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Behind The Numbers

Pro tryouts offer another chance to earn NHL job

Players try to defy odds, extend careers, while teams seek veteran insurance

by Rob Vollman / Correspondent

When Christian Ehrhoff of the Boston Bruins scored a goal in a preseason game against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday, it brought him one stride closer to earning an NHL contract, and motivated others who also are on a professional tryout, better known as a PTO.

Playing on a PTO is a difficult way to earn an NHL roster spot, which makes those who defy the odds and extend their careers that way inspirational.

The best example last season was forward Lee Stempniak, who played well enough on a tryout at New Jersey Devils training camp that he signed with the Devils on Oct. 3, 2015, was traded to the Boston Bruins on Feb. 29, and had 51 points, one shy of his NHL career-high. On July 1 Stempniak signed a two-year, $5 million contract with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Here's a look at an All-PTO team of Ehrhoff and the five other most intriguing players to receive tryouts during the preseason.


Sean Bergenheim

Left Wing

Status: PTO with Anaheim Ducks

Bergenheim had 13 points in 21 games last season with Bern, the champions of Switzerland's National League A.

Based on his NHL career-high of 29 points, Bergenheim is the type of player who is meant to provide scoring more indirectly, by throwing hits and putting a lot of pucks on net. Since 2005-06 Bergenheim has averaged 2.39 shots per game in the NHL, which would rank him in the top 100 among active forwards in the League (minimum 20 games).


Jarret Stoll


Status: Released from PTO by Columbus Blue Jackets

At this stage of his career, Stoll is meant to play a very specific role. With nine points in 80 games last season with the New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild, below-average shot-based metrics and the occasional bit of penalty trouble, there are certain roles he no longer can fill.

What Stoll does provide is a knack for winning faceoffs, throwing hits, blocking shots and killing penalties, all of which are valuable traits for a fourth-line center. He also has done well in the shootout, where he has scored 15 goals in 35 career attempts (42.9 percent).

Video: CHI@MIN: Stoll gives Wild early lead over Blackhawks


Kris Versteeg

Right Wing

Status: PTO with Edmonton Oilers; has undisclosed injury

Even with the increased exposure of shot-based metrics, it may have escaped attention that the Carolina Hurricanes and Los Angeles Kings outshot their opponents 1,070-812 when Versteeg was on the ice last season. His SAT of plus-258 ranked No. 17 in the NHL.

In more traditional terms, Versteeg had 38 points in 77 games, giving him 108 in 219 games during the past three seasons. That's tied for No. 145 among the League's forwards.

At age 30, Versteeg no longer may be the top-six option he once was, but he still can be a valuable addition to a secondary scoring line.


Christian Ehrhoff


Status: PTO with Boston Bruins

Ehrhoff, 34, had three assists in six games with Team Europe at the World Cup of Hockey 2016, laying to rest any concerns about his ability to perform at the NHL level.

He played on the third pairing with Mark Streit of the Philadelphia Flyers and provided reliable play to help Team Europe reach the best-of-3 championship series.

When Ehrhoff was on the ice, a team-low two even-strength goals were allowed in the eight combined pretournament and World Cup games in which he played, according to In terms of shot-based metrics, Ehrhoff ranked fourth on Team Europe with a shot-attempt percentage of 47.0. If he can be that effective in a best-on-best tournament, then he can contribute in the NHL as well.

Video: PIT@LAK: Ehrhoff snaps puck over Fleury's shoulder


James Wisniewski


Status: Released from PTO by Tampa Bay Lightning

It's hard to imagine that a player who was No. 19 among NHL defensemen with 85 points in 144 games in 2013-14 and 2014-15 combined, and who took a regular shift on the penalty kill and had strong shot-based metrics, would have any difficulty securing a contract this season. But that's the situation in which Wisniewski finds himself.

While there is no question that Wisniewski would be of benefit to almost any team, there are concerns about the season-ending torn ACL he sustained in the first game of last season with the Carolina Hurricanes. If his knees are strong, he could have a significant impact almost anywhere.


Tom McCollum


Status: Released from PTO by Los Angeles Kings

McCollum has 81 minutes of NHL experience, with the Detroit Red Wings in 2010-11 and 2014-15, so his performance in the American Hockey League takes on added importance.

During the past three seasons with Grand Rapids, the Red Wings' AHL affiliate, McCollum has a save percentage of .920 in 113 games. Does AHL success translate to the NHL? It did for his predecessor, the Red Wings' Petr Mrazek, who had a .920 save percentage in 87 AHL games in three seasons (2012-15) before becoming a No. 1 NHL goaltender. He has a .920 save percentage in 94 regular-season games.

Given the success of Mrazek and Matt Murray of the Pittsburgh Penguins, it makes sense to take a closer look at those who, like McCollum, have performed consistently well in the AHL.

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