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The right time

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
For two guys who have never met, Evan Oberg and Mason Raymond sure have a lot in common.

Both hail from Alberta, both played two years of junior hockey with the Camrose Kodiaks and both suited up with the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs for two seasons.

Both also knew when the time was right to make the jump to the pros.

Like Raymond did back in 2007, Oberg recently left the University of Minnesota-Duluth to sign with the Canucks.

The 21-year-old sophomore, who had two years of college eligibility remaining, opted out of returning to the Bulldogs because like Raymond, he thought the opportunity was too good to pass up.

“I just felt that I was developed and that I could make the step,” said Oberg, who was recently in Vancouver for the first time since becoming part of the organization.

“It was kind of a win-win situation, it would have been good if I went back because I would have developed more, but I just thought this was the right choice for me at this point.

“This has always been my dream and I just wanted to fulfill that and make it come true.”

Oberg may unintentionally be synced with Raymond off the ice, but on it there are no comparisons to be made. Raymond scores amazing goals while Oberg prevents them.

The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Camrose product was a standout on the blueline for the Bulldogs this past season and was a major reason the team recovered from a slow start to be crowned Conference Tournament Champions and made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

Oberg was shutdown in his own end, his ability to read the play, make a good first pass and move the puck with ease made defusing dangerous rushes from the opposition a non-issue, so much so that the Bulldogs finished second overall in fewest goals against during the regular season.

A solid two-way defenceman, Oberg was also a presence offensively for UMD with seven goals and 20 assists, both career-highs, and was a quarterback on the power play lighting the lamp five times.

Of his seven goals this season, none was bigger than his score with 0.8 seconds left in regulation to help the Bulldogs rally and beat Princeton University in the NCAA West Regional Semifinal.

Although Minnesota-Duluth fell short in its bid for a national championship, the first in school history, this was a breakout season for Oberg, not that it would have taken much to erase his first year with the team.

Just six games into the 2007-08 season, Oberg was competing against a teammate at a 1-on-1 drill during practice when he slammed into the boards feet first and dislocated his fibula, fractured his tibia and tore the ankle on his left leg.

Oberg was on the shelf for eight weeks, a major blow as far as proving his worth to his new team, but mid-January he returned with a vengeance and didn’t miss a shift the rest of the season.

He finished his disappointing freshman year with one goal and a pair of assists, although he gets bonus points for his lone tally being a game-winner.

This past season was understandably an important one as far as Oberg getting his game back on track was concerned and he accomplished just that.

Now that he’s in with the Canucks, Oberg is planning on using what he learned the past two years to make an impact wherever he can next season.

“I’ll come to camp here and see what happens, but more than likely I’ll probably be with the Moose. I’m excited about that because one thing about Manitoba I’ve heard is that it’s the best organization in the AHL and it’s one of the best places to play, like kind of a mini-NHL team.”

Before he’s fitted for antlers, Oberg admitted he has a lot of work to do, especially in the weight/muscle gain department. He wants to be able to go toe-to-toe with the big boys and not give way, so gaining physical strength is a must.

If Oberg is anything like Raymond as far as work ethic goes, he will have bulked up quite noticeably by next fall and that should allow him to have a great showing at Canucks prospects camp.

From there, who knows what the season holds for Oberg. Right now he’s not thinking that far ahead, the overwhelming feeling of signing a pro contact still hasn’t worn off.

“It’s been so crazy. I was riding the bike before and Daniel and Henrik came up to me and shook my hand and it was amazing.

“It’s just kind of flying by, I don’t really know what to think right now, it’s just a dream come true.”

For the record, Oberg may have been born and raised in Alberta, but he was neither a Flames or Oilers fan as a kid – he cheered for the Canucks.

Not even Raymond can claim that.

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