The term "hot streak" hardly describes Carolina Hurricanes wingman Jeff O’Neill’s play and productivity in recent games. The 24-year old Richmond Hill, Ont. native has found his way onto the scoresheet in each of the Hurricanes last seven games – a span that includes three two-point performances for O’Neill, and, most importantly, an unbeaten Hurricanes team.
"I think that it’s a result of playing with two great players," said O’Neill. "It gives me the opportunity to score goals and get assists."
In the Hurricanes' last 16 games O'Neill has done just that – score goals (12) and get assists (7). Coach Paul Maurice points back to the team's game against the New Jersey Devils on November 18, a 3-2 overtime loss. O'Neill had sustained an injury during training camp in September and scored only three goals in the Hurricanes' first 18 games.
"He didn’t find his game legs until the middle of November," said Maurice. "It was almost five weeks of hockey before he got back. I keep going back to New Jersey. He physically got involved in that game and I think he just made a decision, 'I'm the guy that's going to have to do this," and once he did that he's just taken off and now his confidence is there shooting the puck. He's been a real physical force for us up front."
Since the November 18 game at New Jersey, O'Neill has found the net 15 times and has become the Hurricanes number two scorer with 32 points, one behind line-mate Ron Francis.
On January 14, O'Neill scored his 100th NHL career goal against Mighty Ducks of Anaheim goaltender Jean-Sebastian Giguere at 16:15 of the third period. The goal was O'Neill's 18th of the season.
"It's a milestone I had hoped to achieve much earlier in my career," said O’Neill of his 100th goal. "It doesn't seem to matter much considering what Ronnie Francis did last night but still I’m glad that I’ve reached it."
Francis moved past the legendary Phil Esposito and into fifth place on the NHL's all-time points list on the same night O'Neill scored his 100th goal.
"It's obviously something to be very proud of," said Francis. "I said to him last night that a lot of guys who play in this league for a long time never reached that plateau. Certainly it's something that he should be proud of. The way he's playing right with his shot and his speed and everything else, it's not going to be the last goal he scores. He's going to score a lot more in this league and it's good to see that he's going to have success like that."
O'Neill, originally drafted by the franchise in 1994 with the fifth pick overall is in his NHL sixth season. He trails line-mate Sami Kapanen by four goals for 10th place on the all-time franchise goal-scoring list. Francis tops the list with 318 goals in his 12-plus seasons with the franchise.
|JEFF O'NEILLCareer Statistics|
through January 14, 2001
| ||REGULAR SEASON||PLAYOFFS|
|HURRICANES / NHL CAREER TOTALS (5 SEASONS)||408||100||122||222||343||6||0||1||1||0|
|(a) May, 1992--Selected by Guelph Storm in 1992 OHL Priority Draft. First Storm pick, first overall, first round.|
(b) Named to OHL All-Rookie Team (1993).
(c) Named winner of Emms Family Award (OHL Rookie of the Year) (1993).
(d) Named to CHL All-Rookie Team (1994).
(e) Won CHL Valvoline Top Draft Prospect Award (1994).
(f) June 28, 1994--Selected by Hartford Whalers in 1994 NHL Entry Draft. First Whalers pick, fifth overall, first round.
(g) Named First-Team OHL All-Star (1995).
(h) Named Second-Team CHL All-Star (1995).