It hasn't taken Taylor Fedun
long to adapt to his new role. It's only been four months since he signed a two-year contract with Edmonton, but the instruction and hands-on experience at Oilers Development Camp has helped encourage new opportunity.
Fedun, 23, has dazzled the masses at Millennium Place with a smooth stride, complemented by exceptional on-ice enthusiasm. There's no pressure here. After conquering a four-year mechanical engineering program at Princeton University, there's nothing he can't accomplish.
Fedun scored 10 goals and 22 points in 29 games with the Princeton Tigers (ECAC) in 2010-11. Although his hockey season was over, he had several academic obligations to complete before he could turn to a new chapter in pro sports. He signed an Amateur Tryout Agreement with the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons, but was released a short time later so he could return to the classroom and put a stamp on his Ivy League tenure.
"It's actually a school-wide thing. Every senior has to complete a senior thesis," Fedun explained. "Since I studied engineering, I was able to work in a group of three people, and our task was to design and build a hovercraft.
"Unfortunately that wasn't something I could do while on the road with the team, so I had to physically be at school to be building it."
It's an impressive resume, but Fedun's teammates don't seem too threatened.
"They're pretty good about it," he laughed. "The Princeton beak comes out every now and then. I'm okay with that kind of chirping."
Fedun isn't alone, mind you. Fellow prospects Dillon Simpson
and Tanner House
, both NCAA products, have also stressed educational importance. It's become a route more commonly followed by Canadian players, opting for valuable on-ice instruction, as well as the classroom time that could lead to a respected degree.
"Anything can happen in the game of hockey," Fedun said. "I'm obviously going to put my best foot forward and try to make a career out of it, but if something were to happen, it's nice to have something to fall back on.
"To be able to study and play hockey at that level was very important to me."
Fedun said he was "not certain" about any possible career options beyond the rink.
"I haven't really looked into it too much because I hope it's not something I need to do. They'll be out there."
It's completely understandable. His schedule has been packed since he put pen to paper on his deal with the Oilers back in March. With school behind him and an open summer semester ahead, he's now looking to establish a career with the team he grew up cheering for.
"I'm really excited about it," Fedun said. "It's really the first time that hockey has been the primary focus of what I've been doing for quite a while. Having school, that obviously takes a lot of time and energy, so being able to focus on hockey is something I'm really excited about.
"I'm just going to work hard, put my best foot forward heading into September and we'll see where that takes me."
It's been a fantastic start. Although the 6'1", 210-pound rearguard has yet to play a pro game, there's no concern about his dynamic skill-set. Power, quickness and straightaway speed have been on display, as well as his tremendous work ethic and supreme puck-handling talent throughout the week.
"I think the college game suited me really well," he said. "I battled really hard and as my four years at Princeton progressed, I tried to be more conscious of my defensive game.
"At the same time, I really enjoy jumping up in the rush and making some things happen on the power-play. That's the way I've been playing and hopefully I'm going to carry that into the pro game."
All things considered, the past four months have completely reshaped Fedun's mindset. He now holds a degree in mechanical engineering, an NHL contract and the desire to meet his dream in Edmonton. It all stems from the hard work and dedication he gained at one of the world's most highly regarded post-secondary institutions.
That passion to succeed is now guiding him to the next level.
"It's been a great experience," he said of Development Camp. "It's nice to see how committed the organization is to player development. It was something that, prior to this week, I wasn't exactly sure where they stood on that and it has been tremendous.
"The amount of information and the amount of time on the ice and everything that we've been doing, I've really enjoyed it. I think it's been a great step."Author: Ryan Dittrick | edmontonoilers.com