SUN Hockey Pool

Potulny has no problem being underdog

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

He scored more goals than anyone else in the Edmonton Oilers organization last season, yet Ryan Potulny is a long shot to make the team.

When listing off the main combatants for the limited roster spots up front, the native of Grand Forks, North Dakota, barely registers a mention.

Odd for a guy who collected 38 goals with the Springfield Falcons a year ago.

“He played very well for us last year,” said Falcons head coach Rob Daum.

“He was in the top five in goal scoring in the American Hockey League and that’s not a small achievement. He’s a smart player and goes to the tough areas to score goals. He’s not a particularly big guy, but he does what he needs to in order to put himself in a position to score and last year, he was able to finish.”

Potulny, 25, was one of the few bright spots in otherwise a forgettable season for the Oilers top affiliate. The Falcons had issues getting offensive contributions from anyone other than Potulny, and finished well out of the playoff hunt.

“Personally it was a good year, but it was still tough,” Potulny said. “It doesn’t matter how good of a year you had personally, it’s still tough when your team is struggling.

“You try to do everything you can to turn things around, but we just couldn’t do it last year in Springfield. Individual success is one thing, but everybody wants team success. If the team success is there, I think personally guys will have good years.”

Potulny led the Falcons with 62 points in 70 games last season. He had more goals than then next three top scorers on the team combined.

This summer he signed one-year contract extension with the Oilers. Yet heading into camp, the six-foot, 190-pound centre, is so far down the depth chart, he’ll need time in a decompression chamber before getting in the lineup.

“Obviously there are a few guys here trying to plead their case,” Potulny said. “There are a lot of forwards here. Someone is going to have to stand out, do something special in the preseason to make the team.”

Originally selected in the third round — 87 overall — of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by the Philadelphia Flyers, Potulny once netted 38 goals in 41 games at the University of Minnesota. He spent half the season with the Flyers during the 2006-2007 campaign and was eventually traded to the Oilers for defenceman Danny Syvret in June, 2008.

“I wouldn’t say he’s a natural goal scorer, he’s an opportunistic goal scorer,” Daum said. “He didn’t get any easy goals, he had to work hard to get them. Goals come easy to natural goal scorer. But he got 38 of them last year through hard work, intelligence and being in the right spot.”

Potulny’s scoring prowess in Springfield did earn him a brief stint with the Oilers last season where he collected three assists in eight games.

However, it was not good enough to get him a prolonged stay.

In order to get a longer look this time around, he'll have to change his game. Despite the fact only Ales Hemsky registered more than 20 goals last season with the Oilers, the top six spots in the lineup are accounted for, although the precise combinations have yet to be worked out.

To stay in Edmonton, Potulny would have to earn a spot in a checking role. “That’s fine with me,” he said. “When I come up here, I take on a different role, but I take pride in my ability to do whatever needs to be done for the team. When I was in Philly I was mostly on a fourth-line role.

"You think defence first when you’re in that position, and you’re offence is still going to be there if you get a chance to score. It’s a little different mindset which I’m okay with.”


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