|Kale Kessy was originally drafted by the Phoenix Coyotes 111th overall in 2011. (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
In an instant, Kale Kessy's future evolved into one with promise and clear direction.
A little more than week after acquiring his rights via trade with the Phoenix Coyotes, the Edmonton Oilers have agreed to terms with the 20-year-old on a three-year entry-level contract.
"It's very exciting," said Kessy. "When I found out I was traded to Edmonton, I couldn't really believe it. The Oilers have so many young, talented players on their team and in the system. Then, as quickly as it at went down, to sign my first pro contract, it was very rewarding.
"So many people helped me along the way. My parents, sister, my buddies, teammates and so many others -- I wouldn't be here without all their help and support."
Originally chosen by the Coyotes 111th overall in 2011, Kessy would have become a free agent if he was not signed by Jun. 1.
"I wasn't really too sure how it would play out, but I wasn't too concerned about it," said Kessy. "My goal was to have a good post-season and help my team go as far as we could and the rest would take care of itself. It's my last year (in the WHL) and I think we have a team capable of doing something special."
Kessy split the 2012-13 campaign with the Medicine Hat Tigers (where he spent the previous three seasons), Vancouver Giants and Kamloops Blazers. The Shaunavon, SK product recorded 12 goals and 25 points in 31 regular-season games with the Blazers and has had a strong start to the post-season, tallying seven goals (including a pair of hat tricks) and nine points in seven games.
In total during the regular season, he registered 21 goals and 38 points in 60 games.
"I worked really hard over the summer to improve my game," said Kessy. "I worked a lot on my shooting and stick handling, so I felt more comfortable coming into the season. I started the year in Medicine Hat and had two goals in two games, which gave me a bit of a boost. I think I've been playing some pretty good hockey this year and it's certainly rewarding.
"I have to give credit to my linemates (Colin Smith and Chase Souto) for helping me reach my potential."
The 6-foot-3, 192-pound left-winger brings a physical, "in-your-face" game, highlighted by the skill and offensive instincts to produce in a secondary scoring role.
"I'm not, nor am I ever going to be a finesse player," said Kessy. "My focus is to work hard every night, on and off the ice. It's a cliche, but if I can keep it simple, get pucks deep and get in hard on the forecheck, I can be really effective at wearing other teams' defenders down and opening up some space for my linemates.
"I'm not going to try and change my game to be all fancy, because that doesn't give me success. I want to be good in the dirty areas, down low and along the boards. In doing that, my linemates have done an excellent job in finding me in those areas. In our first-round series (vs. Victoria), I think I had six wide-open net tap-ins as a result of our chemistry that way."
So far, it's worked to perfection. Since his arrival in Kamloops and dominant post-season performances, Kessy has set career highs in goals and points. In addition to the obvious (and relentless) dents on the scoresheet, the lumbering left-winger continues to be a reckless force on the physical side. Not only is he a punishing power forward between the whistles, but he'll also take care of business and drop the mitts when called upon.
Whether or not he's looking to engage, it's an area that's garnered plenty of attention from frustrated counterparts.
"I never shy away from a fight," said Kessy, a veteran of 42 over the course of four WHL seasons. "I never go looking for it, but if there's a chance to stand up for one of my teammates, I'll always do that. I think I can play the game well, so my primary concern is playing a physical, up-tempo game. If I'm doing that and playing my game well, I'm getting the other team off theirs.
"If they're going after me all night and trying to engage me in something, then I've done what I set out to do. They're worried about me more than the game."
Kessy and the Blazers are currently facing the Kelowna Rockets in the second round. Kamloops emerged victorious in Game 1 and is looking to extend its series lead with another win on Sunday in the Okanagan.
"We can't be looking past (Sunday's) game," said Kessy. "You can't ever count them out. They have home ice advantage and are one of the best teams in the League.
"It's one game at a time for us. But we really like our chances."
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick