This is Kale Kessy. I believe he is the final transaction in the career of Steve Tambellini as Oilers GM—Tobias Rieder to Phoenix for Kessy—and it had that look of a terrible deal, one of those skill-for-nothing trades. Rieder looks like a million bucks, and Kessy—before training camp—looked exactly like a Coke Machine.
And then came fall 2014.
If I made a list of Coke Machine selections since 2000 made by Edmonton, it would run from sea to shining sea. High picks, low picks, middle picks. Edmonton drafted Brad Winchester, Eddie Caron, Dan Baum, J-F Dufort, J-F Jacques, Zack Stortini, Colin McDonald, Geoff Paukovich, all taken 2000-2004 in search of a big man with speed and intimidation.
My definition of a Coke Machine is a big, strong forward who can fight and intimidate, maybe even skate like the wind, but can not play hockey in the traditional sense. You know, take and make a pass, that kind of thing.
The Stu MacGregor era has been less enamored of size with little regard for skill (Cameron Abney) but the Kessy deal added a big, tough Coke Machine. Could he take and make a pass? It didn’t look good.
Vancouver Giants GM Giants Scott Bonner said “Kessy is a big, strong guy
who goes to the net and takes the body but does it clean. I’m assuming
he’s going to bring some courage to our guys and allow them to play the
way we need to have some success. We have a younger group and, at times,
a timid group and I think people like Kessy make those types of players
Tobias Rieder? Red Line Report:Undersized, but exceptionally smart playmaking
winger with excellent offensive instincts and creativity. Has decent
speed, but lacks the explosive first step burst and acceleration you’d
like to see in a player his size. Super soft hands and slick with the
puck in tight; can create separation with sharp cuts/turns. Sees the ice
very well and can saucer touch passes through traffic off either side
of the blade. Makes imaginative set-ups, often surpassing his mates with
unexpected plays. Average shot, but has good finishing ability from the
circles in with a quick release he hides well. Anticipates developing
plays, stepping in to intercept passes and start quick counterattacks in
transition. Desperately needs to pack on muscle – lost weight during
the season and was out of gas from January on. Not afraid to go into the
corners and will take hits, but can’t battle effectively.
Why would Edmonton deal Rieder for Kessy? A couple of reasons. No one says it out loud, but it sounds like Rieder didn’t want to sign in Edmonton. He’s a smaller player, and the Oilers have a lot of that player type, but who knows why he wouldn’t sign (or if that’s just a reason floated for a very uneven deal).
The second item is Kessy himself. If a scout saw him good (6.03, 212) then maybe the organization felt like it was worth one more roll of the dice on a Coke Machine.
(Kessy photos by Rob Ferguson, all rights reserved).
Kessy arrived at this year’s training camp in terrific shape. He’s skating much better and having a greater impact on these preseason games. In the Winnipeg game, Kessy’s line (with Ewanyk and Pitlick) was credited with turning the game around.
I’ve been watching Oilers hockey since 1972, and the number of big forwards who have auditioned for NHL time numbers in the dozens. Will Kale Kessy amount to much? At the Young Stars tournament, Kessy got noticed with solid play:
Craig MacTavish: “Kessy definitely played well, did what he needed to do and showed a
willingness to be a physical factor. He made a lot
more plays than he did last year, which he needed to do. He’s really
come a long ways in a year.”
For his part, Kessy appears to be more determined than ever to make a difference, to impact the game and further his career.
Kessy: “I just tried to work hard in the summer. I was up here in the summer
working on my skating, my fitness and stuff like that. I’ve just got to
play hard, get pucks in, get pucks out and finish my checks. I’ve just
got to continue to improve my quickness and my skating always. That can
always improve but I think I’ve gotten a little bit better”
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
I have no idea where Kale Kessy fits, only that he has the attention of the Oilers organization and appears to fill a need. Will he make an NHL appearance this season, and run over an opponent while also displaying enough skill to keep up with the skill players?
Look, this is a long shot’s dark horse, one in a million shot. He scored TWO goals as an AHL rookie. J-F Jacques scored 24 in his minor league rookie season. All we really know is Kale Kessy has taken a giant leap forward.