Tessier Eager to Start New Season
By Bob Crawford
One of the more consistent presences in the Whale lineup the last two seasons has been that of Kelsey Tessier.
A guy who has had to work for everything he’s gotten over his two-year pro career, while playing on AHL contracts, Tessier has proven himself to be a dependable defensive centerman, a guy who bears down hard on faceoffs and burns to be counted on to neutralize the opposition’s most dangerous players.
Tessier isn’t exactly a hockey version of a “good-field, no-hit” guy in baseball, though, as his five points in the Whale’s nine playoff games last spring was third-best on the team, and he got to the 30-point mark in the regular season, with 12 goals and 18 assists in 75 games.
“I’m getting stronger, older, so hopefully I bring a little more offense,” Tessier said recently about his approach to this season. “Defense, I know I’m really good at that, so I’d just like to bring a little bit more offense to the team.”
Tessier’s strong playoff performance helped spark the Whale to a first-round sweep of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and to push the eventual-champion Norfolk Admirals hard in the second round. Throughout his Junior hockey career in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Tessier always picked up his production in the postseason, and he is hoping he can carry his consistency from last year’s playoffs into this season
“My past stats, I’ve been a playoff guy, and that’s what I wanted to bring last year, and just bring a little bit more experience in it,” Tessier said. “And that’s why I can’t wait for this year also. That’s what we play for, is playoffs and to win championships. Definitely that’s one of the things I emphasize my game on, and just try to build that up throughout the year and keep it up during the playoffs.”
Tessier, a fourth-round draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche in 2008, was a free agent coming out of the QMJHL, and has become a fixture in Hartford since signing with the then-Hartford Wolf Pack prior to training camp in 2010. The Whale renewed Tessier’s AHL deal prior to last year, and the two sides re-upped again this August, with Tessier confident that Connecticut is a good place for him.
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“They’ve (the Whale) been giving me the opportunity and I’ve been playing a lot, so I think it’s a great fit,” Tessier said. “And with the (NHL) lockout, it was tough to find a spot anywhere else, so I’m happy to be back here and have my chance again.”
Tessier came into pro hockey as a guy who emphasized two-way play. He has picked up many little nuances, though, during the last two years that have allowed him to take his all-around game to a new level.
“Now you’re playing against men and it’s a whole different league (from Junior),” Tessier said. “It’s just those small things on the ice that you just pick up my last two years, and can’t wait to start the third year. Just being on the defensive side (of the puck) or all the tricks around the boards or the corner and knowing where the empty spots (on the ice) are. So I’m just excited to start all over and keep going here.”
Another area in which Tessier, even though he is still a very young player at 22, may have to carry more of a burden this year is leadership. The Whale still have several solid veteran players at their disposal, like Kris Newbury, Chad Kolarik, Brandon Segal, Sean Collins and Micheal Haley, just to name a few, but are not likely to see last year’s captain, Wade Redden, for the duration of the lockout.
“We’ve got some great leaders anyway,” Tessier said. “I’m going to do my part. I’m not going to be that main guy, but I’ll definitely show up at the right spot and if they really need me I’ll be there. We’re going to miss Redds (Redden) because he’s been such a role model for the young guys and such a great guy in general, but I’m going to have to pick it up, and other people are going to have to pick it up, to fill in that spot because it’s going to be a tough one to fill in.”
On the other side of the lockout coin, everyone in the AHL will be under more scrutiny as long as the NHL is not playing, and that could be a real positive for a guy like Tessier, who is looking to raise his profile from an AHL-contracted player to a guy who is in the running for an NHL spot.
“With the lockout, for sure everyone’s going to be watching the American Hockey League,” Tessier said. “So game in game out I’ve got to be consistent and play my game, and make sure I take every game like it’s the last one I’m going to play.
“I’m just going to fight for a spot here, and make my name again every year, and just make sure that I come out on top.”