December 30 2012 01:53PM
Taylor Fedun had an unfortunate and difficult start to his professional career.
In his first NHL camp last year, he was opening a lot of eyes with his steady play until a preseason game in Minnesota. He was going back for an iced puck with Erik Nystrom. Nystrom's stick got caught up in his skates and an ugly crash into the boards for Fedun resulted in a complex fracture to his right femur. His first professional season was over just like that, in a blink of an eye.
An injury like that is not something I would wish on anyone, especially a young player looking to establish himself in the world of hockey. He is a solid young man with a game that I like. With drafted players such as Oscar Klefbom, Martin Marincin and David Musil or recently signed Justin Schultz getting much of the attention as the next wave of Oiler blue liners, it is easy to overlook Fedun. I think many may be missing something that is right in front of them.
What about Taylor Fedun?
I think there is an opportunity for him in the future with the big club. Missing last year set him back a year in playing development but he is back playing and playing well for OKC. He is a smart guy, four years at Princeton confirms that! His intelligence and hockey IQ are what could carve him a place with the Oilers.
He is a good skater that uses his skating to get him into a strong defensive position. He isn't overly fast but he puts himself into the correct position to make a play with the puck first or take the man with his body when required. Learning where to be on the ice is something that takes time to develop. He seems to have a good grasp of that already. When you are in the right place on the ice as a play is developing you are never chasing the puck. Often, chasing the puck results in trouble.
He played his full four years of college. His numbers don’t jump off the page at you offensively but there is a steady climb. He improved from fourteen to twenty two points during his four years. His last year he played twenty nine games so roughly two points every three games.
He may be a little undersized for the NHL. He is listed at six feet tall and one hundred and ninety pounds. He can't do anything about his height but he can about his weight. Adding ten or fifteen pounds will help him battle in the tough areas, specifically in the corners and fronts of the net. Those are tough areas to play in and there are some very big and strong forwards who he will have a tough time handling without the added weight.
Good news though, it is easy to adjust. A full and healthy workout program next summer could get him easily seven or eight pounds without compromising his speed. The added pounds will also help when he is on the beach or at a buddy’s pool party. I have been told by people in the know that the ladies love the big guns and chests.
For the many reasons I was really looking forward to having him on my show. I wanted to hear about the grueling rehab and how he was feeling to be back out and playing. Here is what Taylor Fedun had to say....
Q: Looking back at your stats from your time playing locally here for the South Side Athletic Club, in the AJHL and then at Princeton University your showed steady improvement. Is that the approach you have taken to your hockey career, one day at a time and small steps?
Absolutely, I have always tried to build off the progress I made the year before. I wanted to learn from things I have gone through and that has allowed me to improve every year.
Q: Was attending college an easy choice for you, did you ever look at the Western Hockey League as an option?
I did look at junior hockey. I had already committed to Princeton when the first real offer came from the WHL. At that point I had educated myself on the two different options and for me college was the way to go.
Q: Why did you feel that way?
I had always actually enjoyed school. I enjoyed putting in the work and I didn't shy away from getting homework and getting it done. When the opportunity arose to play hockey and attend school at the same time it was something I had always wanted to do. It was definitely the right way for me to go.
Q: Now that you have that degree to you chirp the other guys on the team that you have one?! Do you ever say 'hey, has anyone seen my Princeton degree lying around?' Does anyone else have a degree on the team?
Ha! There are a couple of other guys that have one. One in particular is a guy I actually played against in College, Mark Arcobello, Yale grad. We go back and forth about which is the better school!
Q: Was college the right choice for you to fill out your game and develop physically?
Definitely, the way it worked out for me is I came out of college quite a bit older then when guys finish their junior careers. It was perfect for me. It allowed me to develop me game in a way that I was much more ready to jump into the pro game. Whereas if I had been trying to do that when I was twenty to twenty one I honestly don't think I would have been nearly as ready for it.
Q: You finish off your college career and then sign a contract with the Edmonton Oilers, your home town team. Was it a club you had identified as a good spot to start your pro career or were you looking for a chance to play for your home club?
It worked out both ways. Growing up in the city of Edmonton it is hard not to be an Oiler fan. That was definitely my case. I grew up idolizing the team so to have them put an offer on the table after college was finished made it pretty much impossible for me to say no.
Q: So you come to camp, are doing well then you get that terrible injury, obviously a big disappointment. How long did it take you after the accident to say ‘This is the way it is, I have sustained a tough injury but now I have to work my way back, I need to get healthy and I will continue my professional career?’
Honestly, it was a decision I made rather quickly. Once I had the procedure and met with the surgeons who pieced my leg back together, they made it clear to me that if I was willing to put the time in that I would be able to get back to where I was before it happened. That was really, really important for me to have those guys tell me that right up front. It was obviously going to be a very long road to get back but to know that if I took care of the details along the way that I would be able to get back was huge.
Q: Who really helped on this long road back? Who were the doctors or trainers that gave you guidance and deserve some recognition?
I think all I really had to do was show up and do what I was told. I got to work with some extraordinary people. I was very well taken care of by the Oilers organization the whole time. My parents were flown to Minnesota right after it happened which was huge for me. Then when I was back in Edmonton, it wasn't even a few hours when T.D., the head therapist with the Oilers was at my house checking on me. Then over the next couple of days Chris Davie, another Oiler therapist was already developing a plan for my rehabilitation. He was really the guy who drove me rehab. I really can't thank him enough. He was up early morning to help me, five days a week in the pool downtown. Then we would work a few more hours in the afternoon. Then when I got to the point I was able to do more and get into the weight room I started to work with Simon Bennett, another tremendous person to be working with. He brought such great energy to every workout and helped keep things fresh for me. It wasn't like I just came in and was doing the same thing every day. I really had a great team working with me.
Q: After months of all this rehab and some point you have to get back on the ice. What was that moment like? Were you excited or nervous?
It was definitely both. It was very exciting but when my skate blades first touched the ice I almost felt a little like Bambi. It was a little bit weird. As you grow up you become so comfortable and confident on the ice it is weird to go from being so sure footed to a little bit timid out there. It is a weird feeling. It got my heart racing but it was awesome to get back out there!
Q: You should be very proud of yourself, many might not have gone through all that effort to get back to where you are today. You are now playing in the AHL with the Oil Barons and off to a pretty good start. How does it feel to be playing games again?
It took some getting used to. When I got into that first game it was an amazing feeling. I had an absolute blast. I got right back into all the things about hockey I had missed over the past year or so.
Q: The injury is behind you now and this is basically your first year pro. How has the adjustment been going from a college schedule to a professional one?
It has been an adjustment. Some days it is nice when you are dead tired to not to have to hit the library and do homework for a few hours. Yet there are times where there are a few days off between games, we just practice in the morning, you need to find things to do. You don't just want to end up wasting the day away. You want to stay stimulated. It can get a little slow so I need to find some things to do to fill up then non game days and keep the mind going a bit.
Q: The schedule can been very game-heavy, how important is it to find time to rest the body?
Very important. When you mix in all the travel in there it is really important you do get your rest. You need to take very good care of your body because you can really get run down if you aren't careful.
Q: You play a thinking man's game on the ice. You make it easier on yourself. Is there a player you try to copy or emulate?
I always struggle answering that question. I feel there isn't one player that I have watched and tried to emulate. It has kind of been a style that I just came into on my own with the guidance of different coaches along the way. I have just done what works for me, which as you mentioned is a thinking man's game.
Taylor is a very well-spoken young man. He is smart and a thinker. It is clear from his answers he likes having a plan and working towards an end goal. His end goal is clear and I think it is well worth our time to keep tabs on him moving forward.
There are many reasons to be excited for this young player. He can't worry about what the other young prospects are doing. He isn't them and they aren't him. He is running his own race that I think could end with a nice little NHL career.