SUN Hockey Pool

New Krys-ening

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:36 PM ET

CHICAGO -- His stickhandling is fine.

If the rest of Krys Kolanos's game is as good, the Edmonton Oilers may have something after claiming the former first-round draft pick of the Phoenix Coyotes off waivers on Friday.

Kolanos, 24, who introduced himself to his new teammates at the United Center yesterday, was suitably shifty when asked why the Coyotes and coach Wayne Gretzky were willing to give up on him.

The six-foot-three, 205-pound Calgary native chose to accentuate the positive, to look ahead instead of back as he talked to reporters before donning No. 25 and hitting the ice.

If Kolanos is as slick on the freeze, his $54,000 waiver fee is a bargain

It's likely not as simple as that, but we won't have to wait long to find out if GM Kevin Lowe's gamble has a chance of paying off - Kolanos will play against the Chicago Blackhawks tonight.

Actions, as always, will speak louder than words.

"I think in the back of my mind I had a bit of an idea they were going to make some changes and stuff," said Kolanos, who saw his last action with Phoenix against the Blackhawks a week ago.

"You never know until it actually happens, but when I got the news, it was a thrill that I was coming back to Alberta. It's a new chapter about to begin. I can't wait."

Kolanos, selected 19th out of Boston College by the Coyotes in 2000, has considerable skills and, it seems, all the tools to be top-six player in the NHL, but his talents haven't translated into a full-time gig. He's tallied just 17-18-35 in 109 NHL games, including 2-1-3 in nine games this season.

The rap sheet on Kolanos, once considered one of Phoenix's top prospects, is that he's inconsistent and has a questionable work ethic. Simply put, he's lazy.

What say you, Krys?

"I don't know where to start to get into the details of that," Kolanos said when pressed about what went wrong in Arizona. "It's hard to say. I just have to say it was an honour to be drafted and play for that organization.

"It's just a new chapter here and I'm ready, like I said, to get a fresh start."

Kolanos was rookie of the year and a first-team all-star with Calgary of the AJHL in 1998-99, a first-team all-star in Hockey East in 2000-01 and played in the NHL YoungStars game in 2001-02.

He insists the concussion that sidelined him for almost an entire season three years ago isn't a factor. No problems. End of story.

That's not to say his head's on straight.

"That's a non-issue," said Kolanos, who scored his first NHL goal against the Oilers the night they retired Jari Kurri's jersey. "It's been so long ..."

Kolanos wouldn't be the first prospect to see his career go sideways with one organization and then blossom with another.

If that's how it goes, then he's got the skill-set that might see him become the offensive top-two centre the Oilers lack.

If Kolanos is an uncoachable bozo or he's a unwilling to put in the work to become a player, then Sparky Kulchisky will rip the jersey off his back and show him the door.

With a two-way contract - that's the key - paying $543,400 in the NHL and $75,000 in the minors, Kolanos, who seems like a pleasant enough young man, is a gamble worth taking.

"He'll let his play dictate where he goes," said coach Craig MacTavish, who will play Kolanos on the fourth line tonight.

"We want to give him a chance. That's why we picked him up."

Until Kolanos proves his critics right and slips up or slacks off, he deserves a chance. The slate is clean.

"I have a lot to prove as a player to myself and, obviously, to the coaches and my teammates," he said.

"That's something where I'm going to have to work my way up. It's going to take some time.

"That's not something that happens overnight, but I'm going to start on the fourth line and I'm going to have to earn my keep and earn my minutes and contribute to the success of the team."


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