SUN Hockey Pool

The Sniper

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:03 AM ET

He's the man with the golden touch.

The crux of the Chris Pronger trade.

The prodigal son returned.

Joffrey Lupul grew up cheering for the Edmonton Oilers. This season he's one of them.

"It's exciting," said Lupul. "My first reaction when I was traded was shock in the off-season. But then as it went on, I began to get excited.

"Once camp started I realized there was such a great group of guys here. They're so close and I fit in well and I'm looking forward to (starting) the year."

As natural a goalscorer as they come, the Fort Saskatchewan native netted 28 goals with Anaheim last year and added another nine in the playoffs.

He was originally Anaheim's first pick - seventh overall - in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft and was traded to Edmonton along with defenceman Ladislav Smid and three draft picks for Pronger.

At 23, Lupul's best years are ahead of him.

"We're relying on him big-time," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "His line's got to produce. And based out of what I've seen so far out of Joffrey, I don't have many concerns about how effective he's going to be for us."

Lupul has been able to score at every level.

He had 43 goals in his final year of midget hockey, but was passed over in the WHL bantam draft due to his size.

A growth spurt solved that problem and Lupul went on to score 127 goals in three years for the Medicine Hat Tigers. During the NHL lockout, he scored 30 goals in the AHL.

Now he's expected to continue that trend in Edmonton, where patience can be short and fans have a tendency to turn on their own. Cory Cross can attest to that.

"All those offensive players have dealt with a lot of pressure their whole careers, and he's going to have no problem dealing with the pressure here," MacTavish said.

"The one thing that he can do to alleviate that pressure is to deliver the goods offensively and he's going to be able to do that."

Playing with the likes of Shawn Horcoff, Ryan Smyth, Ales Hemsky, Jarret Stoll and company, there's little reason to believe Lupul won't be able to continue his scoring exploits.

However, expectations on him going into this season are higher than they've ever been.

"There's some extra pressure for sure, but there's also a bigger upside, too," Lupul said. "When you play well and you win games, you're going to get a lot more attention. That's fun when it's going that way.

"Then again, it goes the other way when things aren't going well. It's something I'm going to have to learn how to deal with."

It's something the team as a whole has to deal with.

Entering the season as defending Western Conference champions and Stanley Cup finalists comes with certain expectations.

Lupul is one of a number of new acquisitions brought in to help the Oilers live up to those expectations.

"There is going to be three solid scoring lines. That's going to be exciting for a guy like me and it should be exciting for the fans," Lupul said.

"It's going to be a fun year and I think everyone in the room is optimistic and looking forward to it."


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