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FEATURE: Marody eager for first NHL experience

Forward skated with Ryan Strome and Milan Lucic on the Oilers third line on Monday and could potentially be in the lineup against the Pens on Tuesday

by Paul Gazzola /

EDMONTON, AB - Cooper Marody couldn't fully express his excitement.

He had to think back to the past when he was a child working on his craft at home in Michigan to find the words to say when asked about the prospect of playing his first career National Hockey League game, which could come Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"I can't really put it into words," Marody, who skated on the Oilers third line with Ryan Strome and Milan Lucic, said. 

"You dream about this as a kid. All the long days on the ice rink in my backyard working, shooting pucks in the garage and stuff like that is starting to pay off here."

Video: OILERS TODAY | Cooper and Blue 10.22.18

The fruits of his labour are indeed beginning to pay off. With injuries on the wing to Ty Rattie and Drake Caggiula, a spot is unoccupied among the Oilers forward group. Marody was recalled by the organization on Sunday, hearing the news first from Condors Head Coach Jay Woodcroft.

"I wanted to make the team from the start but part of my plan was to go down there, earn it and get called up here," Marody, who was acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers for a 2019 third-round selection in March, said about getting the call. "Coach told me on the bus heading back to Bakersfield. I'm very excited."

The former University of Michigan centre has had a great start to his career in California. Marody dressed in three Condors games late in the 2017-18 season, lighting his first professional lamp and adding two assists to go with it. That pace hasn't slowed, as Marody already has two goals and four assists in five matches in '18-19, centring Tyler Benson and Cameron Hebig as the club's top line. The trio has mustered 16 points combined thus far, helping the American Hockey League affiliate nab two wins in five games.

"He's another one that's played well in Bakersfield," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. "He's been a smart player, intelligent, provided offence down at that level and he's an offensive-type player."

As McLellan alluded to, Marody's on-ice intelligence is one of the player's best attributes. Years at Michigan cultivated his scholastics but even now that he's graduated from the classroom, Marody still finds himself studying the game of hockey more than ever. During Oilers Rookie Camp, the forward said he watched every Oilers power-play and even-strength goal from the '17-18 season. That education has continued.

Video: RAW | Cooper Marody 10.22.18

"If you want to be one of the top players in the world, you have to watch the top players in the world and learn from them," Marody said. "If you want to play in this League, you have to get better each day and that's something I want to do.

"I try to be a student of the game as much as I can."

Woodcroft has also prepared Marody for the next step in situations like this, emphasizing specific details that will help when making the jump up to The Show.

"Going to the AHL is a big step and you've got to have the little details," said the 21-year-old. "Coach Woodcroft talked a lot about that in the AHL and showed me a lot of film of ways to get better. You just got to try to raise your level another notch here."

McLellan didn't confirm whether the Brighton, MI, product would be in the lineup Tuesday but hopes to see the young player take full advantage of the opportunity when it comes his way.

Video: RAW | Todd McLellan 10.22.18

"Well, he got a one-way ticket so far, so why not keep it that way?" McLellan said. "Get up here and stay here. When he gets the chance to play, play free. Don't play with any type of fear. My experience is that sometimes those players come up and for the first game or two they lay it on the line then get a little hesitant or tentative. 

"We'll only worry about the first shift with him and then let him play, so we'll see what we have when it's all said and done."

Should he suit up against the Pens, Marody's first taste of the NHL will be against one of the best teams of the past decade. A squad he's watched as a child hoist Stanley Cups by superstars Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang.

"I remember the (2009) Stanley Cup Final, Game 7 Detroit against Pittsburgh in Detroit," Marody said. "Just watching Crosby win that and battle through adversity there. Gosh, I was little."

Those stars could now be his opposition.

"You have to think of them as your peers," Marody added. "You're competing against them and trying to win against them to get the better end of the stick against them.

"It's going to be a cool experience."

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