EDMONTON, AB - Forward Cooper Marody walks to the beat of a different tune than most.
A first full season for the 22-year-old in the AHL with the Bakersfield Condors produced an impressive 64 points (19G, 45A) in 58 games to supplement a strong bid for the former University of Michigan Wolverine to claim a spot on the Oilers roster this campaign after his six-game stint in the big leagues last year.
"The end goal is to make the Oilers, and I've said this many times, I don't want to be a 13th or 14th forward," Marody said following Day 2 of Oilers Rookie Camp on Friday. "I think I can be a top-six player in the NHL, and I put in a lot of work this summer to prove that. I gained eight pounds of muscle, did a bunch of on-ice stuff that's really helped me, and I know it's going to help me this year."
What's supplementing Marody's budding hockey career, and helping him become a better player on and off the ice, is a passion for music that's become more than just a hobby.
After finishing his weekly quota for workouts in Michigan during the summer, you'd find Marody regularly jetting out to Nashville, Tennessee to work on his next single in the studio.
Video: OILERS TODAY | Cooper's Town 09.06.19
"You work out super hard Monday through Friday during the week, and some guys decide to do different things on the weekends. I chose to go down to Nashville," Marody said. "It's a short flight, so I went down there and I have some great buddies that I met in Michigan. They help produce my music and whatnot, and I write some of the stuff with them as well."
The forward draws musical inspiration from the likes of Sam Hunt and boasts over 18,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. His debut single 'Behind Me' has amassed over 60,000 plays since its release in mid-July before releasing 'I Don't Deserve Her Yet' on August 31 - just days before the onset of Rookie Camp.
"Sometimes you'll start out with a melody in your head, and I'll just start singing it," he said. "A lot of times living life, I'll just draw from my experiences from certain things and I'll type in a note into my phone. I take it to my buddies or I write it myself, and we'll come up with lyrics and whatnot. There's never really a definitive process. Sometimes you have the guitar chords first, sometimes you have the lyrics, and sometimes you have just the idea.
"I made two singles and have them out there on iTunes and Spotify, and I've had a great response thus far and I'm thankful for that."
Video: ROOKIE CAMP | Marody 09.06.19
Marody is able to put the majority of his focus away from the rink on music, and praises the benefits it has for both his mental health and his play on the ice.
"It's something that really helps me be a better hockey player," he said.
"Whenever I started doing music, it really freed my mind and allowed me to not only put my worth in hockey, because so many of us struggle with 'If I don't play well, my life is over' or 'I'm a failure as a person'. If you can get away from that and have other interests, it helps you become a better hockey player and it's something that changed my game for the better."
Often times in Bakersfield, Condors Head Coach Jay Woodcroft would feel the ethereal forward's creativity and talent leaking into practices and games as informative insight, and the bench boss always has an open ear for his ideas.
"I think he's a coachable player," Woodcroft said. "He's not just one who's a robot and does exactly what the coaches say. He makes things work for him within the structure of the team. He's a unique person, his own person, and he has his own ideas too. He's not afraid to come up and share them, and I think as a coaching staff we allowed him to be himself within the framework of the team. We were accepting of some of his thoughts, because ultimately, he's the guy who goes out and executes."
Video: ROOKIE CAMP | Woodcroft 09.06.19
After seeing Marody's output first hand in Bakersfield last season and the results of a productive summer motivated by the will to make the Oilers, Woodcroft firmly believes opportunity is within his grasp.
"I was very happy with his first professional hockey season," Woodcroft said. "That said, I'm anxious to see what he brings to these rookie games, and as he progresses towards main camp it's been well noted that there are positions open with the big club.
"He gets an opportunity each day to show what he has, and based on the work he put in during the summertime, I think he's ready."