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Senators think Wiercioch is worth the gamble

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Patrick Wiercioch might not have been expecting to hear his name so early in the 2008 Entry Draft, but the Ottawa Senators went a little off the board when they picked him in the second round (No. 42).

Wiercioch, was ranked No. 119 among North American skaters during NHL Central Scouting's mid-term rankings in January, but rose to No. 77 in their final ranking in May. That's still a considerable distance from No. 42 in the draft, however.

The Senators, who hosted the draft at Scotiabank Place, selected Swedish defenseman Erik Karlsson in the first round (No. 15) and weren't afraid to take a gamble on Wiercioch.

Andrew, Patrick's father, came to Canada from Poland with $30 and a determination for a better life. He started a gas and welding supply company, not only to help his family financially, but also to give Patrick the opportunity to play hockey.

While Andrew was watching his son play he was able to conduct business. "I tell them (the noise in the rink) is machinery in the shop," Andrew told the Maple Ridge News.

Patrick initially learned to play hockey on roller blades because his family could not afford skates. His relentless inline pursuit of the game led to some painful experiences.

"He was always roller blading around until one day my mother-in-law says, 'Why not buy him better roller blades?' " Andrew told The Edmonton Sun. "I said, 'Why?' She said, 'Look inside the feet.' When I look, the boot had blood inside. He had so many blisters ... the roller blades I bought were cheap, not very comfortable, and he was roller blading every day for six or seven hours."

Patrick eventually made the transition to the ice and played alongside Kyle Turris, selected No. 3 in the 2007 draft by the Phoenix Coyotes, for the Burnaby Express in the British Columbia Hockey League. 

OTTAWA SENATORS
2007-08 SEASON STATS

Category Rank (Conference)
2007-08 Points 94
(7th east/13th NHL)
Change from 2006-07 -11
Home Points 48
(7th east/16th NHL)
Away Points 46
(5th east/8th NHL)
After leaving the Express in 2007, Wiercioch played last season with the Omaha Lancers of the United States Hockey League, where he had 3 goals and 21 points in 40 games. He missed 20 games due to a broken thumb in late November.

Wiercioch played well when he returned to the Lancers' lineup in February and continued into the playoffs, when he was second on the team with 11 points in 14 playoff games and Omaha captured the Clark Cup as the champions of the USHL. Wiercioch even assisted on the title-winning overtime goal and the other player to assist on that goal.    

Wiercioch is a skinny 6-foot-2, 178-pound defenseman who has superior stickhandling and makes good decisions with the puck, but needs to improve his skating, which he will try to do starting next season at Denver University.   

"Patrick, a smart player with excellent hands, was used heavily on the power play in Omaha," said NHL Central Scouting's Jack Barzee. "He needs to improve his skating and agility, but compensates with his ability to stickhandle his way out of trouble. Improvement on his strength and development (at Denver) should positively compliment his puck moving ability."   

Mike Hastings, who coached Wiercioch in Omaha last season, recognized Wiercioch's ability.

"Patrick, with his unique combination of hockey sense and size, has developed into one of the best all-round defenseman in our league," Hastings said. "As he matures physically you will see him develop into a dominant defenseman that can impact a game in many ways."

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