February 09 2009 10:13PM
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