With so much focus in Oil Country this year on Taylor Hall
, Jordan Eberle
and Magnus Paajarvi
, we sometimes forget that they aren't exactly surrounded by a team of veterans.
In fact, the Oilers roster only include five players who are 30 years of age or older. Remember that Sam Gagner
is still just 21, Andrew Cogliano & Gilbert Brule are only 23 and Ladislav Smid
is only 24. With Eberle on pace for 50 points and Hall on pace for 43 points, both well above average rookie seasons, there are a couple of other notable youngsters who are, perhaps more quietly, performing very well.MINISTER OF DEFENSE
|Calgary Flames' Tim Jackman, right, fights with Edmonton Oilers' Theo Peckham during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Oct. 7, 2010, in Edmonton, Alberta. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jason Franson) |
At the quarter pole of the season, Theo Peckham
leads the Oilers in hits with 55, penalty minutes with 56 and is the top plus/minus defenseman at plus-two.
Drafted 75th overall in 2006, Peckham's development included spending the better part of the last 3 seasons playing for Springfield of the AHL after finishing up his Junior career in Owen Sound. Heading into this season, Peckham had also seen time in 31 NHL games with the Oilers, thus not being labeled a "rookie" this year. That seems appropriate, since he certainly isn't playing like one.
Heading into training camp, the Oilers had Peckham penciled into a spot on the blueline, which he nearly lost due to underwhelming performance. It seems, though, that something has clicked with Peckham that has allowed him to feel comfortable embracing, and making good use of, the physical tools he has.
Whether it was Jarome Iginla in Calgary or Patrick Kane in Chicago, or any number of other players around the league, Peckham has caught his fair share of guys with hellacious body checks. His confidence to step up and close on an opposing player to lower the boom is becoming more impressive by the game, especially given that he doesn't often seem caught up ice or out of position.
Peckham's risk/reward analysis when it comes to deciding whether or not to step up and make a hit or sit back and stay in position has been excellent, and given that most defensemen don't mature until their mid-to-late 20's, Peckham seems to be ahead of the curve.THE GIRAFFE
|Carolina Hurricanes' Tuomo Ruutu (15), of Finland, tries to score on Edmonton Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk (40) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2010. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome) |
Listed at six feet and six inches tall, Devan Dubnyk
picked up his nickname while playing Junior in Kamloops (his mask has a giraffe on it). A first round pick in 2004, Dubnyk has seen his career skyrocket in the last 365 days.
Poised to be the starting goaltender for all of last season in Springfield, Dubnyk saw himself recalled to the big club when Nikolai Khabibulin
went down with a back injury last season. By the time the Olympic break rolled around and the team was far out of the playoff hunt, Dubnyk found himself rotating starts with Jeff Deslauriers and ended up getting action in 18 NHL games.
Through his play last year and again through this year's training camp and pre-season, Dubnyk eclipsed Deslauriers on the depth chart and has been afforded the opportunity to see more NHL action.
In seven games this year, Dubnyk has posted a SV% of .919, and has guided the team to at least a point in three of his four starts this year. The players undoubtedly have more confidence in him than they did at this same time last season and Tom Renney is a big fan of the calm demeanor with which Dubnyk conducts himself.
Much like defensemen, goaltenders often mature later than forwards, and Dubnyk's development curve is projecting very high. He'll certainly get his fair share of playing time while Khabibulin is injured, and ideally will see 25 starts or more by the end of the year.
So, next time Taylor Hall
and Jordan Eberle
are stealing your attention with their high skill or late game heroics, make sure to take time to appreciate the room full of other young players who are making a bid to contribute to the long term future and success of the club.