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Calgary Flames select surfer Mitch Wahl with second-round pick

OTTAWA - Mitch Wahl is one of six new Calgary Flames following the second and final day of the NHL draft on Saturday, but he's the only one who got a high-school credit for surfing.

Wahl was born in Long Beach, Calif., and grew up in Seal Beach, just down the road from San Diego. Just down the street from his house was the beach. The only thing missing from the surfer stereotype on the six-foot, 175-pounder is the obligatory blond hair.

"I'm a big time surfer and I surfed in high school. It's a lot of fun," said Wahl, who won a Memorial Cup title with the Spokane Chiefs last month.

"It's a small town and there's 18 streets and the beach, that's about it."

Wahl, whom the Flames grabbed in the second round, 48th overall, was first introduced to skating when he was six and noticed another kid wearing hockey gloves and a Phoenix Coyotes sweater. He was hooked.

The fact that Wayne Gretzky was in the neighbourhood playing for the Los Angeles Kings helped a little bit as well.

"My parents put me in when I was young and I think it's because Gretzky was traded to the Kings. I love the game and had a passion with it so I stuck with it."

Seal Beach is not the hockey hotbed that Calgary is, but it has a following. There was even a writeup on Wahl in the local paper after the Chiefs won the Memorial Cup.

"The hockey people knew what (the Memorial Cup) was but other than that not too many. I got a good write up in the newspaper though so that was cool.

"Hockey is getting bigger down there so I have to come into the (Flames) camp and prove to them I'm a player."

Wahl had two goals and six points in four games at the Memorial Cup playing on the Chiefs top line. He racked up 73 regular-season points in 67 games.

Wahl played with the California Wave, a travelling team that played in tournaments throughout the United States and Canada and that's how he got noticed by the WHL, and then the Flames.

"It's a Canadian sport and it's a big thing in Calgary so I'm excited."

With their five remaining selections Saturday the Flames grabbed two more centres, two defencemen and a left winger. Add to that the centre they selected in Greg Nemisz with the 25th overall pick Friday and the Flames filled in some holes with some good sized players.

They needed to after sending six-foot-one winger Alex Tanguay to Montreal on Friday for the pick they used to take Nemisz.

Only their final pick, Alexander Deilert of Djurgander Junior in the Swedish League, is smaller than six feet tall. He's 5-11.

"You always look to improve your hockey club and Darryl (Sutter) has made a couple of moves that we think will help our hockey team," said Flames coach Mike Keenan.

"We have evaluations and try to look at the needs if the team when the season ends, which we did. Then the managers try to survey the market to see what's available. I've been in so many discussions with various teams with various possibilities but to make them come to a reality is a tough part of the business."

The Flames selected Lance Bouma with the 78th pick in the third round and Riley Grantham in the sixth round with the 168th pick. Both centres played in the WHL, with Bouma suiting up for the Vancouver Giants and Grantham the Moose Jaw Warriors.

With the 108th pick they took winger Nicholas Larson, who played for Waterloo in the United States Hockey League and defenceman T.J. Brodie from the OHL's Saginaw Spirit in the fourth round with the 114th selection.



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