|Benoit Pouliot is chased by Andrew Ference in the 2012-13 season. Photo by Getty Images. |
Edmonton Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish
called him “our most important add” shortly after signing Benoit Pouliot
on the first day of free agency a week ago.
Pouliot adds size and speed to the Oilers lineup and, maybe even more importantly, increases the competitiveness. He was an important piece to the New York Rangers playoff run this year, which resulted in an Eastern Conference Championship.
Oilers Captain Andrew Ference played with Pouliot in Boston during the 2011-12 season. They have also battled against each other on the ice on numerous occasions. He is very familiar with the type of player the Oilers are getting but he also says this season saw a change in Pouliot, for the better.
“We played a few years ago and played against each other actually,” Ference said. “We’ve had a couple of fights against each other even. In playing together, he’s a tremendously skilled guy but the first thing when MacTavish was asking about him was I watched a lot of the playoffs this year and he is not the player I played with. He was skilled and he had the size but he’s figured out the intensity and consistency. You watch him in the playoffs and he was an extremely important player for New York.”
Pouliot brings the same element to the roster as David Perron did last season. When Perron was at his best was when he was going hard to the net and being a nuisance to the other teams. He’d cause havoc and create scoring chances. Ference sees those similarities in Pouliot’s game this season.
“He’s got good size and he’s kind of like Perron where he bugs people. He gets under your skin because he is good on the forecheck, he goes to the front of the net, he can kind of get in there and bug people. He doesn’t go away. He’s got really good skill and great hands so I’m excited and I’m really looking forward to seeing him.”
Perron finished third on the team in scoring last season with 57 points (28-29-57) and he tied Jordan Eberle for the most goals (28).
Pouliot agreed to terms on a five-year contract with the Oilers on the opening day of free agency. He says he chose the Oilers because he likes the direction they are heading. He also says Ference was a good spokesman for Edmonton and the organization.
“I talked with Andrew a couple of days before (free agency) and he told me a lot of good things about Edmonton so he made my decision a little easier,” Pouliot said shortly after agreeing to his new contract with the team.
Ference has watched this off-season as Oilers management has made several moves to increase the size, skill and experience of their roster. MacTavish has brought in Teddy Purcell from Tampa Bay via trade and he signed established NHL defencemen Nikita Nikitin and Mark Fayne in free agency. He also added a massive blueliner in Keith Aulie.
“We added size and they are also coming from organizations that are playing the game the right way and learning good systems and good fundamentals,” Ference said. “It’s good. You’re building on a fairly solid foundation as well which is great.”