Steve Ott made a quantum leap in his career last season.
With Brenden Morrow missing most of the season because of a knee injury, Ott was able to step and prove that he can fill a similar role on a top line.
Some might want to say he is a version of Morrow Lite or a poor man's Morrow, but I prefer to look at it a little different.
If you want Steve Ott to be the next Brenden Morrow, I think you will probably be a little bit disappointed. But if you want him to be just like Alex Burrows of Vancouver, I think that's well within his range.
And what's wrong with being compared to Alex Burrows? Nothing at all. Playing on a line last season the Sedin brothers, Burrows had 28 goals among 51 points and was plus-23. The agitator took the next step in his career and sort of made a point that a guy with a little sandpaper can be a good thing for a skilled line.
Ott is the same way, and I think you have to wonder if maybe he needs to play up the lineup next season. He probably shouldn't displace Morrow on a line with Mike Ribeiro (although I think the coaches should see in preseason if Morrow and Brad Richards have any kind of chemistry), but I could see a scenario where Ott plays left wing on a line with Richards and Loui Eriksson. Ott and Eriksson played some with Ribeiro last season and looked pretty good. So two top lines with: Morrow-Ribeiro-Lehtinen and Ott-Richards-Eriksson could have some very similar dynamics.
The bottom line is Ott had 19 goals among 46 points in just 69 games last season and proved that he is more than just an agitator.
Now, breaking his hand had a lot to do with that, as Ott was forced to turn down fights and stay in games more often. Hopefully, he learned a lesson from that and will say no more often when fights pop up. That said, he can't be a complete angel, and he knows that. So at age 27, and in his seventh NHL season, he's going to have to be as smart as he's ever been.
The other concern with Ott is his injury history. He broke an ankle in 2006-07 and he broke the hand last year (both in fights). He has been bothered by assorted injuries in addition to that, and while he can't be labeled injury-prone quite yet, he's not that far away.
But these should be the best years of Steve Ott's career. He is a leader on the team, he is proving he can complement skilled players, he is earning enough respect that maybe he can back off on the agitating just a little bit.
But a lot of that will depend on what role he's placed in. If is part of the top six forwards, there's a real chance for even bigger numbers. If he's just a role playing agitator, you can expect numbers that coincide with that position.