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Potter's perseverance recognized by writers

Corey Potter's journey from the minors to the NHL has taken six years but he aims to make the most...

Corey Potter's journey from the minors to the NHL has taken six years but he aims to make the most of his opportunity with the Oilers, who nominated him for the Bill Masterton Award. (DAN RIEDLHUBER/Reuters file photo)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:27 PM ET

EDMONTON - Corey Potter doesn't need a Bill Masterton Award nomination to tell him how long he's waited and how hard he's worked.

But he's getting one anyway.

The Edmonton chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association has selected the defenceman's six-year journey from the minors to the NHL as the Oilers best example of perseverance and dedication to hockey.

"It has definitely been a long road for me," said the 28-year-old Oiler, who's completing his first season in the league. "At some points you start to question yourself, if you can make it to that next level. You think that maybe you should head overseas or take a different route or start using your education.

"But I truly believed that I had something to give and that I could make it to that next level. I just never really gave up on it. Year in and year out, you feel like you could have that extra push to get there and I just had to wait it out and wait for my opportunity, and I'm just glad it came here in Edmonton."

After just nine games in the NHL since graduating from Michigan State in 2006, Potter's break finally came when head coach Tom Renney, who knew him from the Rangers organization, invited him to camp. He had a strong pre-season and, with Ryan Whitney still recovering from his foot issues, survived the final cuts.

After waiting so long for a shot, he made the best of it -- eight points in his first 10 games. Five months later, he's signed to a two-year, one-way contract and seeing regular duty on the NHL's No. 1 power-play unit.

"You go into camp hoping you can get a shot and a couple games up," he said. "To start on the roster and to get a one-way contract was just a huge vote of confidence and definitely a dream come true."

The Cinderella story would be even better if the whole Oilers season wasn't a giant, rotten pumpkin, though. There's no question that 29th place takes some of the shine off things.

"I've thought about that a lot. It is definitely bittersweet. Personally, it's one of the goals that I've tried to reach for a long time but at the end of the day everybody is here to win hockey games and to be a winner.

"It's been a tough year, team-wise. It's a tough thing to handle when your team is not doing so hot."

Next year, he says, will be better. And so will he. This year isn't the end of the his journey, it's the start.

"You can't get too comfortable," he said. "You have to try and get better every summer, get bigger and stronger and faster. You can't let up or lose your competitive edge at all. There's a lot of people in the AHL waiting and fighting for spots. "You can never take a day off. I don't think I'm going to let up at all."

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ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@Sunmedia.ca


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