SUN Hockey Pool

Stone building strong case

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

EDMONTON -- Standing out on a line with Mike Comrie and Patrick O'Sullivan may seem easy.

At least physically.

But while a 6-foot-2, 207-lb. frame is what got unheralded Calgary product Ryan Stone placed on a line with the much smaller Edmonton Oilers duo, it's the way he's played beside them that's kept him there for all four of his exhibition outings -- including last night's game against the Flames.

Making his pre-season debut in his hometown against the Flames last week, there was a little extra jump in his step.

"A bunch of family and friends were there. I just wanted to play my best. I had that little extra edge there, just because emotions were running high," said the 24-year-old Stone, who still calls Calgary home in the off-season.

"When you have your family there, I think it's a little more special. Especially for me -- I haven't played in front of too many of them because I've been down east."

Drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins early in the second round, 32nd overall, at the 2003 draft, Stone has appeared in just eight regular-season NHL games.

Playing well for the AHL Wilkes-Barre Penguins after a stellar junior career with the Brandon Wheat Kings, Stone suffered relative anonymity with a franchise that boasts some of the biggest and most skilled young stars in the game.

He was given new life midway through last season in the trade that sent goalie Mathieu Garon to Pittsburgh.

"When I got traded, I think it was good. We both kind of wanted to move on," said Stone, who has a fresh start under new Oilers coach Pat Quinn.

"They got their backup goalie and won a Stanley Cup. I got a fresh start here. I want to keep building. Step it up even another level here -- just keep banging and opening up ice for Sully and Comrie.

"The decisions will be pretty hard."

Quinn has admitted guys like Stone are making the final roster selection interesting.

"He's smart. He competes. He battles for the puck. He's in the right spots often to do the job well," Quinn told reporters in the days following Stone's debut in Calgary.

"He's not a guy you expect lots of scoring from because maybe the hands aren't there, but he'll score because he'll go where you have to do that."

Stone didn't score in his first three games, but he earned three assists and a plus-4 rating while throwing his weight around and also killing penalties alongside O'Sullivan.

"He understands what type of game he has to play to be effective," O'Sullivan said.

"He's always on the right side of the puck.

"He's had a really big camp."

A surprise to many. But not to his linemate.

"I've known the type of player he was," said O'Sullivan, who has played against Stone in the CHL prospects game and at U17 and U18 events.

"I just don't think he got a very good opportunity in Pittsburgh. I think the change really helped him."

So has the most important aspect of his game.

"My hard work," said Stone.

"Playing with Comrie and O'Sullivan, if you're not ready to go playing with those guys you're going to be left in the dust."

STEVE.MACFARLANE@SUNMEDIA.CA


Videos

Photos