Photo Courtesy Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
By MIKE ASHMORE
Special to ECHL.com
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Two games, two hundred games, two thousand games.However many you’ve played in the ECHL, you never seem to forget your experience playing there.
New York Islanders forward P.A. Parenteau is no different.
Parenteau was a ninth round draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks, and had spent the first two seasons of his pro career with their AHL affiliate, which was in Cincinnati at the time. But in his third season, and the Ducks first with their American Hockey League team being in Portland, Parenteau was in the middle of his most prolific professional season to date before he broke his wrist.
When he was ready to return, the Pirates had a gap in their schedule and Parenteau needed somewhere to play. Enter the ECHL and the Augusta Lynx.
"When I was ready to get back, Kevin Dineen, my coach in Portland at the time, asked me if I wanted to go play (in the ECHL) in two or three games and see how I was feeling and to get my game shape back, I said yes," said Parenteau in a recent interview with ECHL.com
"It was fun, I think. I liked it. We had a good group of guys in Augusta when I went down there, I remember. It was fun. It was different, but it was fun. I liked it."
Other than a few scattered details here and there, like having to wear a full shield due to a broken orbital bone, Parenteau’s recollections of his brief stint in Augusta are foggy. He played well, he says, but was pretty rusty at the same time. Much more crystal clear for the 27 year old Quebec native was the impression those two ECHL games made on him after he made his NHL debut one season later after being dealt to the Chicago Blackhawks.
"I think going down to the ECHL made me realize what some guys go through," Parenteau said.
"Guys like Zenon (Konopka), and some other guys in the league have played there. I know there’s a few that played in the ECHL and made it in the NHL and are having some really good careers in the NHL. So going up there the year after I was two leagues away from the NHL, it made me realize I was pretty lucky."
But, after being traded to the New York Rangers organization just prior to the start of the 2007-08 season, Parenteau seemed anything but lucky. He put up the two finest seasons of his professional career, averaging 32 goals and 80 points over the next two years, but did so exclusively in the AHL with the Hartford Wolf Pack. It was only last season, where Parenteau says he forced the Rangers hand with another strong season, where he was finally able to break through and get regular NHL playing time.
"It was big," said Parenteau of getting that opportunity.
"I was waiting for it for three years with the Rangers. I was having some really good seasons and things were going really well, but I wasn’t getting my chance to play. It’s no secret that it’s a little harder with the Rangers to get a shot. They don’t give chances to guys in the minors, usually you really have to force their hand. I kind of did that. Luckily, some guys believed in me. Jim Schoenfeld and John Tortorella are two guys that really gave me a fair shot in this league. If it was only (up) to them, I would probably still be with the Rangers right now. But, that’s how hockey works. But definitely, it was a big year for me last year."
Parenteau appeared in 22 games with the Rangers last season, and while his numbers weren’t going to blow anyway, he still proved to be an invaluable asset to the fabled Original Six squad. Parenteau was dynamite in the shootout, scoring on all three attempts with the Rangers, including getting the game-winner in an early season game against Ottawa.
"It’s good to have another option with your game," Parenteau said. "That’s what coaches are looking for, the more you bring to the table, the more chances you’re going to have to play more and be in the lineup and be successful. To add that to my game and to be successful with the Rangers in the shootout, it was big."
Parenteau would return to New York in 2010-11. Just not with the Rangers. The personable right wing headed to Long Island to sign with the Islanders, and has enjoyed the best season of his still brief NHL career. Through the first 64 games of the season, Parenteau has been playing on the Islanders first line, and has scored 14 goals and added 25 assists.
The Islanders recently rewarded Parenteau with a one-year contract extension worth a reported $1.25 million.
“When you play with guys like Johnny (Tavares) and Matt Moulson, it’s definitely going to help your case,” Parenteau told NHL.com. “We’ve been having success. We have good chemistry with one another. We have a good thing going and think that was also part of the extension. I worked hard for this. I think I earned it.”