SUN Hockey Pool

Petrell turning heads at Oilers camp

Lennart Petrell puts pressure on Canucks goaltender Manny Legace Thursday in a pre-season game at...

Lennart Petrell puts pressure on Canucks goaltender Manny Legace Thursday in a pre-season game at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alta. (AMBER BRACKEN/QMI Agency)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:06 PM ET

EDMONTON - Lennart Petrell has been pretty noticeable for a relative unknown coming into training camp.

The Finnish forward has looked impressive in his first two auditions with the Edmonton Oilers, and is starting to work himself into conversations about who should make the team.

Petrell is emerging as a leading dark horse as training camp heads into its second week.

“I’ll look at the body of work of everyone who works himself down to that last little bit and I certainly see him doing that,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. “I like the way he plays. He’s one of those guys who works so hard to get the job done, you have so much respect for that. His teammates, under the current conditions, love the effort he plays with. He’s a smart player, has a great wingspan and I think he’s got some subtle offence that hasn’t really become apparent yet, but I think will over time.

“Where that ends up at the end of the day, it’s all about contracts and opportunities. At the end of the day, you just want to put people in the best spots you can, and at this point and time, at least he’s making a name for himself.”

At six-foot-three, 200-pounds, Petrell, 27, provides the size the Oilers are desperate for on their bottom two lines.

He’s an exceptional penalty killer with good skating abilities and stood out in the Oilers 2-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.

Signed as a free agent out of Helsinki, Finland this summer, Petrell went into camp hoping to get noticed. He spent the previous nine years playing with HIFK Helsinki.

“I was happy in Finland, playing with the same team I had been playing with since I was 10 years old,” Petrell said. “Every now and then I would think about coming to play in the NHL, but until now the opportunity never really presented itself.”

Petrell was originally selected by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the sixth round – 190 overall – of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

A shoulder injury prevented him from attending Blue Jackets training camp and he eventually never signed.

However, Petrell was brought to the Oilers attention by European scout Matti Virmanen and Oilers hall-of-famer Jari Kurri, who is now the general manager of the Finish national team.

Kurri wanted Petrell to be a member of the Finish world championship team that went on to claim gold this spring, however he wasn’t available due to a broken ankle.

“In talking to Matti, who was very firm on his getting an opportunity here, he suggested that he was an outstanding penalty-killer,” said Renney. “At this point and time, even though they’re exhibition games and not necessarily against NHL teams, I’d have to concur.”

Despite having waited so long to finally get an opportunity to play in the NHL, Petrell marvels at how fast things have seemingly moved for him this summer.

“This is like a dream for me it all happened pretty suddenly,” he said. “We had a great season last year, we won the Finish championship. I got called to play on the national team, although I broke my ankle and missed the tournament. I got married and then the Oilers called and told me they wanted me to come to training camp. Now here I am.”

In order to earn a spot on the roster this season, Petrell is going to have to take one away from someone else who was originally penciled in prior to camp.

His ability to play either wing gives him an advantage as the roster continues to be paired down heading towards the Oilers season opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Oct. 9.

“I think the key for me is to be able to play a solid two-way game,” Petrell said. “I want to be solid defensively, but also productive offensively. I hope I can show the coaching staff the way I can play and so far it’s been good.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/SUNdvandiest


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