November 08 2013 09:59AM
Two games into his NHL career, Taylor Fedun has scored two goals for the Edmonton Oilers.
It's a phenomenal start for any rookie, but Fedun's case is made even more remarkable by the brutal injury he suffered the last time he was on the verge of making the Oilers, an injury that cost him a full season and could have claimed his hockey career.
We've all seen the video.
Taylor Fedun had come out of nowhere to make a real case for himself as an NHL option for the 2011-12 Oilers; it seems safe to say he either would have made the team or been a reasonably quick call-up after the training camp he had and given the other options in the system. Instead, a fantastic opportunity was taken away on a pointless play.
It cost Fedun one full season, and then much of the next one as he got himself back up to speed. Todd Nelson, Fedun's coach in Oklahoma City. gave us a window into Fedun's play in a December 3, 2012 interview on Oilers Now:
[Fedun]’s been pretty solid. You can see, if we have a stretch of games where it’s pretty busy, he does get a bit fatigued just because of the mechanics with his leg and that. When Taylor’s fresh he’s very effective. Obviously we’re dealing with a player who went through a lot, and I think he’s made tremendous strides. I think right now he’s a step away from where he was last year before he got injured, but that’s going to come over time.
Nelson went on to list some of the things Fedun had to work on - not getting tunnel vision offensively, boxing guys out defensively - but reiterated that the coaching staff was pretty happy with his play. But even in December Fedun's skating wasn't where it had been pre-injury, and he would spend most of the year getting back to where he had been,
Fedun has been a reliable defenceman in Oklahoma City this season, playing with different partners in different situations but delivering the same level of play seemingly every night. I've been tracking some statistics I put a lot of weight on at home games this year, and by those numbers Fedun stands out:
- On-ice Fenwick (shots and missed shots) plus/minus: +77/-53
- Zone Starts: 22 offensive zone, 42 defensive zone
To put those numbers in an easily understandable form: Fedun has been leaned on heavily in a shutdown role, taking to the ice a lot of times when the puck is 200 feet from the opposition net. Despite that, The Barons have out-shot their opposition by nearly a 3:2 margin with Fedun on the ice in the seven games I tracked.
The early NHL results have been awfully encouraging, too, even beyond the two goals. With Fedun on the ice, the Oilers have 15 scoring chances at even-strength over the last two games, as compared to just three against. Granted, he's in a third-pairing role and playing old Southeast Division opponents, but that's awfully impressive. Nick Schultz, his partner so far, was arguably on the upswing before Fedun's arrival but the two have had instant chemistry on a blue line that needs exactly that.
This is what a player winning an NHL job looks like. Injuries or poor play open the door a crack, and the player forces the issue not by being just okay but by being so good that he can't be ignored. Mark Arcobello did it earlier in the year, and Taylor Fedun's doing it now.
He (and Arcobello too, for that matter) has gone from the kind of player every fan pulls for because he's a hard-luck story to the kind of player every fan pulls for because the team is better off with rather than without him.