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FUTURE WATCH | Recalled and ready

by Meg Tilley / Edmonton Oilers

Photo by Mark Nessia / Bakersfield Condors.

Two weeks and three days — 408 hours — that’s how long Zack Kassian had to wait before the Oilers came knocking.

Today, the Edmonton team announced the recall of Kassian from their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate team the Bakersfield Condors. The forward met and practiced with the team on Wednesday in San Jose, ahead of their Thursday game against the Sharks.

“It’s going to be awesome," Kassian said. "It’s a great building to play in. They have a good crowd here and I’m excited to be back in the NHL. It’s what we dream about and it almost slipped away. I couldn’t be more happy to have another chance."

In late December, Edmonton announced they acquired Kassian from the Montreal Canadiens, in exchange for goaltender Ben Scrivens.

“It was something that, on two levels, we wanted to address,” said Peter Chiarelli, President of Hockey Operations and General Manager of the Oilers.

“One was to get our goalie pecking order in place, which this allows us to do with bringing back [Eetu Laurikainen] from Finland, but also — Kassian is the type of player that would help us in his prime.”

Selected by the Buffalo Sabres in the first round, the now 24-year-old was picked 13th overall in the 2009 NHL Draft.

The Windsor, ON, native said he found it to be a smooth transition when he arrived in Bakersfield thanks to the hospitality of his new teammates and was able to pick up a daily routine that he hadn’t been in for some time.

“It’s a great young team. They welcomed me with open arms and it’s really just nice to get back and play the game I love again,” said Kassian.

He only played a handful of games, but he was quick to make an impact, scoring in only his second game with the Condors.

“It’s the first goal of the year for me so it’s always nice to get that one out of the way,” he said.

“I missed a wide open net my first game, so the guys were joking around with me [saying] that I wanted to make it a little harder on myself, but it is nice — I’ve been through a lot — to get the first one out of the way was nice. Now, it’s just a matter of getting in the daily grind and practicing and working out and playing games — getting in that game shape.”

Photo by Mark Nessia / Bakersfield Condors.

He’s focussed, determined — concentrated on smoothing out whatever kinks may be left since his extended period of time away from the rink.

“To be honest I feel pretty good. I feel better than I expected, but at the same time, there’s days where your body is sore because it’s not used to putting that much strain on it,” said Kassian.

“[I] Had the summer off and, obviously, my summer was extended a little longer... two weeks and now my body's starting to adapt to playing again and everything is on track and is going the way I would like it to go.”

After a three-month hiatus, his return to the ice is not without its challenges, having overcome more than many young adults his age.

“When you’re off it’s tough. I feel I came in and I’ve come to work every day wanting to get better, trying to learn and really coming in and working hard,” he said.

“I feel really good right now — not only with the hockey standpoint but the life standpoint — and I really have just been excited to be back playing hockey again.”

When Kassian entered the pro level in 2011, he found success quickly, scoring 23 goals and 47 points in 59 AHL games split between the Rochester Americans and Chicago Wolves.

Though most AHL players are trying to reach the ultimate level of hockey — the NHL — Kassian has been striving to once again return to it, and with this recall, hopefully make it a permanent fit.

“It’s the league everybody desires to be in,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “Once you’ve spent some time here I think that desire goes up even more because it’s the NHL. You’re treated a little bit different as far as flying and eating and all that other stuff than you do in the minors.”

Kassian is no stranger to the NHL environment, having appeared in 198 career NHL games, accumulating 66 points (35G, 31A) and 307 penalty minutes.

Zack Kassian playing for the Windsor Spitfires. Photo Getty Images.

“[My return is] not up to me but I feel good. I’ve always thought and known I can play in the NHL, it’s just a matter of being given the opportunity. I have a lot to prove to a lot of people in the Edmonton organization,” he said.

“There has not been one doubt in my mind of me not getting back, I think that’s the type of person I am. There’s not one second when I started skating with the Condors again, and when Edmonton picked me up, that I wasn’t going to make it back. And the only way I can control that is by my work ethic, day in and day out, with the Condors.”

The 6-foot, 217-pound right-winger has been described as a player whose specialty is providing a physical element for his team. Not only can he be an agitator on the ice but he also brings a lot of offensive skill.

“I think when I’m at my best, I’m physical. I’m getting in on the forecheck and most importantly I’m moving my feet, I’m protecting pucks, making plays off the cycle game, I like to do that a lot and I like to stand up for teammates and I like to chip in offensively.” said Kassian.

“I try to bring an all-around game honestly, the game now — it’s tough to score — so it’s nice if you’re not scoring to do something else to help the team, that’s really something that I’m focusing on moving forward here. Especially with the highly skilled Edmonton Oilers team, I feel that I can ramp it up physically and bring that element to the team.”

Though the Condors haven’t had many games in the New Year due to their new schedule, the power forward has made progress since his arrival, registering one goal and six penalty minutes in four games.

He has a well-rounded hockey resume, having competed internationally and winning gold with Team Ontario at the 2008 World Under-17 Championship and silver with Team Canada at the 2011 World Junior Championship.

Photo by Mark Nessia / Bakersfield Condors

Kassian has been a strong player and one who could dominate in junior. He registered 24 goals, 39 assists and adding 136 penalty minutes in 61 games with the OHL’s Peterborough Petes in 2008-09 before moving on to help the Windsor Spitfires to a Memorial Cup Victory in 2010, along with current Oilers forward Taylor Hall.

“That’ll be cool if I get that opportunity to play with [Hall again],” he said.

“People know how dynamic of a player he is and how well of a skater and how explosive he is. Even back in junior, it was nice to watch him in practice, the things he can do with the puck, the speed he can pick-up going down that left side of the wing, it’s nice to watch not only from a fan standpoint but especially as a teammate standpoint, so that would be cool to reunite.”

Though Edmonton will be the fourth NHL team he has been with, Kassian is ready for his Oilers debut and a fresh start, donning number 44 and likely sporting that familiar chipped-tooth grin.

Statistics For In The System Through Past Seasons: 14-15 | 13-14 | 12-13 | 11-12
Stats Updated as of Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Bakersfield (AHL) - Forwards


Name POS age GP G A P +/- PIM
GREG CHASE C 20 19 1 6 7 +3 25
BRADEN CHRISTOFFER LW 21 27 1 3 4 -10 57
JOSH CURRIE* C 23 19 3 3 6 +2 25
LEON DRAISAITL C 20 6 1 1 2 -5 4
MATTHEW FORD*   RW 31 29 16 11 27 0 34
RYAN HAMILTON   LW 30 29 8 7 15 -4 32
KELLEN JONES*   LW 25 5 0 2 2 +1 4
ZACK KASSIAN   RW 24 4 1 0 1 +1 6
KALE KESSY   LW 23 29 6 4 10 +6 45
JUJHAR KHAIRA   LW 21 18 3 6 9 -2 9
ALEXIS LOISEAU*   C 21 12 1 2 3 +1 2
ANDREW MILLER   RW/C 27 23 7 13 20 0 10
MITCH MOROZ   LW 21 25 2 4 6 +2 57
PHILIP MCCRAE* C 25 9 2 0 2 -4 4
IIRO PAKARINEN   RW 24 4 1 2 3 0 4
TYLER PITLICK   RW 24 7 0 0 0 0 0
KYLE PLATZER RW 20 28 5 7 12 -2 8
MARC-OLIVIER ROY* C 21 17 4 1 5 -3 6
ANTON SLEPYSHEV LW 21 20 4 1 5 -9 12
JOSH WINQUIST*   LW 22 8 3 4 7 +3 20
BOGDAN YAKIMOV   C/W 21 19 3 4 7 -5 8
DANIIL ZHARKOV (INJURED)
LW 21 - - - - - -
Bakersfield (AHL) - Defencemen


Name POS age GP G A P +/- PIM
MARK FAYNE   d 28 4 0 1 1 0 4
MARTIN GERNAT   d 22 17 0 3 3 3 6
brad hunt   D 27 26 6 17 23 -6 8
JOEY LALEGGIA   D 23 30 4 9 13 +10 20
DAVID MUSIL D 22 30 3 3 6 +5 21
NIKITA NIKITIN   D 29 18 1 8 9 -7 0
DARNELL NURSE   D 20 6 0 1 1 0 7
JORDAN OESTERLE   d 23 23 2 9 11 -3 6
NICK PAGEAU*   D 27 12 0 1 1 -5 2
GRIFFIN REINHART   D 21 11 0 4 4 -2 8
DILLON SIMPSON
D 22 21 0 5 5 -2 4
Norfolk (ECHL)


Name POS age    GP G A P +/- PIM
BEN BETKER D 21 39 1 13 14 +4 33
GREG CHASE F 20 10 4 2 6 -3 18
Canadian Hockey League
Name POS age GP G A P +/- PIM team
CALEB JONES  D 18 41 7 25 32 -1 33 PORTLAND WINTERHAWKS (WHL)
ETHAN BEAR  D 18 40 12 28 40   +5 20 SEATTLE THUNDERBIRDS (WHL)
NCAA & USHL
Name POS age  GP G A   P +/- PIM team
EVAN CAMPBELL   LW 21 19 2  4 6 0 14 UMASS-LOWELL (NCAA)
WILLIAM LAGESSON
D 19 19 2 4 6 -3 14 UMASS-AMHERST (NCAA)
JOHN MARINO d 18 28 2 11 13 +3 16 TRI-CITY (USHL)
AIDAN MUIR LW 20 19 1 2 3 -9 8 WESTERN MICHIGAN (NCAA)
TYLER VESEL   C 21 20 2 10 12 +8 2 NEBRASKA-OMAHA (NCAA)
Europe
Name POS age GP G A P +/- PIM team
ROMAN HORAK C 24 46 9 12 21 -6 26 CHEKHOV VITYAZ (KHL)
PHILIP LARSEN   D 25 40 6 21 27 +12 10 JOKERIT HELSINKI (KHL)
ZIYAT PAIGIN  F 20 26 7 12 19 +5 6 SOCHI HC (KHL)
  8 0 1 1 +2 2 KAZAN AK-BARS (KHL)
ANTTI TYRVAINEN  F 26 5 2 0 2 -1 4 FARJESTADS BK KARLSTAD (Sweden)
  13 5 1 6 +1 53 ILVES TAMPERE (finland)
2016 World Junior Hockey Championships
Name POS age GP G A P +/- PIM team
WILLIAM LAGESSON
D 19 7 2 1 3 +7 4 SWEDEN
Goaltenders
Name age GP w l T GAA SV% team
KEVEN BOUCHARD   19 3 1 0 2 3.20 .886 MONCTON WILDCATS (qmjHL)
  21 4 13 2 3.97 .872 baie-comeau (qmjHL)
LAURENT BROSSOIT 22 19 10 6 2 2.55 .927 bakersfield (AHL)
EETU LAURIKAINEN 22 2 1 1 0 2.01 .923 BAKERSFIELD (AHL)
8 3 5 0 2.16 .920 HPK HAMEENLINNA (FINLAND)
ZACH NAGELVOORT   21 9 5 2 1 3.14 .888 michigan (ncaa)
MIROSLAV SVOBODA   20 1 0 1 0 6.00 .750 TRINEC OCELARI (CZECH)
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