-of-the-blue-paint deflection. In a grand total of 40 outings at hockey’s highest level, the 6-foot-2, 207-lb. thumper has collected eight points and dropped his mitts for five scraps.

Hathaway also had an ‘A’ stitched on his sweater in Stockton for the past two winters. He managed eight tallies, a dozen assists and an impressive plus-22 rating in 31 appearances for Calgary’s minor-league affiliate during the 2016-17 campaign.

“I think (last season) was a big step for me towards the goal of being a full-time NHL player,” Hathaway said. “When I look back, I had a great year. I had a lot of fun, and it was really exciting scoring my first NHL goal, and those are memories I’ll never forget. But it’s a process. I think I’m still growing as a player, so it’s stuff that I’ll pick up from and stuff I’ll keep working with.”

It’s not recommended that guys on two-way deals invest in real estate in their big-league cities, but Hathaway is anxious to prove this fall that he is ready for full-time employment at the Saddledome.

With Lance Bouma’s contract buyout, he should be among the top candidates for a sparkplug role on the Flames fourth line.

“My first year coming to camp, I was on an AHL contract, and I had to approach it as if I was on a one-way. Even guys who come into camp on a one-way, they have to approach it the same,” Hathaway said. “You always have to be ready when camp starts. It doesn’t matter what kind of contract you’re on, they’re going to get the guys who will help the team win and the guys that fit. Those are the guys who are going to make the team.”

With Thursday’s announcement that Hathaway’s deal is done, the Flames have five remaining restricted free agents — centre Sam Bennett, defencemen Brett Kulak and Tyler Wotherspoon and netminders Jon Gillies and David Rittich.

Hathaway was first signed by the Flames organization to an AHL-only deal after completing his collegiate career with the NCAA’s Brown University Bears.

He was a never a can’t-miss kid, so this sort of paperwork is still significant.

“It really hits you when you get the contract and you pull out the pen,” Hathaway said Thursday. “As an undrafted kid, you don’t get that special draft day that a lot of guys do. But moments like this, they’re highlights in your career. It definitely brought me back to even my AHL signing when I was still in school. These are special moments.”

wgilbertson@postmedia.com

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http://calgaryherald.com/sports/hockey/nhl/calgary-flames/hathaway-signs-one-year-two-way-pact-with-flames