September 18 2013 06:49PM
There was no way for Kyle Brodziak to push his way past the first round picks and find an NHL job. Sure, he'd improved a lot since his draft day, but as fall 2007 brought shorter days and cooler nights, Brodziak faced an impossible task--how can a guy taken 214th overall win an NHL job over TWO first round picks?
BRODZIAK AS A ROLE MODEL
In 2002, veteran scout Lorne Davis argued strongly for a young man who played for the Moose Jaw Warriors. The young man had scored a measly 8 goals and 20 points in a full season, and there wasn't much in the boxcars to recommend him. Davis got his wish a year later when the Oilers took Brodziak in his second year of eligibility (there was an item a few years ago suggesting Brodziak hadn't opted in for 2002, but he in fact did opt in and was eligible).
Brodziak enjoyed a strong junior career in Moose Jaw, then turned pro during a time of great unrest in the Oilers organization. This was during the period when the Oilers didn't have their own farm team, so Brodziak spent three seasons in the AHL in three different cities (Edmonton Roadrunners, Iowa Stars, Scranton-Wilkes Barre Penguins) before finally arriving in training camp 2007 fall.
2007 OILERS FALL CAMP
Brodziak was one of several centers who were trying to make their way to the big club that fall. The incumbents were Shawn Horcoff, Jarret Stoll and Marty Reasoner; the hopefuls included first round picks Sam Gagner (just drafted and being highly touted), Andrew Cogliano (turning pro and showing well), Rob Schremp (struggling but considered a talent), Marc Pouliot (the 2003 1st rounder still trying to find his way) and oh by the way Lorne Davis' "folly", Kyle Brodziak.
I remember the game that Brodziak emerged as a player we fans could recognize as being a cut above the also-rans (wrote about it here) because it was a Rod Phillips special--Rod, a fan, was as excited as we were at home to find an emerging talent. We all had our favorites in that race (mine was Poo), but Brodziak won the day with skill, hard work and an off-season work ethic that put him ahead of Schremp and Pouliot.
As it turned out, Gagner, Cogliano and Brodziak were NHLers in 2007-08.
WHO IS EMERGING THIS YEAR?
Well, we're kind of waiting. As fans, we can observe and the advent of pre-season television is a Godsend, but there's a lot we don't know and can't track. I'd guess that Will Acton and Ryan Hamilton have an edge because the coach knows them, and they know his style and attention to detail.
Beyond that? It's guesswork from here.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Some need a wake up call, some need a kick in the ass, some need another year and some need more than what God gave them and will never make it. As a fan, I'm thrilled for Tyler Pitlick, who got a little notice from the coach last night and a reward tonight by getting in another game.
Small victories, big steps.