SUN Hockey Pool

Horcoff's star on the rise

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

It may be a sign that Shawn Horcoff is now registering on the NHL landscape.

Yesterday the Edmonton Oilers centre was featured in a league-wide conference call to talk about his selection to the Western Conference team for the Jan. 27 All-Star Game in Atlanta.

"Playing in the actual game was never a goal of mine," Horcoff said of his first all-star selection.

"I think the goal was to become a first-line centre in this league. I remember starting out as a fourth-line winger and I've had to work hard to be a first-line centre.

"But I'm going to enjoy it, I'm going to go and have a good time. I have a lot of family coming, my wife and my kids are going to be there, so I'm really looking forward to the weekend."

Horcoff, 29, leads the Oilers in scoring with 19 goals and 24 assists in 46 games this season. Last season he had 16 goals and 51 points all year.

"The first half of last season obviously didn't go the way I wanted to," Horcoff said.

"Going all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final the year before I think hurt my off-season training, I didn't have the time to train the way I wanted to.

"This season I took the time this off-season to make sure that I was ready. I got a new strength and conditioning coach in Chad Moreau and I put in a good three months with him.

"I also changed my sticks, which has helped me a lot. I was having problems with my sticks last season and I never did get comfortable with them. But I can't say it's one thing, it's been a number of things that are different."

Apart from a rigorous off-season regimen, Horcoff visited the Easton factory in Mexico to customize a new stick. With it, the Trail, B.C. native is well on his way to setting a career high for goals in a season.

"Last year my sticks either came in with the wrong curve or the wrong lie," Horcoff said. "Anyone who's ever played hockey knows how important it is to be comfortable with your stick.

"When I talked to the guys at Easton, they assured me if I came down to the factory, they would make me a stick with the exact specifications that I wanted. We went over every little detail of the stick."

Horcoff's most productive season was two years ago, when he scored 22 goals during the regular season and seven more in the playoffs.

His off-year the following season, however, had the Oilers looking for a new first-line centre. The team went after Michael Nylander, who changed his mind at the last minute and signed with the Washington Capitals instead.

Nylander has 11 goals and 26 assists in 40 games for the Capitals this season.

"For me I didn't feel too bad about it," Horcoff said.

"I knew if I had really good off-season training, that I would be ready to go, ready to take over that No. 1 spot again -- and I've been able to do that.

"There's a lot of satisfaction in that. When I first got named to the all-star game, I was excited about it, but there was a huge sense of gratification on my side, because nothing has been really easy for me in my career.

" I've really had to work for anything. And I wouldn't have it any other way."


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