Former Prince Albert Raider Dane Byers has had a taste of the National Hockey League and now he wants more.
Having bounced around a number of organizations, the Nipawin native is heading into the upcoming season as a member of the Edmonton Oilers after signing a free-agent deal last month.
“Hopefully I get an opportunity with them,” said Byers recently before getting in some ice time with the NorSask Hockey Development Camp at the Art Hauser Centre. “Obviously they have some young talent there and are going to be a great team. I’d like to stick around for a few years.”
Byers played in 236 games with the Raiders from 2002-06 and scored 49 goals and added 50 assists during that time. The rugged winger was picked 48th overall in the 2004 NHL entry draft by the New York Rangers and when he was done playing in Prince Albert, he set out to chase his dream of playing in the NHL.
For the next two years, Byers toiled with the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League and in 151 games he recorded 40 goals and collected 53 assists while amassing 397 minutes in penalties. That strong performance, however, landed him just one game with the Broadway Blueshirts.
An injury limited his playing time to just nine games in the 2008-09 season, but he rebounded the following year to record 25 goals and 26 assists in 74 games with Hartford. This time the Rangers gave him a longer audition and in five games he managed to score his one and only NHL goal.
The 2010-11 campaign saw Byers move around quite regularly as he was traded by the Rangers to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Chad Kolarik and then later dealt to the Phoenix Coyotes along with Rostislav Klesla for Scottie Upshall and Sami Lepisto.
The resulting moves saw Byers split his season with Hartford, the Springfield Falcons and San Antonio Rampage although he did get to play in eight games with Columbus where he was held off the scoresheet.
Last year, the 26-year-old collected 16 goals and added 23 assists with Springfield, but he never had a chance to get back to the NHL while a part of the Phoenix organization.
“Hopefully this year I can prove myself,” says Byers, who spends his offseason at Christopher Lake. “There is no doubt I will be there (Edmonton) to create some energy for the young guys. I just have to come to work everyday.”
With plans to leave for Edmonton this weekend, Byers hopes he gets a chance to show his talents sooner than later. The looming labour lockout has the future a bit cloudy, but he says he will be ready.
“That stuff (contract negotiations) is kind of over my head, but there is still time and hopefully they get things done by Sept. 15,” says Byers.
A move closer to home might be all that is needed for the journeyman to fulfill his dreams. It certainly won’t be from a lack of desire or passion for the game.