When Brad Winchester was just coming into the NHL, he was looking to established Oilers like Ryan Smyth, Steve Staios and Jason Smith for guidance on how to be a professional. And now, roles are reversed as the 35-year-old veteran is taking on the job of being an example for some of Edmonton’s young prospects.
“It’s kind of come full circle for me a bit,” said Winchester, one of the vets on the Oklahoma City Barons. “It’s a good group here. A lot of good, young players. A lot of good, young skill on this team and it’s one of those things that, for me, it’s a different role, in terms of being one of the older guys and trying to pass that knowledge down and things it takes to win, being a good pro and coming to the rink every day with the right attitude, the right energy. I think coming here took a little bit of an adjustment, but I think this team is in a really good spot and it’s a good group of guys. I feel great to be a part of it.”
Winchester was acquired by the Barons from the Norfolk Admirals in March. After missing much of the season with an upper body injury, Winchester is back in action and helping contribute with his attitude and experience.
|Photo by Getty Images. |
Winchester was taken 35th overall by the Oilers in the 2000 NHL Draft. After a career at the University of Wisconsin, the forward hit the ice for the Toronto Roadrunners organization and then the Edmonton Roadrunners the year after. In his third pro season, 2004-05, Winchester set career highs for Edmonton’s farm team with 22 goals and 40 points. He added 143 penalty minutes as the 6-foot-5, 230-pound youngster showed his toughness.
In 2005-06, Winchester made his NHL debut. It was then that he began to learn from some high-profile leaders. He was a part of the Oilers 2006 playoff run, which is something that sticks out in his mind as a major career moment.
“Just getting into the playoffs. We were the eighth seed, going into Detroit and no one was giving us much of a chance,” said Winchester. “We had a system, we stuck to it. We were able to frustrate them a little bit and you could just kind of tell with the goaltending we got with (Dwayne) Roloson. The momentum that we started to create after we won round one. Just that selflessness that we had from guys like Jason Smith, Ryan Smyth, Ethan Moreau, Steve Staios, (Shawn) Horcoff, you could go down the line of the guys that, for myself, I learned a ton from as a young guy. Things that I still use to this day, in terms of trying to switch roles and now try to pass those things down to the young guys.”
Winchester has played 390 NHL games in his career for the Oilers, Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks. The most important thing Winchester says he’s learned over his career is, “a sense of professionalism.”
“I mentioned some of the veteran guys. But certainly guys that I’ve played with over the years that just try and bring the right attitude and the right energy to the rink,” Winchester said of what has influenced him.
|Photo by Steven Christy | Oklahoma City Barons |
Winchester scored his first NHL goal on April 23, 2006 in game two of the Western Conference Quarterfinal series between the Oilers and the Detroit Red Wings. That goal proved to be the game-winner, with the Oilers taking that one by a score of 4-2. They also took the series 4-2, on their way to an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final against Carolina, to whom they lost in seven.
His playoff experience is invaluable to a young Barons team looking to make a deep run in the 2015 Calder Cup Playoffs.
“I think playoff time is a special time because it is about coming together as a team,” said Winchester. “If you scored as a team, it was almost as if you scored a goal. That kind of selflessness and going through things as a teams, the ups and the downs, the chess match of a playoff series, you try to pass the knowledge onto the younger guys. We have a good young core here that can make the step to the NHL. Edmonton fans should be excited for that. To be a part of this thing, I feel fortunate to be a part of this group and it’s been an enjoyable time.”
The other veteran leaders in the locker room who have been in OKC for the entire season see Winchester as an asset.
“In the locker room, he’s very good with the young guys,” said Barons forward Jason Williams, another vet with NHL playoff experience in Detroit and Columbus. “He’s very vocal. He speaks up when things need to be said and he leads by example. He goes out and he’s a role player. He’s been a role player a lot his entire career. He goes out and does his work. He does a very good job of it. He doesn’t get a whole lot of minutes, but the minutes he plays I think he’s very effective and he does a lot of the little things well that play big keys to winning playoff series. Having him on our side is definitely a bonus.”
Winchester and the Barons play game four of their Western Conference Semifinal series against Utica on Wednesday at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City.