SUN Hockey Pool

Pair upbeat for next season

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

Expectations were high for Marc Pouliot entering the professional ranks.

A lot is demanded from a player who was a prolific goal scorer in junior, skated beside one of the best talents in the game today, and was selected in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft.

Yet the transition has not been as seamless for Pouliot as the Edmonton Oilers would have hoped for.

Regardless, the team has not given up on the Quebec City native, signing both he and J.F. Jacques to two-year contract extensions.

"I feel great that the Oilers still have interest in me," Pouliot said. "I know I have a lot to prove this year, but I feel good and I feel even better knowing that they wanted me to sign for another two years."

In three years with the Oilers, Pouliot has yet to play a full NHL season.

He started the year in Edmonton last season before being sent down to the Oilers AHL affiliate in Springfield 15 games into the campaign - nine of which he dressed for.

There, the six-foot-two, 200-pound centre scored 21 goals and added 26 assists in 55 games. He returned to Edmonton for the final 15 games of the year scoring a goal and adding six assists.

"I think I showed at the end of last year that I can play in every role," he said.

"I think I improved a lot last year in comparison to the beginning of the year. I think that helped a lot getting a new contract.

"I think they believe in me that I can get the job done."

OILERS' FIRST PICK

In his first three years with the Oilers, Pouliot has scored six goals and 13 assists in 78 games.

He scored 113 goals and added 157 assists in four years of junior with the Rimouski Oceanic, where in his final two seasons, he played with Sidney Crosby.

However, those weren't the years that impressed the Oilers scouts. It was the previous season when Pouliot scored 32 goals on a bad Oceanic team that convinced them to take him with their first pick in the 2003 draft.

"Marc had a very productive season in Springfield where he put up some solid numbers offensively," said general manager Kevin Lowe in a news release. "And he continued to display those skills down the stretch with the Oilers."

While terms of the contract were not officially released by the Oilers, Pouliot's two-year deal is worth $1.65-million.

"I want to make an impact this year," he said. "I know I'm not going to start on the first line, but I want to prove that I can play some good minutes wherever they put me, whether it be the penalty-kill or the power play.

"I want to be a go-to guy that they can trust in any situation."

Jacques, meanwhile, was selected in the second round (68th overall) by the Oilers in the same draft as Pouliot.

He is still looking for his first NHL point, having played 53 games in three years for the Oilers.

Last season Jacques, 23, spent most of his time in Springfield, scoring 11 goals and adding 14 assists in 38 games before an injury brought a premature end to his season.

"I feel really good about this," Jacques said.

"It was actually a tough year for me injury-wise and it's really good for me to see that the Oilers still believe in me like this."

BACK INJURY

Jacques is currently rehabbing a herniated disk in his back which he injured during a fight.

He did not require surgery on the injury and expects to be healthy by training camp.

"I'm still doing physiotherapy in Montreal and everything is going very good," he said.

"I started to train more and more in the last couple of weeks and it's improving.

"This year I want to stay healthy. I've never been injured in my career before this. I had surgery on my wrist in April to fix an old injury. If I can stay healthy I think I can prove to the GM and the coaching staff that I can stay in the NHL forever now."

With the trading away of Raffi Torres and his physical presence, there is a role for Jacques to fill this year on the roster.

At six-foot-four, 217-pounds, it's a role the Oilers have expected the Montreal native to play since calling him up for seven games three years ago.

"It's good for me to know that the organization still wants me after all the moves that they made; it's a little pat on the back, but at the same time I know I need to take that next step forward and work on becoming the player I can be," Jacques said.

"I know if I'm going to play in the NHL, that's the kind of game that I need to play. If I'm not 100% I'm not going to be able to do it. That's the biggest thing that has restrained me at this point."


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