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Oilers depth add Fontaine looking to energize game

The Oilers add a depth winger in Justin Fontaine, and he's looking to find his game down in Bakersfield

by Chris Wescott / Head Writer

Justin Fontaine is making arrangements for a plane trip to Charlotte, North Carolina where he will meet the Oilers American Hockey League farm team, the Bakersfield Condors, who are in the midst of a playoff push.

There he'll put on the orange and blue, but a few hours before, Fontaine was taking a pre-game nap as a member of a different organization. He had left his phone ringer on, and it woke him up with the news that he had been traded to Edmonton.

"I'm definitely excited," said Fontaine. "It's kind of a new start. I grew up an Oilers fan, being from Bonnyville. It's definitely exciting."

On NHL Trade Deadline Day, the Oilers sent forward Taylor Beck to the New York Rangers, in exchange for Fontaine - who has spent this season down in the AHL with Hartford, where he has nine goals and 21 assists in 50 games.

For Fontaine, the trade is a fresh start, a chance to get back to where he was from 2013 to 2016 when he was in the NHL with the Minnesota Wild.

"I describe myself as a versatile player," said Fontaine. "To be able to crack into the NHL with Minnesota, I had to change my game and become more of a third and fourth-line role, energy guy and good defensive two-way player who could also contribute offensively. I want to get back to that, get back to making plays and enjoying the game."

Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli says the team sees Fontaine as a depth player, a good one to have around.

"He can give more depth, he has a more two-way component to his game," said Chiarelli. "Minor move, it'll continue to help our American League team and will give us legitimate depth."

Fontaine isn't currently focused on joining the Oilers, even with 197 regular season and 19 post-season NHL games under his belt. The right-winger's objective is to join Bakersfield and energize his game. That's what the Oilers organization told him to do when they made the trade.

"They expect me to get my game going, enjoy the process, go in there with a good mindset and take it day by day," Fontaine explained. "Hopefully my game gets to where if they need a guy, I'm the guy they call. That's my main focus, to take it day by day and make sure my game is up to par."

Back in his AJHL days, Fontaine suited up with current Oilers forward Mark Letestu for his hometown Bonnyville Pontiacs.

"He's always been able to skate and I think that's something that has been able to separate him from his peers," said Letestu. "From a young age, he's always been able to really turn it on. He's a really high-speed player. Playing in Bonnyville with him, he was really gifted offensively. He could finish plays. Recently, it seems like maybe he's trying to reinvent his game a little bit. Sometimes it catches up to you. I've had to do the same thing. You make adjustments from going from an offensive player to more of a defensively responsible player. He seems to be adjusting well. He's still having success in the AHL and I'm sure when he gets his shot again in the NHL, he'll make the most of it."

If he were to join Letestu and suit up for the Oilers, it would be a dream come true. His fondest memory of the Oilers is attending Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs series against Detroit at Rexall Place in 2006. While he looks fondly on his past memories of the Oilers, he's also excited for the future.

"They're headed in a great direction."

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