He refuses to dwell on the past.

He refuses to wonder about where he’d be right now if he hadn’t lost an entire winter to a wrecked knee.

Instead, Lance Bouma is learning to stay in the present — and stay in the lineup.

“I would say he’s our most improved player,” Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley said Friday morning. “This guy didn’t play last year — knee surgery. We saw him in the gym, working every day. He showed up to camp in great shape, which was absolutely no surprise to us. He’s one of the first guys on the ice at practice. Game day, same thing. He’s committed to getting better.

“He wants to be an NHL player. He’s a gritty player willing to block shots. I have lots of time for Booms. His progression is far from a surprise.”

But perhaps it’s a revelation to the new gent on the premises.

Then again, Brian Burke’s rally cry — bigger, stronger, tougher — must be music to Bouma’s ears.

Saturday in Vancouver, on an especially sticky stage, Bouma looked right at home. His abrasive work earned him one assist and a handful of tiny stitches only a whisker under his left eye.

“I’m not sure if that was (from) the eye gouge or the punch,” Bouma, smiling, said of his run-in with Zack Kassian. “I was fine with (the night’s tone). That was fun for a lot of guys on our team. I mean, you see guys go to battle like that, it’s really gets everyone into the game. And, obviously, we don’t like them too much. It was fun.

“That’s my style — a crash-and-bang kind of guy, a guy that’s willing to block shots and play that dirty type of game.”

Added centre Matt Stajan: “He’s in everybody’s face, but he’s not ratting it up behind everybody’s back like some guys … he’s a pain for other teams to play against.”

In other words, as Flames management, with an eye to the future, assesses its assets, the 23-year-old is grading high.

“I feel like I’ve grown a lot this year,” said Bouma, who is is 6-foot-1, 210 pounds. “Obviously, them giving me the minutes that I’m getting lately helps, gives you lots of confidence … putting you in those situations where they need you to shut down the other team or play against the other team’s top line.”

Now in his first full season in Calgary, Bouma has 10 points in 47 games. Production, in his case, isn’t paramount — although he had picked two goals and a helper in his four appearances prior to the Nashville Predators’ visit on Friday night.

In the final four dates of the exhibition slate and in the opener of the regular season, he’d collected five goals — on five shots.