The road to the NHL is littered with talented players who couldn’t or wouldn’t re-invent themselves when the reality kicked in that a bushel of points in this league or that league didn’t mean they were going be a go-to-guy when, or if, they got to The Show. In the case of Mark Letestu, he sorted out and navigated that part of the hockey map early. Now, he’s approaching 500 games in the NHL.
Letestu was a big fish in the AJHL pond, winning a scoring title and being named league MVP as a member of the Bonnyville Pontiacs. That, and a season with Western Michigan in the NCAA, got the undrafted centre from Elk Point a free agent contract from the Pittsburgh Penguins, thus beginning a journey that would see him spend parts of four seasons in the minors. By the time he joined the Edmonton Oilers for the 2015-16 season, Lestestu was a versatile jack of all trades, the kind of player every coach wants and needs. A hockey version of the Swiss Army knife.
Mark Letestu
Center — shoots R
Born Feb 4 1985 — Elk Point, ALTA
[32 yrs. ago]
Height 5.10 — Weight 195 [178 cm/88 kg]

BY THE NUMBERS

Season
Age
Tm
GP
G
A
PTS
+/-
PIM
S%
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ATOI
FOW
FOL
FO%
2009-10
24
10
1
0
1
-2
2
11.1
9:38
41
33
55.4
2010-11
25
64
14
13
27
4
13
10.9
14:15
407
327
55.4
2011-12
26
TOT
62
11
14
25
-9
8
9.6
15:39
375
347
51.9
2011-12
26
11
0
1
1
-6
2
0.0
12:50
73
59
55.3
2011-12
26
51
11
13
24
-3
6
10.5
16:15
302
288
51.2
2012-13
27
46
13
14
27
7
10
14.1
16:31
244
243
50.1
2013-14
28
82
12
22
34
1
20
9.8
14:41
373
352
51.4
2014-15
29
54
7
6
13
-9
0
11.1
13:20
319
284
52.9
2015-16
30
82
10
15
25
-21
10
9.3
15:47
596
566
51.3
2016-17
31
78
16
19
35
-2
17
13.3
14:14
452
444
50.4
2017-18
32
8
2
0
2
-2
0
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0.0
11:49
7
8
46.7
4 yrs
CBJ
233
43
55
98
-4
36
11.3
15:05
1238
1167
51.5
3 yrs
EDM
163
26
34
62
-23
27
11.2
14:59
1055
1018
50.9
3 yrs
PIT
85
15
14
29
-4
17
10.3
13:32
521
419
55.4
Career
480
84
103
187
-31
80
11.0
14:46
2814
2604
51.9

PLAYOFFS

Season
Age
Tm
GP
G
A
PTS
+/-
PIM
S%
ATOI
FO%
2009-10
24
4
0
1
1
0
0
9:39
43.5
2010-11
25
7
0
1
1
-3
0
0.0
15:30
48.4
2013-14
28
6
1
1
2
-2
0
6.3
16:51
57.4
2016-17
31
13
5
6
11
-4
2
15.2
17:36
45.2
Career
30
6
9
15
-9
2
9.2
15:54
47.9

WHY HE MAKES IT

Nov 5, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Mark Letestu (55) shoots the winning goal on New York Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak (41) at Barclays Center. Edmonton Oilers won in shootout 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
A month into his third season with the Oilers, Letestu has the confidence of coach Todd McLellan as a player he can use in any situation — even-strength, on the power play and as a penalty killer. A bottom-six centre on the depth chart, Letestu has made himself much more than that because he excels in all three aspects of the game while playing less than 16 minutes a night.
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After scoring 10-15-25 and checking in at 51.3 per cent on the dot during the 2015-16 campaign, Letestu ratcheted things up a notch last season. Letestu, who had 105 points during his MVP season in Bonnyville, showed he’s still got sweet mitts when he’s given the chance to use them (he led Columbus with 13 goals during the shortened 2012-13 season). Letestu scored 16-19-35. Those 16 goals came every which way, with a couple of highlight reel jobs thrown in for good measure.
Letestu’s 11 power-play goals were second on the team to the dozen Milan Lucic scored. He scored three at even strength and two shorthanded to lead the Oilers in that department. Six of Letestu’s 16 goals stood up as game-winners, tying Connor McDavid for the team lead. He again led regular team centres (more than 250 face-offs) at 50.4 on the dot. Letestu accomplished all that playing just 14:14 a game — seventh among Oiler forwards.
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THE FINE PRINT

Mandatory Photo Credit: Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY Sports
McLellan not only likes Letestu’s hands on the power play, he likes his head for the game. So much so, he suggested last spring that Letestu could have a future as a coach when his playing days are over if he wants it. “If I was going to pick an individual in the locker-room who eventually could lead a team somewhere as a coach, using his hockey acumen or his IQ, I’d say it would be Test,” McLellan said. “When we talk about Test, he’s a very bright player. He understands concepts. He can make adjustments personally and within the group.”
“The way I think the game and the way I see systems, Todd thinks it would translate well to behind the bench, but I’m a player who wants to play as long as I can before I start thinking of that,” Letestu said. “I think about the game in systems, but I’ve had a lot of coaches and a lot of video sessions over the years. They’ve ruined hockey for me watching at home because I look at mistakes and systems instead of just enjoying the exciting hockey game.”
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Playing behind some of the biggest names in the game —- Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh, McDavid and Leon Draisaitl with the Oilers — is all good with Letestu. He figured out where he fits in the big picture long ago and has carved out his niche. A goal on the power play here, a big face-off win there. Without a lot of fanfare, Letestu goes out and does what keeps him in the line-up and, when the chance presents itself, he pulls out the fancy-guy hands.

RECENTLY BY ROBIN BROWNLEE