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Underdog Christoffer achieves childhood dream

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers

PENTICTON, B.C. - Every team needs a Braden Christoffer-esque player.

You know what you’re going to get night in and night out with him and he’ll do what the team needs him to. He’s likeable and he’s a leader in the locker room.

“I just do the little things every day,” said Christoffer. “If you need me to hit, I’ll hit. If you need me to score, maybe I score. I just do the little things that make the game possible and fun to play.”

Christoffer is a lot of things, including an underdog.

Braden Christoffer celebrates his goal against the Canucks Rookies on Friday night. Photo by Marissa Baecker.

“I’ve always been kind of the back-door guy,” said Christoffer. “Coming into the WHL, I was just an unlisted player. I went in undrafted, made Regina and worked my way up. Now I’m here and it’s the same thing. Lower end, supposedly, and down the totem pole. I’m just going to work my way up now.”

Christoffer, 21, came a long way in his three-year career with the Regina Pats. He worked his way up the depth chart, improved each season and finished as their captain. Described as a hard worker and dedicated young man, Christoffer’s breakout 2014-15 season, in which he posted a career-high 59 points, earned him his next adventure. He was among the first players to sign an AHL deal with the Bakersfield Condors this off-season.

Inking your first professional contract is a big deal to all players who achieve that accomplishment. But for Christoffer, this moment meant so much more. He became a member of the Edmonton Oilers organization, a team he is all too familiar with, having grown up and played his youth hockey in Sherwood Park, AB.

“It was fantastic,” said Christoffer. “I’m real happy to sign with them and be in this organization. I grew up watching (the Oilers) and fantasized about being here. To get that contract was pretty special.”

Christoffer, like so many Alberta boys his age, was a wide-eyed and ecstatic fan during the Oilers most recent playoff run.

“I’m pretty sure it’s a lot of people’s favourite memory, well for myself and my generation. It’s the 2006 playoffs. That was fantastic. The city was erupting and it was a lot of fun to be around,” he said.

Friday night, Christoffer’s dream of playing with the Oilers came to fruition. It also came with a big, fat cherry on top. Just 2:57 into the first frame, the Sherwood Park native potted a beautiful goal to put his hometown team on top 1-0 here at the Young Stars Tournament. The Oilers Rookies went on to beat the Vancouver Canucks prospects 8-2.

“I got the puck, I had a pretty good head of steam and I saw the d-man was playing a little bit to the outside of the dots and his stick was out-stretched. I saw there was a little bit of a gap there to go through the triangle and took a chance. It worked out,” he said.

“I’ve dreamed of playing in this jersey for a long time and it’s just real fun right now.”

Christoffer is not a high-profile name on the Oilers Rookie roster. Here in Penticton, he’s buried behind household names like Connor McDavid, Darnell Nurse, Leon Draisaitl, Greg Chase and Mitch Moroz. But that’s okay, Christoffer likes it that way. Under the radar is familiar, it’s comfortable.

Braden Christoffer looks on at Oilers Rookie Camp practice in Penticton, B.C. Photo by Oilers TV.

“I think for myself, it’s a win-win,” said Christoffer. “I’ve got all these guys like Leon and Connor, Greg and Darnell and they’re in the spotlight right now. For me, it’s just come out and work hard everyday and do what I do. If I get an opportunity to put the puck in the net, do that. Just do what I can.”

Christoffer has impressed one key figure in his professional hockey future already.

“He was the captain of his team last year. He’s got that character and leadership. In the room he’s been great. This is my first experience with him so I’m just observing him,” said Condors Head Coach Gerry Fleming. “He brings those characteristics that all good captains bring to their team. I like the way he plays. He almost reminds me of a Bobby Bassen a little bit. Not an overly big guy but plays physical, plays with a lot of heart, plays with a lot of passion and he’s got an above-average skill set.”

Although Christoffer is hoping to soar with the Condors this year, he’ll always stay grounded.

“I’m kind of the underdog story a little bit,” he said. “I’m just here to have a little fun, enjoy myself and work hard.”

UPDATE: Christoffer scored the game-tying goal in the Oilers Rookies 6-3 comeback win over the Flames on Saturday night. The forward received an excellent pass from Draisaitl and fired it past goaltender Mason McDonald.

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