by Brian Compton || NHL.com
Nobody in the hockey world — the New York Islanders included — knew Matt Moulson would explode onto the NHL scene the way he did last season, when he made the team out of training camp and led the club with 30 goals.
When it comes to P.A. Parenteau, the Isles are hoping lightning strikes twice.
Parenteau, who signed a one-way deal with the club this summer, has been a prolific AHL goal-scorer since 2006, when he scored 30 goals in 68 games between Portland and Norfolk. Over the following three seasons with the Hartford Wolf Pack, the 27-year-old racked up 204 points over 184 AHL contests.
The former ninth-round pick of the Anaheim Ducks (No. 264 in 2001) had a cup of coffee with the New York Rangers last season and had three goals and five assists in 22 games. But on this side of the East River, Parenteau is being presented with a golden opportunity.
"You try to find guys that maybe fall off radars as far as the NHL … but he obviously has some comparables with Moulson," Islanders coach Scott Gordon said. "P.A. is going to get an opportunity. He’s actually probably a little more of a prolific scorer in the [AHL] than Moulson was. If he can do the things that Matt did, obviously that’s going to be a huge bonus for us."
"Last year, I kind of got a shot," Parenteau said. "I think I did pretty good when I played with the Rangers. I’m looking forward to play here. I know I have a good opportunity. Hopefully it’s going to work out. I’m ready to show what I can do. I know I can play at this level."
With alternate captain Kyle Okposo sidelined until December with a shoulder injury, it’s highly possible that Parenteau could find himself skating on the Isles’ top line. The Hull, Que., native worked with John Tavares and Blake Comeau at practice Monday morning.
"I have no idea where I’m going to play or where I’m going to start," Parenteau said after the Isles skated at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, where they’ll open the regular season Saturday night against Dallas. "If I get that opportunity, I’m going to have to make the best out of it, and I’m planning to do so."
But make no mistake, there will be no free rides for Parenteau on Long Island. He will have to earn everything he gets and become the two-way player Gordon expects him to be.
"The opportunity gets magnified for him to be able to play more significant minutes, but like I told him, it’s not going to be handed to him," Gordon said. "He can’t just expect the points to come without the effort at the other end of the ice. I’ve liked his progress in the three (preseason) games that I’ve seen him be more attentive to the defensive side of it."
Parenteau doesn’t have to look very far when he’s searching for inspiration, as his locker is situated just inches away from Moulson’s. Once the Isles provided the later with an opportunity, Moulson was able to prove he belonged with the big boys. Armed with a one-way deal, Parenteau is eager to do the same.
"You look at a guy like that, he came out of the AHL like I’m doing right now, so it’s something I look at," Parenteau said. "But I’m not the same kind of player. I’m a little more of a playmaker, but it’s definitely motivating to see a guy come out of the AHL who played a lot of years there like me. It’s really motivating to see him do really well last year."
Knowing Parenteau well from their days playing against each other in the AHL, Moulson thinks Parenteau is the real deal, too.
"I played against him in the ‘A’, and he’s obviously tremendously skilled," Moulson told NHL.com. "Sometimes, all you need is someone to give you a real honest chance. Hopefully he gets that here. He’s a great player. I think he’ll do well."
Just like Parenteau, Moulson was also a ninth-round draft pick (Pittsburgh, 2003) after a solid collegiate career at Cornell University. But before he signed with New York, Moulson had just 29 games of NHL experience on his resume despite scoring 53 goals over two seasons with the Manchester Monarchs. Moulson admitted it was difficult to keep his head on straight.
"You look at that league, and that guys that do unbelievable year-by-year, they never seem to get that shot," Moulson said. "All you need is one person to believe in you, and the sky’s the limit. That’s kind of what happened with me last year. They took a shot on me. Who would have thought it’d work out the way it did? You just have to work on your game and not let yourself get frustrated. I think that’s what probably keeps a lot of guys in the AHL.
"But it is tough to see guys go up before you. I remember my first year I played in the ‘A’, I was leading the team in scoring and I was like the only one of the top 13 forwards to not get called up. At times, it’s tough. But you can’t really get frustrated. You’ve just got to work on your game and always believe you’re going to get that shot. It’s something P.A.’s dealing with now. He’s getting his chance. I think he’ll do great."
Moulson certainly is. Not even a lock to make last season’s squad, Moulson enters the 2010-11 campaign armed with a contract that will pay him $2.45 million. What a difference a year makes.
"I’m not going to lie to you … I was a little nervous," Moulson said when asked about his mindset entering training camp last season. "I wanted to get engaged to my girlfriend at the time. I was on a two-way contract. I just went in and said I was going to do whatever it took to make this team. No matter how hard you work, you’ve always got to be a little lucky. I was very fortunate last year. After our first preseason game (in Terrace, B.C.), I thought my summer of training was all for nothing. I was debating a few things. But the next game in Calgary, I ended up getting two goals. It was like a complete 180 in my confidence. I was able to get a couple of more goals, and I just rode that into the season."
Parenteau certainly isn’t short on confidence. If Gordon keeps his lines intact, Parenteau will have a chance to skate alongside Tavares, the No. 1 pick from the 2009 Entry Draft who led the Islanders in points last season with 54.
"He was a first pick overall … there’s a lot of hype surrounding this kid," Parenteau said. "It’s fun to play with him and Blake Comeau. I think he’s a great player, too. It’s a great opportunity if I play with these guys Saturday. If it’s the case, I’m going to show that I belong in this League."