ABBOTSFORD - Colten Teubert could be on the cusp of an NHL roster spot with the Oilers.
Circumstance, such as a backlog on D with Andy Sutton (if he's healthy), Theo Peckham and Corey Potter vying for the 5-6 role, could open up a spot and, perhaps more importantly, a gaping hole in toughness on the backend.
Teubert, 22 and having recorded one assist in 11 games to this point, played 24 games with the Oilers last season and began to show signs of what the club hoped he would become when he was originally acquired in 2011. His stock has continued to rise in 2012-13 with the Oklahoma City Barons, stepping up as more of a leader after 40-year-old AHL veteran and former team captain Bryan Helmer's contract expired in the summer. (As a casualty of the lockout, he's still looking for work.)
Who says you need a letter to be a leader? Teubert isn't an alternate to current to captain Josh Green, which speaks volumes about how the Barons are grooming everyone to step up and be a voice in one way or another. No. 33's role is particularly instrumental considering Brandon Davidson, Martin Marincin, Teigan Zahn, Taylor Fedun and Justin Schultz are all AHL rookies.
"Obviously there's a bit of a learning curve here," Teubert said, noting some unavoidable growing pains. "We've got a lot of rookies [on defence], but I think we're gelling really well as a team and as a D core -- but we've got to start playing like it. We've all had some lapses in our game, but it's nice to get those out of the way at the start of the season. I know it's going to start coming around.
"Some of the younger guys -- I mean, they're not the youngest guys because they're around the same age as me, but they haven't played pro hockey yet," he added. "There are a lot of ups and downs in this league, so I'm doing my best to help teach them what I know based on the experiences I've had. It's all about working together."
'Together' being the operative word. As strongly-tied as the Barons' brotherhood is, Teubert -- an emotionally-driven, heart-on-his-sleeve type hockey player who hates to lose like no other -- broadcasted it better than ever during a recent home game in which he came to the defence of a teammate with whom he goes to war with each night.
Following a cheap shot to Schultz, the White Rock, BC native stepped up and took matters into his own hands when he laid a licking on Houston Aeros winger Brett Bulmer in a one-sided tilt.
If it happens again, with anyone, Teubert is prepared to send the same message.
"Schultzy has been our best player this season, by far," he said, adding that the Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle will be protected as well. "We've got to watch out for those guys and obviously we can't let teams take advantage of guys when they're vulnerable. I think I'm a pretty honest player and I play the game between the rules pretty well -- but it's all part of the game, it had to be done and I'd do it again."
On paper, the Barons should be a force. So far they're not, sporting a 5-5-0-1 record and speaking to Teubert's role in helping preach patience as this revamped OKC squad gets its act together. It's coming along, Teubert suggests, because competition from within as at its highest.
"100 percent, it makes us all better players," he said. "We have eight guys (on defence) that can play in this league and that's great for our D core. It might make a couple guys mad that they're not in the lineup, but it should also give them some fire in their belly so they work hard in practice and try to get back in. It's good to have that healthy competition because it ensures everyone is raising their game to the highest level.
"Your spot (on the team) depends on it."
With a little less pressure surrounding the group because no one can be called up to the big club, Teubert believes it's helped him worry less about phone calls and press releases and more about where his game needs to be when the Oilers come calling.
"It's really helped me this year. We're pro hockey players so we need to be able to handle pressure situations, but it's also nice to escape it like this (because of the lockout). A lot of guys on our team, myself included, can really hone their skills and work really hard. I've been trying to get better every day, so I'm certainly hoping for that chance when the NHL starts back up."
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick