SASKATOON – Kale Kessy hopes to one day provide the grit the Edmonton Oilers have been missing from their lineup in recent years.
Kessy tried to show what he can do playing left wing for the Oilers in 5-0 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday in pre-season action.
He rocked Blackhawks defenceman David Rundblad to the ice in the second period, which drew a lot of cheers from the 10,303 onlookers in attendance at Saskatoon’s Credit Union Centre, and a couple more crowd-pleasing hits followed from the second-year pro.
“I just have to play my role,” said Kessy. “I just have to keep it simple and finish my checks.”
“Kale has had a good training camp,” said Oilers coach Dallas Eakins. “He is a kid that worked extremely hard this summer on his strength, his conditioning, his speed…He has worked a ton on his skating, and he has come a long, long way, and he has moved himself up the depth chart. We like the way he fights for every shift, and he is just trying to stay another day right now.”
Scott Darling made 26 saves to earn the shutout in goal for the Blackhawks.
Garrett Ross and Teuvo Teravainen scored 54 seconds apart in the second period to give Chicago (2-2) a 3-0 lead. Bryan Bickel scored in the first period, while Andrew Shaw and Kris Versteeg rounded out the scoring for the Blackhawks in the third.
Richard Backman made 17 stops in goal for the Oilers (2-2).
Kessy knows the Oilers aren’t looking at him for his offensive ability. Last season, he collected two goals, four assists and 88 penalty minutes playing 54 games with the Oklahoma City Barons in the American Hockey League.
The six-foot-three, 212-pound grinder spent most of his four seasons in the Western Hockey League with the Medicine Hat Tigers and often found himself watching because of league discipline. The Tigers traded him to the Vancouver Giants early in the 2012-13 season after he received a 12-game suspension for a head hit he delivered to Lethbridge Hurricanes defenceman Ryan Pilon.
It was Kessy’s seventh suspension of his major junior career, which also turned out to be his last suspension at that level as he found his balance with his physical play.
The power forward was later dealt to the Kamloops Blazers during that final major junior campaign, as the Blazers were loading up for a long playoff run.
In his overage season, Kessy piled up a 106 penalty minutes in 60 games, which marked the fourth year in a row he eclipsed the century mark for penalty minutes in a season. He also, finally, showed an offensive touch in that season, posting 21 goals and 22 assists.
For the moment, Kessy is trying to extend his stay as long as possible with Edmonton. He knows he has to focus on what he can control to convince the team’s management to keep him on their NHL roster.
“It is up to the brass to decide,” said Kessy. “I just have to go out every day and work hard every day like I can. Everything else will take care of itself.”