AHL Prospect Rankings: #12 – Tim Sestito

Jonathan Willis
February 09 2009 10:13PM

Panthers Oilers Hockey

Tim Sestito is not a real prospect. He’s an offensive black hole (in his finest junior season he managed 32 points), has grit but not size and went undrafted. Still, he’s a player that the Oilers have doggedly kept on their radar screen.

After finishing his junior career, Sestito had a nine-game audition with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (the Islanders’ AHL affiliate), and was invited to the Edmonton Oilers’ training camp in September of 2005. They didn’t have room to sign him to an entry-level deal, so he signed on with the Oilers’ ECHL affiliate in Greenville for 2005-06, where he managed 44 points (good for 8th on the team, 10 points behind plug noted scorer Brock Radunske) and a +9 rating on a team that went +45. Despite the unimpressive ECHL numbers, the Oilers signed Sestito to a two-year entry-level contract in August of 2006.

Sestito responded with an unimpressive 2006-07. He played in only four AHL games, recording no points and a -3 rating in Wilkes-Barre. In Stockton he scored 26 points in 66 games (plug noted scorer Tyler Spurgeon managed 29 points in only 39 games) and went -14 on a team that was +28 overall. Only one player (career ECHL’er Steve Slonina, traded mid-way through the season) managed a poorer +/-.

In 2007-08, Sestito moved from the ECHL to the AHL. Kelly Buchberger’s Springfield Falcons were a pretty bad team, but even there Tim Sestito managed to stand out. His -25 was the worst mark on the team, while his 17 points in 77 games made it clear that it wasn’t a result of cheating for offense. His 175 PIM led the team. The Oilers liked the combination so much that they signed Sestito to a two-year extension.

This season, Sestito has continued to display both his offensive prowess (4 points in 37 games) and his defensive ability (his -9 is the worst of any forward on the team). It’s resulted in a one-game NHL call-up.

After this brief review of Tim Sestito’s career, I have only one question: Why would any NHL franchise waste time, money, and one of their 50 NHL contracts on a player with a) no discernible offensive ability and b) an obvious inability to prevent the other team from scoring goals?

It’s here that we get into Tim Sestito’s positives.

The first two comments worth looking at come from a Holly Gunning article published on Hockey’s Future. First, from an unnamed Oilers’ source:

“Tim Sestito is not our property but hopefully he will be our property because he’s been really good for (Greenville). We knew he would play there and we’re happy he’s played that well.”

Secondly, Sestito commented on his game:

I think mainly I’m out there to get things going with a hit or a forecheck and specifically to keep the puck out of our net. I think my defensive part of the game is getting better and if I can chip in with some points, that’s always a plus. I think being good defensively takes a lot of hard work. It’s easy to take shifts off and float around, but with defensive hockey, you’re always trying to beat guys back to your zone, you’re always looking to pick guys up and get pucks out on the walls. It’s a dirty job, but that’s the key to a lot of games is getting it out.

If those two comments didn’t make it clear exactly what skill-set Sestito brings to the lineup, this article from October of last year makes it impossible to miss:

After taking a slap shot off his foot, Tim Sestito's shift should have been done. But the Springfield Falcons were already down a man and there was a penalty to kill. So Sestito did what hockey players are supposed to do. He ignored the pain and remained on the penalty kill.... "He never quits," Falcons coach Jeff Truitt said. "That's him in a nutshell. It was good news when we found out he was OK. He's going to be sore, of course. We're glad he could continue. He's a big part of everything...." Sestito's play seems to rub off on his teammates and that's what wearing the "C" is all about.

At every level of hockey, teammates and coaches have raved about Sestito’s leadership ability and character. He’s an aggressive player, and he pushes himself and his team all of the time. It’s what led to him getting his first NHL game, as the centre on an ill-conceived fourth line with Liam Reddox and Ladislav Smid.  It probably didn't hurt either that his sub-par numbers in Springfield come against the best possible opposition

There are three things that are often underestimated in dictating who gets an NHL shot and who doesn’t. Health, the approval of an NHL organization, and character. Sestito has all three in spades, and that’s why he is where he is on this list. It has nothing to do with the supposedly “decent scoring skills” that Sportsnet says he has. If and when Sestito gets a shot as a fourth-line forward, it will be because he’s given it his all every step of the way, and because he’s playing for people who appreciate that virtue above perhaps any other. On skill alone, he wouldn’t have a chance.

NHL Contract Status: 487K for the next two seasons, pending RFA

AHL Performance Compares To: Wayne Primeau

Career Projection: Tweener

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Librarian Mike
February 09 2009, 10:55PM
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Great article. I'm really enjoying learning about these prospects...it's very telling that someone who is not only a zero offensively, but a liability defensively got more than a cursory 'thanks for showing up' by this team. Sigh.

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#2 Rob
February 09 2009, 11:21PM
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Is this an example of the obvious? He's a filler for a line-up and an organization too thin on talent? Is he a career minor leaguer who is simply ballast? Your article is in my opinion more telling about the Oiler organization than simply observations about Sestito.

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#3 treblecharger
February 10 2009, 12:16AM
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Nice post, JW. I'm starting to check back a couple times a day...you've been writing some great stuff.

Seems like so long ago that ole' Wanye was here daily....*sigh*. Shouldn't one of us go bail him out? just sayin'....

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#4 klowe
February 10 2009, 02:02AM
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Sestito can find a good titty bar in any city. Serious, last year, I went on the road with the boys(not dislike the boys on the bus where I showed off one of MY SIX STANLEY CUP RINGS) Bucky and I were heading out to buy another box of red wine, when old Sesser yells..."found 'em man, the titty bar is right here in our motel." That kind of heads up and willingness to lead in key sticktoative situations is why you need a guy like that under contract..well that, and the fact Sesser brought a camera into the titty bar and got a few snaps of someone that looks vaguely like myself falling on the stage with a $10.00 bill in his mouth. Thats what owners have contracts for, key guys in key situations. The thing I learned most is that guys just realy think I'm cool when I wear a custom tailored suit to a game in the AHL.

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#5 B-rad
February 10 2009, 06:35AM
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play him with hemsky.....

just kidding......

sigh..

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#6 Jonathan Willis
February 10 2009, 07:15AM
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Librarian Mike wrote:

Great article. I’m really enjoying learning about these prospects…it’s very telling that someone who is not only a zero offensively, but a liability defensively got more than a cursory ‘thanks for showing up’ by this team. Sigh.

Well, in fairness to Sestito he's probably been playing tough opposition all along - but his results just haven't been enough, even with that caveat.

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#7 Colin
February 10 2009, 07:58AM
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JW, please tell me these aren't numbered by quality, that he isn't our 12th best prospect. Sigh.

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#8 Jonathan Willis
February 10 2009, 08:04AM
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@ Colin:

Not by quality exactly; more by how many NHL games I figure they'll get with the Oilers.

12th best AHL prospect. Good stuff's coming. Eventually.

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#9 Chaz
February 10 2009, 08:35AM
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Pardon me for changing the subject, but any updates on Visnovsky? At first they said an MRI would be done on Friday, then I heard Monday and still no update. They usually delay these things if the shoulder is still too swollen, so I'm not hopeful for good news. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?....

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#10 Jonathan Willis
February 10 2009, 08:44AM
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@ Chaz:

I know that Horcoff should be back for the game against Montreal tomorrow, but I haven't heard anything official on Visnovsky.

People have been saying he's done for the year, but I don't think there's been any published confirmation of that.

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#11 Kent
February 10 2009, 08:50AM
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Sounds like a cowbell to me.

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#12 Chaz
February 10 2009, 08:58AM
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@ Jonathan Willis: Thanks Jonathan. Any prospects to come that you'll be writing about with Visnovsky-like attributes? As trying as this year has been, with all the ups and downs, watching that guy play hockey has been a real pleasure. It's nice to see pure skill like that in Oiler silks.

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#13 Jonathan Willis
February 10 2009, 09:02AM
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@ Chaz:

It's a stretch to think that any of the Oilers' minor-league prospects will reach that level. Hrabal's troubles have already been documented, Taylor Chorney's having an abysmal year, and I don't think Jeff Petry's in that range of player.

The long-shot guy to watch for would be Cody Wild, I think. He's had a bizarre year, but of the Oilers' puck-moving prospects on defense he has some nice things happening.

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#14 Jonathan Willis
February 10 2009, 09:02AM
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@ Kent:

When you've got a fever...

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#15 Fortboy
February 10 2009, 09:16AM
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My expectations next time Sestito gets called up will be tempered accordingly...not that they were very high anyways. But the way the Org pumps these guys after each call up you would think they were legit NHL'rs. Clearly some of these guys' pedigrees are being exposed. Great article J-Dub.

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#16 Poo Czar
February 10 2009, 09:24AM
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RUDY! RUDY! RUDY!

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#17 rindog
February 10 2009, 09:32AM
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@ Poo Czar:

We already have a RUDY on our team. He plays under the alias of Liam Reddox....

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#18 Poo Czar
February 10 2009, 09:34AM
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"You're 5 foot nothin', 100 and nothin', and you have barely a speck of athletic ability. And you hung in there with the best Ice Hockey Squadron in the land for 2 years!"

Hang in there Timmy! You'll be anchoring the first line with Liam before April!

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#19 Poo Czar
February 10 2009, 09:35AM
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This organization has too many Rudy's, not enough Johnny Utah's...

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#20 APE
February 10 2009, 10:09AM
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We need a Johnny Rocker..

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#21 MattL
February 10 2009, 10:18AM
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A couple of blogs ago, somebody posted that the AHL is for legitimate prospects, and seasoned minor-pro vets who teach the young guys how to be a pro.

They neglected to mention that those minor-pro vets don't appear out of nowhere, they start out as guys like Tim Sestito. So if you get a guy with the right kind of character, you tend to hold on to him, even if you're pretty sure he'll never make it to the show.

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