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PRINCIPE: Making a D-ifference

by Gene Principe / Edmonton Oilers
Photos by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club

As the Edmonton Oilers put the finishing touches to the 2013-14 season, they look ahead to the future. A future that looks brighter on the blueline than maybe was originally expected. I say that because of the play of two kids who are handling themselves comfortably on the ice. Still wet behind the ears but playing older than their birth certificates and NHL experience would suggest. The two defenceman I speak of, if you haven't already figured it out, are Oscar Klefbom and Martin Marincin.

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Let's start with Klefbom and you will always get 'second billing' when you're the second pick in the same round as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. I'm sure Oscar doesn't take it personally that so much has been made of RNH and not as much attention was paid to the 19th pick in the 2011 draft. Actually, the attention afforded to Klefbom was less because of the fact he stayed in Sweden and was sidetracked by a serious shoulder injury and subsequent surgery. The blueliner was a bit of a mystery. It was difficult to know what he would provide upon his NHL arrival. He has not disappointed. In fact, Klefbom has impressed. Even after a tough loss to Colorado on Tuesday, Dallas Eakins pointed out how the 20 year old stood out on a difficult evening. He's big, he's strong, has a 'Klefbom' of a shot and appears almost instantly comfortable since making his debut on March 11th vs. Minnesota.

Then there's Martin Marincin. Originally called up for a good time and not a long time, Marincin was going to be a stop-gap measure while the Oilers regained their health on the back end. However, on the way to 'filling in' the 22 year old earned a stay for the rest of the season. Along the way he made a pit stop in Russia to represent his country at the Olympics. Hard to imagine that Marincin or anyone else imagined any of the above happening so quickly. The credit can be heaped on Marincin. He, like Klefbom, was drafted in a year where the attention was focused on the first selection in Taylor Hall. Edmonton used one of their three second round choices on Marincin. A tall, slim, Slovak with oodles of potential. He doesn't need to get any taller. He will need to get stronger but glimpses of goodness have been evident through his rookie season.

In our last Sportsnet telecast of the season Tuesday night I had a chance to speak with Craig MacTavish. For all the questions I asked him, the one question I never asked was about Klefbom and Marincin. Instead it was the GM who brought up the topic of the two blueline newcomers. MacTavish has been signifcantly impressed by what both of them have done. In the case of Klefbom they're seeing now what might have been visible early in the season if his progress hadn't been slowed by the shoulder issue. As for Marincin he has shown a calmness along with some grace on the ice that led the Oilers to decide that EDM and not OKC was the place to be. Two youngsters who have made MacTavish' blueline remodeling a less daunting task as both Oscar Klefbom and Martin Marincin are 'Making a D-ifference'.

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