Sunday, December 23, 2007

Spotlight On: Patrick O'Sullivan

My gameday previews and post game analyses are becoming redundant. Until things get turned around I'll be posting on topics that are hopefully somewhat inspirational, educational (to the non-Kings fan), and/or enjoyable. First up, a spotlight on a young player that most of the league may not know much about: Patrick O'Sullivan. I had planned on doing this post before the game against the BJs but got distracted. I think it's only fitting that I finally post it after the game he had against Nashville.

Patrick O'Sullivan (Sully, or as I like to call him, Patty, or how I really like to call him, Pahht-ty O' know, with that Irish accent I'm so damn good at) was dealt to the Kings in a trade during the 2006 NHL Draft. Prior to Minnesota picking the 17th player in the first round, the Kings traded Pavol Demitra to the Wild for Patrick O'Sullivan and the 17th pick. DL mentioned in interviews that they made the trade so they could pick up Trevor Lewis with the 17th pick. At the time I had never heard of O'Sullivan so I did some research on him. (Ok, I'll be honest I was more looking to see if he's hapa, because his eyes sort of make him look like a halfie and I like halfies...except Tootoo.) Anyway, my research turned up a whole lot more about his personal life than I had anticipated. I don't feel that what he dealt with during his younger years should be a part of this post so if you're interested then a quick Google search will reveal some stories. Let's just say that the kid dealt with some adversity, which may or may not have impacted when he was drafted (2nd round of the 2003 NHL Draft). Concerning his hockey career I did find some stats that impressed me: 93 points in 78 games with the Houston Aeros, including a franchise record 47 goals. I thought, "Nice, this kid can play. Maybe he won't be a career AHL player."

O'Sullivan started the 2006-2007 campaign in a Kings jersey but only played just a little over half the season with the Kings. For some reason I was always drawn to him (like I am to Fro) so I wanted him to succeed. However, at the start of the season he just wasn't that much of an impact player. He was ok, but not too noticeable out there. At the start of November he was finally sent down to Manchester to hone his skills. If I remember correctly, at the time Crow or DL said that he just needed to learn how to play smarter and know where he needs to be on the ice at all times.

O'Sullivan played quite well during the regular season with the Monarchs putting up 39 points in just 41 games. Whether it was because of his play in Manchester or because of the injuries the Kings suffered, or maybe a bit of both, O'Sullivan was brought back to SoCal in late January and stayed with the team for the remainder of the season. He definitely looked like a better player but he still wasn't one of those guys that you thought would become a mainstay on the top line. I can't remember who he played with, although considering the frequency that Crow switched up the lines, it was never easy to figure out who was on each line.

With the Kings out of the postseason, O'Sullivan joined Manchester during the AHL playoffs. He had a noteworthy run recording 17 points in 16 games. O'Sullivan is a young guy so it could be said that he's part of DL's rebuilding phase but considering the way he played with the Kings, I wasn't too sure if he would stay with the franchise or be trade fodder. When he wasn't traded during the off-season I figured there would be a good chance that he would be with the team come September. However, I did not anticipate the impact he would have on the team.

I was incredibly impressed with his play even from the very first game. It was unbelievable how much he had improved during the offseason. My post game analysis of that game included the following:
"One player that I was pleasantly surprised to see play pretty well was Patrick O'Sullivan. He had an extra step and played with more intensity today than I remember during the time he spent with the Kings last season. He played on the PK a lot, almost had a SHG, and set up the empty-netter SHG scored by Handzus."

Since it was the first game of the season it wasn't clear if O'Sullivan would remain one of the main penalty killers. It has become clear since then that O'Sullivan and Michal Handzus are the go-to guys on the PK. Once Handzus found his skating legs and realized he was actually playing hockey and no longer sitting on the IR bench, the two of them established a lot of chemistry. Handzus is typically the one blocking shots and both play aggressively on the PK. O'Sullivan is already having a career season and the season isn't even halfway over. Last season he only played in 44 games and collected 5-14-19. As of Dec 22nd, 37 games into this season, O'Sullivan has 9-9-18, including two 2-goal games, 1 SHG and 2 SHA, while last season he didn't have any shorthanded points. If I did my calcs correctly he's on par to get 42 points barring any injuries that hold him out of games, which is better than what Brownie put up during his sophomore year and only 4 points shy of Brownie's third season. So the question begs, how good is O'Sullivan going to be in the next couple seasons? Will this be his best season and in the future he'll return to the third line? Or will he continue his development and compete for a spot on the first two lines? He's currently making under a million and will become a Restricted Free Agent after this season. It'll be interesting to see if DL decides to re-sign him, trade him before the deadline, or allow a team like Edmonton to swoop in with a hefty offer sheet. The latter isn't too wild of a possibility considering during the '06-'07 season Penner and Vanek recorded 45 points and 41 points, respectively. Sure, Patty is much smaller than those guys, but at least you won't have to worry about him being slow and perhaps needing to drop a few pounds and get in shape.....oooohhh, burn...

I realize that not everyone shares the same fascination of O'Sullivan as I do, but my plea to hockey fans is to give him a chance. Jim Fox described him pretty well the other night by saying that while O'Sullivan won't lead the NHL in scoring he's a player that will have an impact for your team. He kind of has the same skating style as Avery, quick short strides with a lot of energy, yet he's not a d-bag like Aves. He'll go hard in the corners, fight every battle, and every night he's consistently one of the most hardworking guys on the ice. So next time you watch a Kings game, keep your eyes peeled for #12 Patrick O'Sullivan.


CKim said...

I'm hoping DL signs Sully for at least 2 years. He has been such a consistent player (especially compared to Cammy and just about all of the free agents that were signed for this year) and I love seeing him out there on the ice. Like you, I am drawn to Sully. There's something about his style of play that's refreshing to watch.

In my internal debate on which jersey to buy for next year, Sully is DEFINITELY on that list. But honestly, who says I can't buy more than one? The women's jerseys are way cheaper than the men's jerseys.

KMS2 said...

I think Patrick would be offended if I bought another jersey...maybe I should wear mine all the time and hope it gets some wear and tear into it so I have an excuse to buy one.

CKim said...

Well, just say that it's not like you're gonna STOP wearing the one he got you. =) But variety is the spice of life, right? And I want the new Reebok jersey style too.