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Q&A With New Lightning Right Wing Michel Ouellet

by Staff Writer / Tampa Bay Lightning
New Lightning right wing Michel Ouellet came to Tampa Bay for the first time recently after signing as a free agent on July 1. Ouellet comes to the Lightning as a highly-regarded goal scorer who has scored 11 power play goals in each of his first two NHL seasons while finishing last season one goal shy of 20 overall. correspondent Erin Chenderlin sat down with Ouellet at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon after he finished skating with kids at the Lightning’s Summer Hockey Camp to talk about his reasons for signing with Tampa Bay, his younger days playing with Brad Richards, his childhood idol and more.

Michel Ouellet You had several offers on the table during the first day of free agency. What was the main factor in your decision to come to Tampa Bay?

Michel Ouellet:
There is a winning team here in Tampa Bay. It’s not like going to a team that was losing, like two years ago when I was called up to Pittsburgh. It is tough at the end of the season when you are not going into the playoffs. So being on a good team is going to help me be a better player and is going to make the transition easier. Being from Canada and then playing hockey in Pittsburgh, what interests you about the Tampa Bay area since it’s so different?

For sure it’s going to be different. The weather is going to be different, but for me it was more about the hockey game, not really the city or the town. Having the summer all year long is going to be nice as well. What are your feelings about once again playing with Rimouski teammate Brad Richards?

MO: It’s great. I played against him the last two seasons and he’s a great player. He can help his wingers be better and it’s going to be great to get passes from him. You scored 11 of your 19 goals last season on the power play. Where do you see yourself contributing most with the Lightning and what do you feel makes you so successful on the power play?

MO: With Pittsburgh I had a chance to play right in front of the net and that’s where maybe 75 percent of my goals were scored. If you’re not around the net, you won’t get those rebounds and it’s going to be tougher to score some goals. With the Lightning, hopefully I’m going to have a chance to be around that net again and to create some scoring chances. What do you feel you can bring to the Bolts, both on and off the ice?

MO: I think on the ice I can score goals and it’s going to add some depth to the team. That’s one of the things I think they needed from last year. Off the ice, I don’t know, I’m just going to keep doing the little things I was doing, like being a good guy around the team and working hard to try and improve myself. I want to show everybody that I really want to be here and win with this team. Pittsburgh had a very young captain in Sidney Crosby, and some of the leaders in Tampa Bay, such as Vincent Lecavalier and Richards, are young as well. Being only 25, do you see a leadership role in your future?

MO: For me, I just keep doing the same thing. Those guys have a lot of maturity and it helps the team grow faster when you have a young leader that everybody can look up to. You can see what they’re doing to be a leader and it helps everybody to watch them. For me, it’s not that I’m not getting older, but as seasons go by I’ve learned from a lot of guys and in a few years I hope to be one of those leaders that the young guys are going to look at. Coach John Tortorella is known for his grueling training camp - are you nervous about it?

MO: Yeah, for sure. He told me already about the training camp, that it’s going to be tough so I know what to expect. I’ve never been in this situation before, joining a new team, and they told me it’s going to be tough. You’re working out all summer long to get ready for training camp, and that is part of becoming a part of that team. We’ll see how it goes after that. What excites you most about this opportunity to play in Tampa Bay?

MO: It’s great - they want me to score goals. That’s what the coach told me when he talked to me after I signed and that’s good, that’s part of my game. It’s going to be exciting to be around Lecavalier, Richards, St. Louis and all of those guys who make this team successful, so hopefully I’m going to be a part of that. What is your favorite activity off the ice?

MO: I like going to movies, I like playing golf. Here in Tampa it’s going to be great to play golf all year long. But the first thing I want to concentrate on is playing hockey, and after that, we’ll see. You have said that Patrick Roy is your hockey idol. What is it about him that you admire and maybe try to emulate?

MO: When I was playing street hockey, I was Patrick Roy in the net. I don’t know why a goalie was my idol actually, since I’ve always been a forward. The only time I played in net was when I was 7 and everyone had to go in net during the game. I don’t know, maybe I was looking to see how I could score on him or something, so that was probably why he was my idol. Having played with both Brad Richards and Sidney Crosby in your career, can you compare the two? Are there similarities?

MO: Yeah, there are similarities. They both work hard and both can see the ice so well, you just have to be open to receive passes. For me, it won’t be an adjustment, I just have to go to the net and be around there if I want to score goals. For Brad and Sidney, they always try to find their open guys, but when they get a chance to score, they bury it. They can both play an all-around game. Your first trip back to Pittsburgh is Jan. 18. How will it feel to be back playing in Mellon Arena?

MO: I’m going to be nervous for sure, and it’s going to be different. This is the first time I’ve changed teams in the NHL, so it will be the first time I’m experiencing it. The game is going to be against my ex-teammates, but I think it’s going to be fun. Having a goal or two there would make it easier for me. Thanks Michel!

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