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Blues Prepare a Path for Oshie

Friday, 07.11.2008 / 3:34 PM CT / St Louis Blues - Features
By Dan Rosen  - NHL.com
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Blues Prepare a Path for Oshie
T.J. Oshie's collegiate career included 142 points in 128 games, three trips to the Frozen Four and Hobey Baker Award consideration.
No one in the St. Louis Blues organization has told T.J. Oshie that he must be on the team's NHL roster next season. No one really has to, either.

"I can sense it a little bit just from being around town," Oshie, the Blues' first-round pick in 2005, told NHL.com. "People are talking. There are expectations, but I'm not really too worried about them. I'm not letting it get to my head too much."

Oshie plans on living up to those expectations soon enough, but the hype began May 13 when he signed his first professional contract. Oshie followed that up the next day with a press conference, where he sat between Blues President John Davidson and Lars Eller, another former first-rounder who also signed his entry-level deal.

With the welcome mat rolled up now, Oshie has to show Davidson, Larry Pleau and the Blues' team of executives why he's worth all the fuss.

"He's a dogged hockey player and a smart hockey player," Davidson told NHL.com. "He can make plays at top speed. He can play the wing or center ice. There is nothing not to like about him. He'll be given every opportunity."

Oshie could have signed his first pro contract last summer, but felt another year of maturing at the University of North Dakota was warranted. He finished the season with 45 points, capping a remarkable collegiate career that included 142 points in 128 games, three trips to the Frozen Four and consideration for the Hobey Baker Award.

"Everybody comes to camp to compete for a job and he'll have to do the same thing, then we'll see where he's at," Jarmo Kekalainen, the Blues' assistant general manager and chief amateur scout, told NHL.com. "He's been one of the best college hockey players in the country. He has taken his team to the Frozen Four twice in a row as one of the best players on that team. Those are the things that build the expectation and I think he has those expectations for himself. We definitely have them, but it does come down to how he does in September."

Oshie Position:        Center
Born:              12/23/1986
Birthplace:    Mt. Vernon, WA
Height:            5'11"
Weight:          170 lbs.
Shoots:          Right  
Even with much to prove, Oshie said his friends and family are already thinking of booking trips to see him in St. Louis.

"The boys in North Dakota, they keep telling me I'm going to do fine and they're going to all be watching me," Oshie said. "All my family wants to make it to every game, so they're looking for tickets. It's overwhelming. I think they're ahead of themselves, but it's great. I don't think it's really going to hit me until I get to camp and see where I am."

Where he is right now is at the top of the Blues' growing list of prospects, along with fellow center Patrik Berglund and Eller. Davidson and Kekalainen say Oshie and Berglund have the best shots to make the team out of training camp; but Oshie feels he'll probably make it as a winger instead of a center only because of maturity.

"I would probably guess winger right away, being a rookie," he said, "but I would like to move to the center position in the future."

Oshie admits he's nervous about coming to camp. It has nothing to do with his talent and everything to do with him not being familiar with the NHL game.

"I feel good, but I haven't skated with the big guns yet," Oshie said. "They told me to expect a faster game. The game is a lot different than it is in college. Once I adapt I should be OK. I think I'm just wondering if I will be able to keep up and be able to contribute."

It's not as if Oshie isn't clued in to the NHL game. One of his good friends is Chicago's Jonathan Toews, a former UND teammate. Oshie stayed in touch with Toews, the second runner-up for the Calder Trophy this past season, by picking his brain about the pro game.

"He's been one of the best college hockey players in the country. He has taken his team to the Frozen Four twice in a row as one of the best players on that team. Those are the things that build the expectation and I think he has those expectations for himself. We definitely have them, but it does come down to how he does in September." - Jarmo Kekalainen
Toews told Oshie that he found it to be easier for faster, skilled forwards to make plays in the NHL because of the restrictions on clutching and grabbing, which don't exist in the college game.

"At the college level, clutching and grabbing is a good play for a defenseman," Oshie said. "Johnny Toews was talking to me about how much easier it is to make plays (in the NHL) because you don't have guys all over you. In college, guys were all over him and that's why he didn't put up the big numbers."

Oshie has been putting up numbers ever since he laced up the skates as a toddler. He said he was about 4-1/2 years old when he started skating, and a year later added a stick and pads to his equipment bag.

"The only thing I remember is they put me with all of the older kids in the skating classes," said Oshie, who was born in Mt. Vernon, Wash. "I was picking it up faster than the rest of the kids my age."

Oshie, though, claims he has never patterned his game after anyone in particular.

"I didn't really watch too much hockey when I was younger," Oshie said. "I kept my eye on Gretzky, because he was a big deal. Pavel Bure was a big name growing up in Washington. He was an idol for all the kids, but I think I play my own style."

It's a style that not only includes skills and competitiveness, but an edge, too.

"There's so many things that we like about him," Kekalainen said. "It's hard to hide your excitement I guess."

Enough said, at least for now.




1 z - ANA 82 51 24 7 228 221 109
2 y - STL 82 51 24 7 239 197 109
3 x - NSH 82 47 25 10 226 202 104
4 x - CHI 82 48 28 6 220 186 102
5 x - VAN 82 48 29 5 236 220 101
6 x - MIN 82 46 28 8 227 198 100
7 x - WPG 82 43 26 13 223 204 99
8 x - CGY 82 45 30 7 237 213 97
9 LAK 82 40 27 15 218 197 95
10 DAL 82 41 31 10 257 257 92
11 COL 82 39 31 12 209 223 90
12 SJS 82 40 33 9 224 226 89
13 EDM 82 24 44 14 193 276 62
14 ARI 82 24 50 8 165 267 56


V. Tarasenko 77 37 36 27 73
A. Steen 74 24 40 8 64
J. Schwartz 75 28 35 13 63
D. Backes 80 26 32 7 58
T. Oshie 72 19 36 17 55
P. Stastny 74 16 30 5 46
A. Pietrangelo 81 7 39 -2 46
J. Lehtera 75 14 30 21 44
K. Shattenkirk 56 8 36 19 44
P. Berglund 77 12 15 -2 27
B. Elliott 26 14 3 .917 2.26
J. Allen 22 7 4 .913 2.28

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