Slick Oiler pumped for training camp
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Timmins native and former Barrie Colt Hunter Tremblay will carry with him a great deal of confidence when he attends Edmonton Oilers training camp this fall.
The New Brunswick Varsity Reds grad got his first taste of professional hockey this spring, playing the final three regular season games with the American Hockey League Oklahoma City Barons and then in five of six playoff games before they were eliminated by fellow Timmins native Alex Henry's Hamilton Bulldog's.
Tremblay netted his first goal as a professional in Game 4 of that series -- a 5-2 victory on home ice.
"The first two games I had my chances, but the puck just wouldn't go in the net," Tremblay said. "But then, back here at home, our line was having a good game and dumped the puck in on the forecheck and Benny Ondrus forced a turnover and I scooped it up right at the net and tucked her in the five hole."
The goal, scored at 3:06 of the first period, was scored against Montreal Canadiens prospect Drew MacIntyre.
"It was a nice feeling," Tremblay said.
"It's always nice to get your first goal and try to earn a little respect, so to speak, among your teammates."
Tremblay, Ondrus and Chris Vandevelde each had a goal in the six-game series.
"We were supposed to provide some energy for the team and get things going," Tremblay said, of the line's role.
"We were playing the body a little bit and getting the forecheck going and ended up scoring a goal. We had a good night."
Tremblay also had an opportunity to hone his penalty killing skills with the Barons.
"Throughout the playoffs, we had so many penalties our line was used for penalty killing more than anything," he said. "But when we had some five-on-five time, I thought our line played well and we were efficient in getting pucks deep and at the same time shutting down the other team's top line.
"We were paired against Nigel Dawes' line the whole series and I thought we did a good job against them."
Killing penalties and being strong in both ends of the rink can only help Tremblay's chances of one day making it to the NHL.
"I seem to be carving out myself a defensive role slash penalty killing unit role here, which is fine," he said. "I was used to doing that out in New Brunswick, as well.
"If that's where I'm pencilled in to play pro hockey, I'll do it."
Having speed and playing it smart are two of the things Tremblay says are key to being a good penalty killer.
"You have to be willing to do all the hard work, blocking the shots and hustling back and getting in the shot block lane," he said. "It takes discipline, speed and smarts and I like to think I have all three of those, so it kind of suits my game a little bit."
Tremblay enjoyed the chance to play against Henry.
"It was nice to see a familiar face, coming to Oklahoma City I didn't know anybody here, you're in a new league, in a new city," he said. "So, it was nice to see a familiar face on the other side, even though he is a 6-foot-5 monster who is probably going to crush you a few times.
"You notice when he gets his bear paws on you that it's hard to get out of them, but Alex played a lot and he played well.
"We talked after we shook hands and the series was over."
Even though there is an age difference between Tremblay and Henry, he remembers training with the big defenceman years ago.
"In the gym and playing summer hockey against each other, I can remember thinking, man, this guy is huge," Tremblay said.
"It's kind of neat to finally be playing in a playoff series against him ... it was kind of fun."
Heading into training camp this fall, he has a better idea of what it takes to play at the pro level thanks to his time with the Barons.
"I think the main thing is you get to size yourself up against everyone else, so come training camp in Edmonton you know what kind of physical fitness level you have to be at," Tremblay said. "These guys are big guys and good athletes and they take care of their bodies, so it's going to take a good summer of hard work and training.
"And at the same time, you get to have a feel for where you fit in on the team ... what positions you think you could play at, whether it's a first-line role, or a second-line role, or a third-line role.
"It just kind of opens your eyes and gives you a better perspective of what level you are at compared to everyone else."
Speaking of weather, Ontario residents who looked out their windows Wednesday to see blowing snow might be jealous to know Tremblay's view was a little more enjoyable.
"I was talking to my fiancee this morning and she said it was snowing," he said. "I opened my blinds to sunshine and people tanning around the pool, so it's a little different.
"At the same time, though, it's tornado season down here, so it's a new thing for me and every day I'm hoping and praying that no tornado comes our way."
Tremblay spent his entire five-year junior career in Barrie, recording 284 points. He churned out 35 goals and 89 points in his best offensive season, 2006-07, as an overager.
Tremblay signed with Edmonton in March.
The 25-year-old was named Canadian Intersport University player of the year in 2010 after posting 25 goals and 32 assists in 27 games with the Varsity Reds.