No place like home for JP

JASON HILLS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:16 AM ET

If there was one player on the Edmonton Oil Kings roster who knows head coach Steve Pleau the best, it's JP Szaszkiewicz.

The 19-year-old played under Pleau last season with the Spokane Chiefs.

"It's going to be a little different having him as a head coach this year, but he's going to do a great job," said Szaszkiewicz.

"He loves to win and it's going to be a lot of fun having him as a coach this season."

Szaszkiewicz is one of four local boys on the Oil Kings roster. After three seasons with the Chiefs, the defensive forward is looking to have a break-out year for his hometown Oil Kings. His best offensive season came last year when he recorded 16 points in 63 games for Spokane.

"It will be a new experience for me playing in front of my family and friends. There will be a lot more pressure this year, but I look forward to the challenge," said Szaszkiewicz.

"I want to perform better offensively, but I want to stick to my game which is doing the little things correctly and playing a smart defensive game."

Szaszkiewicz was used primarily in a penalty-killing role during his WHL career. Through camp, he's shown flashes of offensive flair, and with him being one of the veteran players, he will be counted on more offensively this season.

"He's an experienced guy who knows the league," said Pleau.

"He's got great wheels, which I like and when he uses his speed he creates space out there."

Pleau looks at Szaszkiewicz as a key energy type player who, when he keeps things simple, will be able to chip in offensively.

"He's a simple guy. Offensively, if he shoots the puck and goes hard to the net, he'll score goals. His type of goals are going to be through hard work and getting dirty and he's the type of player that will work his butt off for you."

While some players buckle under the pressure of playing in front of their hometown fans on a nightly basis, Szaszkiewicz is excited about playing at home. After being so far away from home the past three years, he's happy to have the support of his family.

"I'll have my dad giving me advice throughout the year and my mom nagging me and my two brothers giving me (grief)," said Szaszkiewicz.

"It will be a good experience having them around and it will be better for me. Of course there is pressure, but I don't think it will be anything I can't handle."


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