With little time left to stand out amongst the players trying to win the final few open roster spots, defenseman Nathan Oystrick
is trying to show that he can mesh in the Coyotes’ system.
“I’m just trying to fit in, play my game,” Oystrick said before Saturday’s preseason finale at Jobing.com Arena. “It’s always different coming into an organization and meeting all the guys and getting to know where they’re going to be on the ice and that sort of thing, but it’s been going well.”
The Coyotes entered the preseason finale with eight defensemen on the roster. One will be trimmed soon.
Oystrick is no stranger to learning new systems. After a four-year career at Northern Michigan University where he scored 89 points in 151 games and was named a CCHA All-Star twice, the Atlanta Thrashers drafted Oystrick in the seventh round of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.
The Thrashers assigned him to their AHL affiliate in Chicago where his game took off. He scored 15 goals in his first two seasons there, earning AHL All-Star honors for the 2006-07 season. He then helped lead the Wolves to the Calder Cup championship the following season as an assistant captain.
Oystrick got called up to Atlanta for the 2008-09 season, where he notched four goals and eight assists in 53 games, with a plus-minus rating of minus-2.
“I didn’t get a lot of time on the power play (in Atlanta) and that’s understandable,” said Oystrick, a native of Regina, Saskatchewan. “You had guys like (Ilya) Kovalchuck and (Ron) Hainsey and (Tobias) Enstrom.”
After a three-game stint with Anaheim during the 2009-10 season, Oystrick signed a contract with St. Louis the following summer. He spent the majority of last season with the Blues’ AHL affiliate in Peoria, notching 15 goals in 61 regular-season games, while finishing with an even plus-minus rating.
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Then on July 1, Oystrick became a free agent, and five days later the Coyotes signed the gritty defenseman.
Throughout his career, Oystrick has shown to have a versatile game. But while he can score, he takes pride in his style of play.
“I’m not going to go out looking for fights, but if there’s one there, or if the team needs to get going a little bit or if I need to stick up for a teammate, I’m definitely going to do that,” Oystrick said. “There’s also that added grit to my game where I’m not afraid to throw my body around and get dirty and play defense pretty much.”
Oystrick welcomes the opportunity the Coyotes have given him and wants to make the most of it.
“Whether it’s making the team out of camp or going down to Portland … It’s all about opportunity right now,” Oystrick said. “I’m looking for that and trying to get my foot back in the door and stay.”