The Edmonton Oilers telegraphed their intentions when they signed him to a one-way contract Aug. 10, and reiterated their stance by putting him on page 72 of the team's media guide not long after.
The Oilers have always been rather sure about Brad Winchester, right from the time they used a draft choice obtained in the Roman Hamrlik trade with the New York Islanders to get him in 2000.
It's taken five years, but it looks like the Oilers' faith in the hulking former Wisconsin Badger was well-founded -- he's earned a spot on coach Craig MacTavish's 23-man roster and could be in the lineup when the puck drops against Colorado at Rexall Place tomorrow.
The Monster from Madison has arrived.
TICKETS OUT OF TOWN
"I'm very excited to get the opportunity and to be around these guys," said Winchester, who still had a stall in the dressing room after Robbie Schremp and Danny Syvret got tickets out of town yesterday.
When the Islanders sent the Oilers the 31st pick at the Entry Draft in Calgary with Eric Brewer and Josh Green for Hamrlik, one Oiler scout insisted they'd use the selection to take Winchester, who'd just completed his first year at Wisconsin. They did.
When GM Kevin Lowe signed Winchester to a two-year contract, a one-day deal for $450,000 and $500,000, MacTavish insisted the Oilers would give him every chance to make the team.
Winchester, 24, a six-foot-five, 230-pound behemoth who scored 22 goals with the Road Runners of the AHL last season, took care of the rest this pre-season by doing what he does best -- banging bodies and playing tough.
"I learned a lot playing here last year," said Winchester, who'll play left wing on the fourth line with Georges Laraque.
"It was good to be here in this environment.
"I was just trying to make strides in my game, do things on a consistent basis. This is a new level, so I have to be patient, but I have to be intent on getting better all the time."
PUSHING PEOPLE AROUND
After tallying 13-6-19 with Toronto of the AHL in his first pro campaign, the Winchester doubled his output with the Road Runners by scoring 22-18-40.
His calling card, however, is working the corners, crashing the net and pushing people around.
He's adept at all three.
"Obviously, I have to be good all-around, but I really have to play a strong, physical game," said Winchester, who made his mark with some big hits and a couple of scraps in a 5-4 shootout win over Vancouver Sept. 21.
"That's the kind of role I'm in right now. I just have to go out and find a way to make a difference."