Whale of a player

DEREK VAN DIEST, EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- Tom Sestito's hands were more useful clenched in a fist than holding a stick when he started playing junior hockey.

The younger brother of Edmonton Oilers prospect Tim Sestito was a fourth-line enforcer in his first year with the Plymouth Whalers. It seemed an appropriate role for the six-foot-five, 212-pound winger.

"I talked to him about how he could get more ice time," said Whalers head coach Michael Vellucci. "He had a big body, had a long reach and I thought we could use him on the penalty kill. He's a very smart hockey player. To his credit he studied the game, watched a lot of film and asked a lot of questions. I knew he had good hands, but as he got stronger he turned into a heck of a hockey player."

HANDS SOFTENED

Over time Sestito's hands softened and this year he led the Whalers with 42 goals during the regular season. He added another 11 in the playoffs as the Whalers won the Ontario Hockey League championship.

"I don't know where all these goals came from that I got," Sestito said. "It's my teammates doing all the work, I'm just getting all these garbage goals. But they helped the team and that's all that counts. We had a great playoff run and we have a great team."

There was nothing like garbage about the two goals Sestito scored against the Lewiston Maineiacs to put the Whalers into last night's semifinal.

Sestito neatly sliding the puck between the pads of Maineiacs goaltender Jonathan Bernier on a breakaway for his first goal. His second came after snapping a shot past Maineiacs backup goaltender Peter Delmas on another breakaway.

Sestito is one of ten 19-year-olds on the Whalers roster.

BROTHER'S FOOTSTEPS

He played his entire career in Plymouth, following in his brother's footsteps. The two played together in Tom's first year.

"My brother was captain of the team when I got there," Sestito said. "Both James Neal (Dallas Stars draft pick) and I got there that same year and it was great having my brother there to help us out. I don't know what would have happened if my brother wasn't there. I developed in my second year that's when I grew into my body, so I can thank my brother for this."

Sestito was selected by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the third round - 85th overall - of last June's NHL Entry Draft. He had one goal in his first year with the Whalers and 10 in his second.

"I'm very proud of him," Vellucci said. "I talked to every NHL scout that I could to take him last year I high as they could. I think Columbus got a steal getting him in the third round."


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