EARNING A SPOT 35 players remain at Oilers Training Camp and, minus Sam Gagner and Ben Eager, each and every one took to the ice for a lunch-time skate at Rexall Place.
With the team preparing to go head-to-head vs. the Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks this weekend in a brisk, back-to-back road sequence, Edmonton will need all hands to help conclude the 2011 pre-season schedule on a high note.
Among those still free of the GM and Head Coach’s cuts list is Taylor Fedun. The 23-year-old blueliner received a scare earlier in camp, but has returned in emphatic fashion.
In three pre-season contests since bearing a facial contusion, Fedun has recorded three assists, four attempts on goal and a solid, second-best +2 rating.
“It’s starting to [sink in],” he said when asked about his chance to crack the squad. “We’re all on the ice at the same time now; we're not splitting into two groups anymore. It's getting down to the wire here and it's really exciting.”
Fedun came into camp under unique circumstances. The 6’0”, 190-pound rearguard inked a two-year deal on Mar. 8 as a college free agent. He’d spent the past four seasons with the ECAC’s Princeton Tigers, scoring 10 goals and 22 points during the 2010-11 campaign.
In recent times, the Oilers have looked down the college pipeline, signing players with high-level experience in the NCAA’s top tier. Fedun is one and Tanner House, a University of Maine graduate, was another late-season addition in last year (now with the AHL’s Oklahoma City Barons).
Fedun, an Edmonton-born bleeder of orange and blue, believes there are certain edges to this seemingly non-traditional route.
“I don't think, as far as skill development goes, you think that you should be at a higher level than those that played in Jr.,” he said. “I think, personally, four years playing in college allowed me to mature a lot more than I did when I was 20 years old, like I would have been coming out of Jr.
“In that sense, I'd say I've had the chance to mature, so I might be further along there, but I wouldn't say that, skill-wise, I'm further ahead.”
The smooth-skating, puck-moving D man has dominated at times, pushing his limits as a responsible, two-way player via intelligence and derived composure across the ice.
Once again, a four-year program at the college level has helped him prepare.
“College does, at least mentally, make you feel that you can jump right into it; that you don't necessarily need a year playing against bigger guys [in the minors]. You're playing against 22, 23-year-old guys that are bigger and stronger when you're in college.
“You're only playing on the weekends, so it leaves a lot more practice time and a lot more time in the gym. Guys are able to physically get further along in that sense.”
Fedun has done that, wowing coaches, managers and media with his wrapped and bowed, pro-game understanding.
“I think at this level, quick, smart plays are really important,” he explained. “That's something that I'm going to do: get to pucks fast, make smart outlet passes, be a puck-mover and jump in on the power-play; get an opportunity there and make some things happen. That's the way to get noticed.”
Perhaps it was his degree in Mechanical Engineering that helped teach such poise under extreme circumstances, but Fedun certainly doesn’t show any on-ice reservation.
“Absolutely,” he laughed. “There have been nerves pretty much the whole way through. It seems like each day it gets a little more intense. It's another step closer to the ultimate goal. I honestly feel like, during the games, there are nerves at the beginning, but I don't think it takes too long for those to be put to the weigh-side.
“I sincerely didn't know what to expect [at camp]. I’m focused on making an impression and showing the coaches and managers that I’m serious about being here.
“Just take it day-by-day and that's what I've been doing.”
Colten Teubert also carved the sheet at Rexall Place this morning, wearing a regular white sweater in place of the red, non-contact variety he’s been donning all through camp so far.
“I've been cleared by the doctor and I passed my concussion test, so I'm looking forward to getting on the ice and playing a game,” he said.
With only two pre-season matches remaining on the schedule, Teubert is naturally eager to get back into game action.
“I'm obviously hoping to get into the games, but assuming I do get sent down, I'm going to stay positive, go down to Oklahoma City and work hard. We're going to see what happens.”
-- Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick