Andrey Pedan, the Islanders third round pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, didn’t take much of a vacation after his junior team, the Guelph Storm, was eliminated in six games from the Ontario Hockey League Playoffs. The Kauanas, Lithuania native is already back at the gym, working hard to make his dream of playing in the NHL a reality.
At 6’4”, 205-pounds, one might think that size is the least of Pedan’s concerns, but as Eric Cairns, a former Islander and current member of the Islanders Player Development staff pointed out, Pedan’s next step is to develop his physical game.
“We’re looking for him to get bigger and stronger and I don’t question that Andrey’s ever not going to work hard,” Cairns said. “I trust him. I believe he’s going to work hard.”
In his first season with Guelph in 2010-11, Pedan put up 12 points in 51 games. The following year, Pedan improved on that figure remarkably as his comfort level increased and he took on a greater role with the Storm. During his second OHL campaign, Pedan tallied 10 goals and added 30 assists for 40 points, ranking second among team defensemen in scoring. Pedan’s physical side also showed on the score sheet, as he compiled a team leading 152 penalty minutes.
“I felt more comfortable in the dressing room and maybe it was the same on the ice,” Pedan said of his second season in North America. “The first year I was kind of adjusting to the different rink, different hockey and the next year I came and was ready for everything. The first year some stuff I wouldn’t understand and the next year I was prepared for that.”
Pedan even felt a major improvement in his second season off the ice and in the locker room.
“I think I became a leader in the dressing room,” Pedan said. “I can say something to my teammates to help them.”
Pedan moved from Lithuania to Moscow, Russia at a young age and spent most of his youth there. After turning 16, Pedan, his family and his agent faced the decision of whether he should move to North America to play Canadian Junior Hockey, or continue to develop in Russia. Factoring in the towering defenseman’s physical style of play, Pedan’s agent suggested that the North American system might better facilitate his development. Pedan ended up in the OHL when he was selected by Guelph with the 32nd overall pick in the 2010 CHL Import Draft.
Sixteen-year NHL veteran and current Guelph Storm head coach Scott Walker believes Pedan is the kind of player with a future in the NHL.
Andrey can keep up with the smaller, faster forwards. At the end of that he can punish them off with a powerful, physical check. - Eric Cairns, Islanders Player Development
“I see a guy that can play a lot of minutes and be a big factor,” Walker said. “He can play a physical game. He’s an intimidating defenseman, but with a big shot from the point.”
Pedan won’t turn 20 until July, 2013, leaving him ineligible to begin next season with the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He will instead try to earn a spot on the Islanders at training camp, but will likely end up in Guelph for a third campaign, where Walker believes he will be a huge factor.
“We’re definitely going to lean on him a lot,” Walker said. “He’s going to be a number one or two defenseman and play a lot.”
That experience with Guelph should serve Pedan well, as he grows even more comfortable with the North American style of play before joining the pro ranks with the Islanders.
“For a big defenseman to be able to move the way he can move, it can separate him from a bigger defenseman who doesn’t have the same mobility who is a little bit slower,” Cairns said. “Andrey can keep up with the smaller, faster forwards. At the end of that he can punish them off with a powerful, physical check.”
Although Guelph has exited the OHL playoffs in the first round in each of Pedan’s first two years with the Storm, the 18-year-old has really shined in the playoffs. During his first postseason, Pedan tallied eight assists in just six games. This past postseason Pedan scored a goal and three assists in six games.
“I think the season is important, but all hockey starts in the playoffs,” Pedan said. “It’s do or die hockey. I didn’t try to do more, just tried to keep it simple. I don’t know what happened in the playoffs, but I feel way better in the playoffs.”
That’s good news for the Islanders, who will look for Pedan to join their up-and-coming roster as it hits its stride in the next few years.
KICHTON WORKING ON HIS OVERALL GAME | 2012 DRAFT CENTRAL ARCHIVE