I’m not sure exactly where Patrick O’Sullivan will fit among the Edmonton Oilers top six forwards this coming season, but I’d be willing to wager he’ll look like he belongs in the mix somewhere.
What I do know for certain is that circumstances alone dictate Oilers fans are likely to see a lot more from the talented 24-year-old than he showed in the 18 games he played after coming over from the Los Angeles Kings at the trade deadline last season.
Players acquired at the deadline often have difficulty settling in and making an impact in the stretch drive. It was no different for O’Sullivan, who produced a decidedly underwhelming 2-4-6 and was a minus-7 in Oilers silks after tallying 14-23-37 with a plus-1 rating in 62 games with Los Angeles.
Talking to O’Sullivan Thursday, it’s obvious he’s shaken off his disappointing debut with the Oilers, has settled over the summer and will be ready to roll when training camp begins later this month.
I get the feeling he’ll put that disappointment behind him in a hurry.
All eyes were on O’Sullivan when he arrived in a three-way trade with Los Angels and Carolina, and that’s understandable when a player the calibre of Erik Cole — despite his struggles here — gets dealt away.
O’Sullivan, coming off a 22-goal season with the Kings in 2007-08, endured the usual challenges — getting used to new teammates, new linemates, new systems and a new city. All that with the Oilers scrambling for a playoff position. He spent the end of the season living in a hotel.
Those adjustments out of the way, O’Sullivan can concentrate on doing what he does and regaining his form. He bought a house in Edmonton over the summer and his fiance is here with him.
Most important, he’ll be starting at square one with this teammates by attending training camp. That’s something he missed last season as the Kings kept him out of camp while a new contract was being negotiated.
“For me, getting a start right from training camp with a new team is something I’ve been looking forward to this summer,” O’Sullivan said. “Coming over late (last season), it was tough.
“I want to have a good start. With my contract problem with L.A., I didn’t even get to go to camp. I’m looking forward to have the full experience just like everybody else.
“There’s so many things about training camp that are important. Obviously, the conditioning, but it’s starting out at the same point with everybody else and you kind of build together as a team. That’s important.”
A CLEAN SLATE
O’Sullivan, and every other Oiler player for that matter, will start with a clean slate under the new coaching tandem of Pat Quinn and Tom Renney, who have a gaggle of undersized forwards to sort out.
“You have to show the new coaches exactly what you can do,” O’Sullivan said. “I think it’s great for our whole team to be in that situation. We have pressure to do well.
“To have that intensity right from camp is going to help make our team better. Individually, it’s going to be the first time the coaches are going to see us.”
What makes the five-foot-11, 190-pound O’Sullivan tough to peg in terms of where he’ll fit is he can play all three forward positions. Will he be a fit on left wing with Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky? On the right side on the second line? In the middle?
His versatility can only help as Quinn and Renney try to assemble a top six that’ll have O’Sullivan, Horcoff, Hemsky, Dustin Penner, Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano and maybe Robert Nilsson in the mix.
“I know I can kill penalties and be good defensively,” O’Sullivan said. “I’ve done it the last two or three years.
“I certainly don’t just look at myself as just a finesse and offensive player at all. Obviously, I know I’ll need to contribute offensively, and I’ll be relied upon to do that, but I can be out there in lots of situations.”
— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on Team 1260.