New resident Paul Gaustad has high ambitions for his 10th season

by: VERN UYETAKE - Paul Gaustad is one of the most versatile players for the Nashville Predators of the National Hockey League. Gaustad now makes Lake Oswego his home during the offseason.When his coach with the NHL's Nashville Predators asks Paul Gaustad to do something, he does it.

"I do a little of everything," is Gaustad's answer to the question of how he would describe himself as an ice hockey player.

At 6 feet 5 inches, 220 pounds, Gaustad, who lives in Lake Oswego during the offseason, takes up a lot of room in front of the net, and any opponent passing by can expect a hard bodycheck because he has a reputation as an "enforcer." He is a defensive forward who is willing to do the grunt work necessary to help his team win, yet he can score goals. His special niche, though, is faceoffs. In fact, Bleacher Report recently rated him one of the top 10 faceoff artists in the NHL.

As important as versatility has been to his NHL career, the foundation for everything Gaustad has done has been hard work. While growing up in the Portland area, his prospects of becoming an ice hockey player at the highest level seemed to be zero. Yet he has already spent nine seasons in the NHL and he is getting ready for what could well be his best season.

"My whole thing has been doing the process that will get me there," Gaustad said. "I didn't start out thinking, 'I'm going to make the NHL.' I just went through the steps that would get me there."

Gaustad moved to the Portland area at age 7 because his mother, Louise Gaustad, accepted a position as a physical education teacher in the Lake Oswego School District. Lake Oswego was no hockey hotbed, of course, but Gaustad was able to find other kids who loved ice hockey, he had an older brother who was a terrific hockey player and his mother supported him to the utmost of her ability.

"I don't think she had any idea of turning me into a professional ice hockey player," Gaustad said. "Her thinking was that a busy kid is a good kid."

Gaustad stayed busy playing all sports, and he especially liked basketball. He reached the point where he had to choose between ice hockey or basketball as the sport to which he would devote himself.

"I loved basketball," Gaustad said. "But when it came to picking a sport, I realized I couldn't jump at all. Hockey was a good choice."

Gaustad became a local hero by playing for the Portland Winterhawks, a team to which he still has a strong attachment. A 36-goal season in 2002 earned him attention from the higher leagues, and he joined the Buffalo Sabres in 2005. He spent seven happy years there, but his trade to the Nashville Predators has worked out for the best.

"Nashville has been fantastic," Gaustad said. "They sell out every match. It's fun, the organization is first class. I was an unrestricted free agent and could have gone anywhere, but I chose to re-sign with the Predators. I think we're going to be much more competitive this season. We don't want to just make the playoffs, we'll have a Stanley Cup mentality, which is what I like."

Despite his strong connections to Lake Oswego, Gaustad and his new bride, Danielle, did not originally intend to buy a home here. They came to view a home on Oswego Lake because a friend asked them. One look was all it took.

"I fell in love with the place," Gaustad said. "Everyone — friends, family and neighbors — have been fantastic here."

His new home is so lovely that it might tempt a normal person to stop and smell the Lake Oswego roses. Not Gaustad.

"I have learned and changed and adapted my game," he said. "If not, I would have been passed over. One thing I've never changed is hard work. That is the number one key. I'm very passionate about hockey."

Gaustad is working hard right now getting ready for what could be the greatest season of his life in 2013-14. He thinks the Predators have a real shot at winning the Stanley Cup next year, a prize that eluded him in Buffalo. As a former player with Team USA, Gaustad is hoping to make the American team in the Winter Olympic Games in Russia in 2014.

"It would be cool to put on the U.S. jersey," he said. "I'm keeping my fingers crossed about the Olympics.

"Playing in the Stanley Cup and the Olympics. That would be a great year, wouldn't it?"

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