"Then, all of a sudden we had a couple injuries, and we asked him to move back. He was willing to adapt and take a chance. Honestly, if he didn't move back, he may not have gotten a scholarship because he was a third- or fourth-line forward in the USHL."
Preissing agrees, saying, "Realistically, if I didn't move to defense, I was probably good enough to be a Division III forward at the time."
Instead, Preissing earned a scholarship to Colorado College. During his senior year of 2002-03, he captained the Tigers to the WCHA championship, led the nation in defensemen points with 52, tied for first in the nation with 17 power-play goals and was a Hobey Baker Award finalist.
He signed a free-agent contract with San Jose days after his senior season ended. He played two years for the Sharks before being traded to Ottawa last July in a three-team deal that saw star Martin Havlat land in Chicago.
An unrestricted free agent this summer, Preissing's not under the radar anymore -- even if he's still barely recognized in his home city.
"He's just a real smart player," Senators coach Bryan Murray said. "He's not very big, he's not physical. But he's got good hands, and to me, what Tom is, is a real smart hockey guy. He sees the ice, he makes the play, he knows when to shoot.
"He's one of those players in the NHL because their head put him there and keeps him there."
Osiecki, who was on the Senators' opening night roster and played 34 games during Ottawa's inaugural season in 1992-93, said: "It does really come down to his overall intelligence. He was a sponge then, and he's continued to be a sponge all the way through to where he is now."
Preissing has had a strong postseason, the highlight being the winning goal from a bad angle to beat New Jersey's Martin Brodeur for Ottawa's third victory in the conference semifinals.
"Lucky goal, but I'll take that any day of the week," Preissing said.
With the Senators down 2-0 in the Stanley Cup Finals to the Anaheim Ducks, Preissing's parents -- Mark and Cathy, both teachers in the Minneapolis area -- are traveling to Ottawa for Saturday's Game 3.
"The commitment they've had to make to get me to where I am now with how expensive hockey is, I hope it's every bit as exciting for them as it is for me," Preissing said.
Michael Russo firstname.lastname@example.org