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Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Tomas Jurco’s Road to Edmonton

Ken Holland was a busy man in the off-season and one of his moves that flew under the radar at the time was the signing of Tomas Jurco. The Edmonton Oilers GM didn’t wait too long to get Jurco’s name on a 1-year deal worth 750k, Jurco signed around 11:00 in the morning on July 1st.

It was a move that made sense for both sides as the team was looking for additional scoring and the player clearly hungry to find a full-time job in the NHL.

Earlier this week Jurco was once again asked by the legendary Gene Principe about this decision to join Holland in Edmonton.

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“It was huge, Kenny drafted me in Detroit, I was there for a few years and we always had a good relationship. Even though it didn’t really work out in Detroit for me I think he always believed in me and that made it easy for me to come here and it’s really good so far, “said Jurco who had two goals against the Jets on Thursday.

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THE DETROIT TREATMENT

Sep 26, 2019; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Tomas Jurco (92) celebrates his goal against Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck (37) during the third period at Bell MTS Place. Mandatory Credit: Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Jurco was projected by many to be selected in the first round of the 2011 NHL Draft. He came to North America in 2009 and spent three seasons with the Saint John Sea Dogs. He was 20th among North American Skaters in the final draft rankings from the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau, right behind Boone Jenner and Brandon Saad.

Detroit has always had a tendency to snag guys with first round skill in the second round and that’s exactly what they did with the 35th overall pick. Jurco actually went four spots behind David Musil. I remember being on the Pipeline Show to talk about the Oilers drafting Oscar Klefbom, a player I had really liked even prior to the Oilers drafting him and when I was asked about targets for day two Jurco was among the forwards to consider. The Musil pick never made sense with Jenner, Saad, Jurco and Rattie still on the board.

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Jurco went back to junior after being drafted and finished with 30 goals and 68 points in 48 games, the Detroit Red Wings had done it again, at least that’s what I thought. After spending a full season in the American Hockey League, he would split the 13-14 season between Detroit and Grand Rapids. During that season the Red Wings dealt with long term injuries to Zetterberg, Franzen and Datsyuk. It probably wasn’t in the original plans to have Jurco on the big club that year but he ended up playing 36 games.

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After struggling to produce during 44 games with the Wings in 2015-16 Jurco had to deal with even more adversity at the beginning of the 16-17 season. Due to surgery on his back in August of 2016 Jurco didn’t play his first game until late November and went pointless during 16 games with the Wings prior to being traded to Chicago.

Jurco scored just one goal in 13 games with the Blackhawks and was healthy scratched in the playoffs but still signed a one-year extension with the club. He split the 2017-18 season between the Hawks and their affiliate in Rockford. He did show glimpses of the offensive potential he once had with the Hawks scoring six goals in 29 games, good enough for a 17-goal pace over 82.

After having a second back surgery Jurco didn’t play last season until January when he signed with Springfield in the American Hockey League. After 14 games with Springfield, Jurco was dealt to the Charlotte Checkers and played extremely well the rest of the way helping them win a Calder Cup, the second of his career.

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A FRESH START

Jurco came to Edmonton looking for a fresh start and so far, it’s a decision that looks like it might pay off for everyone involved. The Oilers are desperate for skill on the wing which is something Jurco can provide but if he wants to stick around, he will have to play well at both ends of the ice.

“Early in his career, I think he was probably, if you had to weight him on one side or the other it was the offensive side and if he didn’t produce offensively, he didn’t contribute, now I think he’s got a mindset of being a good two-way player. He has to be able to play in his own end, has to be able to play against top players, but hopefully, he can compliment good players with his skill level,” said Head Coach Dave Tippett when asked about Jurco after his two-goal performance against the Jets.

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It looks as though Jurco is going to break camp with the big club, he’s done his job so far. Where does it go from here? That’s up to the player and either way it will be one of the more intriguing storylines to follow in the early stages of the season.

Previously by Dustin Nielson: