PTO's: 11 Players to watch
Who are the players on early PTO's? (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

PTO's: 11 Players to watch

A Professional Tryout Contract offers players an opportunity to prove themselves worthy of an NHL contract. Who are the players that have already earned one.

jakub-bobro
Jakub Bobro

The Professional Tryout Contract (PTO for short) is probably the most fascinating part of the NHL preseason. Players on such a contract can play up to 25 games with the club, but are usually only featured in the preseason before getting signed to a real contract or get left behind.

There are 35 players on PTO's this preseason, here are eleven of the most interesting ones.

Jussi Jokinen, 35, Detroit Red Wings

Just three years ago, Jokinen was a 60-point scorer for the Florida Panthers. Since then, it's been a rough drop-off for the 35-year-old, scoring more than 30 points less, and spent last year bouncing around like a gumball. Jokinen dressed for the Los Angeles Kings, Edmonton Oilers, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Vancouver Canucks, struggling to really make an impact.

The Finn is not packing his bags to return to his home club of Kärpät just yet, taking a PTO with the Detroit Red Wings. There is a rebuild going on in Detroit, and they may dangle Jokinen in front of some of their rookies to motivate them and make them fight for their spot.

Joel Ward, 37, Montreal Canadiens

The Canadiens have also given a tryout contract to the oldest player on a PTO, winger Joel Ward. The 37-year-old spent the last three seasons with the San Jose Sharks, but struggled to get back in the lineup after a shoulder injury, so Ward tallied just 12 points in 52 games. 

Ward will have a lot to prove in the preseason, especially since the Canadiens are rebuilding and wanting to give chances to younger players. The 37-year-old can definitely provide experience and leadership, but will that be worth a roster spot to the Canadiens?

Simon Despres, 27, Montreal Canadiens

Despres was drafted in the first round back in 2009, but has had his career slowed down by injuries and concussions, leading him to be bought out by the Anaheim Ducks after repeated concussions.

It was surprising to see Despres play 44 games for Slovan Bratislava in the KHL last season as the defenseman played only one game for the Ducks in the season prior, but he was one of the better players on a poor KHL team. 

Montreal has a season of struggle ahead of them, but it will be interesting to see if Despres can still do a job at the NHL level. Montreal's defense is one of the worst in the league, so if Despres is an NHL caliber player, the Canadiens might use him regularly. 

Dennis Seidenberg, 37, New York Islanders 

Seidenberg is looking for a third year with the Islanders, despite spending most of the last year in the media box as a healthy scratch, playing only 28 games. 

This is probably the German’s last year in the NHL, and Islanders could use an experienced defenseman for depth, perhaps mentoring a younger guy like the Swedish Sebastian Aho.

Luca Sbisa, 28, New York Islanders

The Swiss was a first-round pick in 2008, but has struggled to be an impactful player at NHL level. 

Sbisa spent the last season with the Vegas Golden Knights after being taken in the expansion draft, but appeared only in 30 games as he struggled with injury.

The Islanders' defense is among the weakest in the league, so both Sbisa and Seidenberg might get a contract after the preseason.

Michal Cajkovsky, 26, Carolina Hurricanes

Cajkovsky, not to be confused with his countryman prospect in the upcoming draft Maxim Cajkovic, is a 6'4", 236lb defenseman. 

The 26-year-old has played the last two seasons in the KHL and was quite impressive at the World Championships, since then he has declared that he’s going to be looking for a move to take him to North America.

Physicality is the top component of his game but he also has had some decent point production over the past few years.

The Carolina Hurricanes have two strong pairings, but Cajkovsky will definitely push for a spot and try to impress teams all over the league.

                                                                                  

Jason Garrison, 33, Edmonton Oilers

Garrison spent the season inked to the Vegas Golden Knights, but played the bulk of his games with the Chicago Wolves, scoring approximately a point for every two games.

Oilers are definitely struggling with defensive depth, especially with the recent injury to Andrej Sekera, which will sideline him for most of the season. The third pairing in Edmonton is wide open, so they might be using Garrison to motivate guys like Kevin Gravel and Jakub Jerabek, or overtake them and play some NHL minutes.

Scottie Upshall, 34, Edmonton Oilers

Staying with the Oilers, the No. 6 pick back in the 2002 draft will be looking for a fourth-line/AHL minutes with the Canadian team. 

Upshall never really panned out, and failed to break the 20-point mark in all of his past three seasons with the St. Louis Blues.

Earning a spot on one of the wings of the Oilers will be an uphill battle, but Upshall might impress a coach in one of the preseason games and earn an NHL contract someplace.

Alex Chiasson, 27, Edmonton Oilers

Chiasson is officially a Stanley Cup winner with the Washington Capitals, but he has been bouncing around the league, looking to come good on the promising player he was at Boston University.

The winger played 61 games with the Capitals, but was a healthy scratch throughout the playoffs. 

The Oilers are looking for depth scoring, which is why they brought in Tobias Rieder in free agency, so they might be willing to give Chiasson a try.

                                                                Lee Stempniak, 35, Boston Bruins

The veteran winger was sidelined with an upper-body injury and did not even get a game with the Hurricanes until mid-January. This meant that Stempniak played only 37 games and scored nine goals.

Bruins are contenders and looking for some scoring from their bottom six. Stempniak had over 40 points for the two seasons before last year, so if he rebounds, he could really help the Bruins out.

Jeff Glass, 32, Calgary Flames

The Flames have handed out 10 PTO's, one of them to a goaltender, the only team to do so this season. Glass has had an interesting career, spending a lot of it in the KHL. The 32-year-old came back to North America in 2016/17, slipping between the NHL and AHL since then, playing 15 games with the Chicago Blackhawks and 28 with the Rockford IceHogs.

Glass will likely just be used to push Flames' current back-up Jon Gillies and might have to look for a job in the KHL again.

Which of these hopeful PTO players do you think will get a contract and why? Let us know in the comment section below, and make sure to follow us on Twitter (@VAVELNHL_ENG) for more updates!

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