SUN Hockey Pool

Where does Pouliot fit?

DEREK VAN DIEST, Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:52 PM ET

EDMONTON - LOS ANGELES Marc Pouliot may have done more to earn a future spot on the Edmonton Oilers roster in 33 games than he did in his first four years.

This summer, the Quebec City native is due to become a restricted free agent. He has seven goals and seven assists heading into Saturdays contest against the Los Angeles Kings.

Im not too worried about what happens this summer, Im just trying to focus on my game now and go from there, Pouliot said. I have no control over that. Hopefully they give me a chance, but if not, hopefully somebody else will.

A former first-round pick, its been a tough haul for Pouliot this season.

After a good summer and high expectations heading into training camp, the 24-year-old had his season derailed before it even started with a sports hernia. He went on to miss the first 44 games of the season after undergoing surgery.

I felt good at the beginning of the year and I did have high expectations, he said. Nobody wants to have that type of injury that will set you back for that long. But it could have been worse, so Im glad that its behind me.

Pouliot has since recovered and is playing arguably the best hockey of his career the type of play the Oilers expected after making him the 22nd overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.

I worked hard to try and get back in shape, Pouliot said. Its a tough injury, an abdominal injury, everything you do involves your core. I had it in junior, so I knew what to expect. So I worked really hard to try and get back from it.

As the season winds down, the Oilers will be assessing their player personnel heading towards the future. With a top-two pick in the draft, theyre looking at rebuilding a team that has missed the playoff for four straight seasons.

Decisions will have to be made on who sticks around next season.

I think hes worked his way into the future, said Oilers head coach Pat Quinn. Coming into training camp, I was informed that he was a good prospect for this organization. It didnt work out for him, he got hurt right away and it took him a long time for him to come back from that operation. He didnt get back until the season was well on its way, and at first, his conditioning wasnt good. He seemed to be slow a foot and not like anything that the scouting reports indicated. But slowly hes starting to get where hes been good for us.

He has good hands, he moves around the ice very well. For a big body, youd like him to be more assertive, and if he gets more assertive, I think he has a chance to continue to grow. Hes still a young man. Injuries get in the way of development sometimes and I hope were seeing Marc Pouliot start to figure out how to play.

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca


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