Taylor Fedun is ready for the majors

Jonathan Willis
January 18 2014 08:22AM

Taylor Fedun is the best defenceman in Oklahoma City, and it isn’t even all that close this season. As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing left for him to prove at the AAA level, and he can be a useful NHL player right now.

I may be right or I may be wrong on that, but one of the things the Edmonton Oilers should make a point of doing before the end of the year is finding out.

Oklahoma City Blue

Oklahoma City Barons head coach Todd Nelson has had a delicate balancing act with his blue line for much of this year.

The Barons’ blue line is awfully young, and consequently pretty error-prone. Martin Gernat is currently one half of the top pairing, and for all his gifts he’s a first-year pro. On Friday, for example, he seemed incapable of making a pass any less than two feet off the ice; judging by the ‘whoa’ behind me at a particularly hot cross-ice pass it was a trend the Oilers’ staff in attendance didn’t appreciate. Fellow rookie AHL’ers Oscar Klefbom and David Musil are also all in the top-six, so fully half the blue line is made up of first-year players.

Aside from Denis Grebeshkov (a sadly diminished player these days), the veterans aren’t particularly veteran either. Seventh defenceman Brandon Davidson is a struggling second-year pro. 5’9” rearguard Brad Hunt is in his second full AHL season and being asked to play on his off-side while packing around a rookie; he’s a gamer but it’s a lot to ask.

That leaves Taylor Fedun. Fedun led the team on Friday with two assists and a plus-one rating in a 4-3 loss.

“He was good, like he has been all year,” said Nelson, when asked to describe Fedun’s game. “He’s been very consistent. I don’t think his game has really dipped a whole lot this year.”

Is he worried about losing Fedun to the NHL?

“Possibly. It would be a great opportunity for him once again to go back up top. As long as he’s here he’s going to play a lot of minutes."

The Obstruction(s)

With Justin Schultz and Jeff Petry ensconced on the right side of the NHL blue line, there are two positions open to Fedun on the NHL roster: the right-side slot on the third pair or the seventh defenceman slot.

Presently, Edmonton’s third pair is comprised of two left-side defencemen (Nick Schultz and Anton Belov) while Corey Potter holds down the seventh spot. All three are unrestricted free agents with Belov and Schultz in particular being potential trade deadline bait, so one can understand why the Oilers are employing them in those spots. In a lot of ways, the situation is as it was last season, when Potter was battling for playing time with pending free agents Mark Fistric and Ryan Whitney.

Whitney’s a fitting analogy for Schultz, because both players are veterans who do all the veteran things the coaching staff likes to see and both guys struggled badly in the role. It’s tough to scratch a vet like Schultz because he’s been an integral part of an NHL team for so many years and because he’s a potential deadline rental and most importantly because he brings experience to a blue line sorely lacking in it. That matters; when I asked recent call-up Brad Hunt about playing with Schultz he told me this:

He was just helping me with little things throughout the game. He was great to me. He was an awesome first NHL defensive partner; he’s a veteran guy and he knows what he’s talking about. I was open ears and just taking it all in and he was excellent in helping me out with little parts of the game, just with positioning and stuff and in helping me to stay calm; obviously it was hard for me to stay calm.

But by performance Schultz is also the weakest of the three, as Whitney was.

Then there’s Belov. If the Oilers are interested in bringing back one of this trio, it should be Belov. The 27-year-old Russian brings size and competence with the puck, a combination that hasn’t been seen often enough in Edmonton, and there’s often an adjustment period for first-year Europeans (language, culture, North American style of hockey, etc.). He might have value at the deadline but he might also be worth keeping; for all his problems he’s shown flashes and with a year under his belt might take a significant step forward.

Potter’s a tough player for me. A year ago, I argued forcefully that he was the Oilers’ fifth-best defenceman and (as a natural right-handed shot) a guy who should be playing every night. He’s not an incredible NHL’er, but he’s big and one of those guys who is good but not great at lots of things – with the puck, defensively, with physical play. But he’s also missed a ton of time this season to injury, and he’s 30 years old and even at his best he’s a good six/seven defenceman. He’d be a nice fit on a two-way contract, filling the mentoring role on the farm/plausible injury call-up but given how thin the margin is between ‘six/seven defenceman’ and ‘AHL’er’ he probably ought to be penciled in somewhere outside the top-seven.

What about Martin Marincin, the call-up currently on the Oilers' second pairing? Marincin has a lot of good qualities and a high ceiling, but he hasn't been a better player than Fedun in the minors. He's more projectable and he brings an element of size Edmonton doubtless covets, but Fedun is a better player in all three zones today.

What Happens?

Somebody’s going to move at the deadline. Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish has been very busy, making whatever moves he can, and he’s bound to move a defenceman. At that point, Fedun will be the only sensible recall, since he’s easily the best defenceman in Oklahoma.

And if nobody moves? Then the Oilers should clear a space anyway. If it were just a choice between Fedun and Belov he might be blocked, but it isn’t. Nick Schultz certainly isn’t part of next year’s plans, and it’s pretty likely Corey Potter isn’t either. Fedun is a number one with a bullet defenceman in the AHL who just does everything well in all three zones; there’s nothing more he can prove down here. The only question is whether he can make the jump, and it’s a question Edmonton needs to answer before this summer.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 kgo
January 18 2014, 08:30AM
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When I saw that leg shatter a few years back, I was certain he would never make the show....

I Really hope he proves me wrong, pulling for this guy....pulling hand over fist

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#2 Eastern Oil
January 18 2014, 08:33AM
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Great article once again JW. I really appreciate hearing your take on the OKC players this year, especially since the news at the NHL level leaves much to be desired.

I guess one positive with the Olympic break is that the powers that be can take a real good look at the AHL guys that may push for a spot next year. Marincin has to be headed down to keep playing, and it would be nice to see him and Fedun playing on that top pairing.

I have to give Nelson a lot of credit as well, and many of the good AHL coaches. It has to be tough trying to win every night, while balancing the needs of the parent club with, typically, their best players going up and down. They D corps has been especially interesting for him this year because of the new guys coming through, and will continue to be next year as they will need to get a push.

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#3 the tikk
January 18 2014, 08:40AM
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Hey Jonathan,

Just thinking back to the Nick Schultz trade, and I'm still mystified by something: what was it about Tom Gilbert that made him so dispensable (aside from the inane verbal about Petry's emergence that preceded the move).

It's not just the Oilers that didn't want him around, either. Bought out by the Wild, and couldn't do better than a tiny contract from Florida weeks after free agency. Yet he moves the puck well, his coverage is okay, and he can skate.

So what's not to like about Tom Gilbert? (That sounds rhetorical, but it's not).

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#4 J.R.
January 18 2014, 08:40AM
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This article is much better than the "Taylor Hall is the reason Edmonton stinks" article from the other day.

I agree. Hope they can ditch a few bodies at the deadline or before and bring Fedun up for the rest of the season.

He should not be the 7th d-man though. Leave him in OKC unless we are prepared to give him at least third pairing minutes.

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#5 camdog
January 18 2014, 08:48AM
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@the tikk

Last season Gilbert had pneumonia early in the year and never got his game back. I personally thought highly of Gilbert and was not happy with the trade. On this team he's our number 1 d-man.

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#8 Sliderule
January 18 2014, 09:12AM
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If you are looking for the reason Gilbert was traded you have to start with the Teflon assistants and Lowe. They are the only constants in management and they like their defense men to bang. You can bet they will have Petry out of here if Katz keeps them around

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#9 Drowning in Oil
January 18 2014, 09:22AM
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People have to remember we will have a top pair Dman come the draft when we draft 1st or 2nd overall. Of course knowing the thought process of these brain trusts in charge of the team, the Oilers win probably go on a winning streak at the end of the year and jump to 28th on the last day, thus losing our needed Dman.

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#10 Brody
January 18 2014, 09:46AM
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Who cares. Fedun will not help what is wrong here in Edmonton. Their backend is already full of bottom pairing defenseman and the last thing I need is another one.

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#11 Alex Mathis
January 18 2014, 09:53AM
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Jonathan, you did not mention Phil Larsson who is a RFA at seasons end. What do you think about him?

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#12 Ivan Drago
January 18 2014, 09:56AM
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Eastern Oil wrote:

Great article once again JW. I really appreciate hearing your take on the OKC players this year, especially since the news at the NHL level leaves much to be desired.

I guess one positive with the Olympic break is that the powers that be can take a real good look at the AHL guys that may push for a spot next year. Marincin has to be headed down to keep playing, and it would be nice to see him and Fedun playing on that top pairing.

I have to give Nelson a lot of credit as well, and many of the good AHL coaches. It has to be tough trying to win every night, while balancing the needs of the parent club with, typically, their best players going up and down. They D corps has been especially interesting for him this year because of the new guys coming through, and will continue to be next year as they will need to get a push.

Marincin will be playing for the Slovaks in the Olympics.

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#13 J.R.
January 18 2014, 09:57AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

If you thought that's what the article the other day was saying, no wonder you didn't like it.

Of course, that's not remotely what it was saying.

(with) tongue in cheek - phrase of tongue

1. without really meaning what one is saying or writing.

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#14 Ed in Edmonton
January 18 2014, 10:12AM
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Although he had a couple of big mistakes vs. the wild Marincin has been very good since his call up. If Fedun has been better, this is good news.

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#17 Randaman
January 18 2014, 10:28AM
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Please leave him in OKC so he can get lots of playing time. He does not need to be brought up to this gong show and be coached by own goal Smith and look at my hair Eakins.

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#18 Rama Lama
January 18 2014, 10:43AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

I don't think he's a great fit for the team, honestly.

You are right JW, Phil Larssen is not a good fit for the Oilers because he is the only d-man that can actually make a pass, or do anything remotely skilled with the puck.

I don't care what the advanced stats say, this kid can play.........therefore he is not a fit for Mr. Chop Water Hair do.

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#19 Casey
January 18 2014, 10:43AM
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That training camp I thought he was going to make the show till that leg injury. I thought he wouldn't be able to play again. Comes back becomes a top AHL defensemen. Lets hope he has an Arocobello story. He clearly has more heart and determination than most of the Oilers team

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#20 Alsker
January 18 2014, 10:44AM
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Off-topic...Is it just me or have the Nations forgotten/ignored our game vs. the Jets. Neither one has a game GDB up with an hour to go(granted cant blame ON, another crapfest on the way).

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#21 Casey
January 18 2014, 10:47AM
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MacT be like: We need a guy to replace Jeff Petry and Schutlz jr, better callup Denis Grebeshkov and Phillip Larsen. Wait Andrew Ference is injured to? Callup Corey Potter. That is one of the reasons we can't develop prospects. We don't give them opportunities to play here

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#22 Max
January 18 2014, 10:54AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

I don't think he's a great fit for the team, honestly.

Fedun over Larsen any day. Also, bring Pitlick back up - he has the 3 S's - skill, size, speed. Fedun is a thinker, he is always one thought ahead of the play and should be on the team. He's not reckless like many others on the team. He's mature and certainly has pulled through against so much adversity. He and Pitlick deserve to prove themselves with a much longer audition than 3-4 games. They certainly can't harm the team right now, the harm was done in the first 10 games, and continues.

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#23 Hockeycrazed
January 18 2014, 11:08AM
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Everyone that saw how Fedun played knew how useful he is, (except the 'Management, unfortunately) and why he's stuck in OKC, is anyone's guess, he's ready before he broke his leg last year, he's ready this spring and didn't play his way out of the line-up! He's in OKC by design, ( his size is his problem, they say!). In fact, he plays hard every shift, his heart makes up for whatever deficit his height lacks, he is the exact clone of Arcobello, and I say it again, if we have 25 players plays like them 2, the Oilers will be talking about playoffs, not selling spare parts!!!

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#24 fasteddy
January 18 2014, 11:18AM
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Fedun has the ability to slow the game down a little due to his intelligence. With some time to get comfortable in the league, I think he will be a regular for years. Hopefully it's not with another team.....

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#25 Eastern Oil
January 18 2014, 11:18AM
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@ Ivan Drago

Ah yes, how could I have forgotten that very important detail? Thank you for pointing that out. He will be getting an even better experience over in Sochi.

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#26 Eastern Oil
January 18 2014, 11:23AM
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@ Max

I would agree with you re: Pitlick and do think he will get his chance again. It was very disappointing to see him go down with an injury with a couple of decent NHL games under his belt.

I wouldn't mind if they waited until after the Trade Deadline or Olympics though. I think the Oil have 9-10 games left until then. Play Jones if you think you're trading him, and you still have Hendricks/Joensuu as well.

I would let Pitlick play in the AHL until early March, put some points up and then take a look. Who knows, maybe there will be a spot for him to take then if someone is moved out.

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#27 Zarny
January 18 2014, 12:32PM
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Taylor Fedun is a great story. Nothing but good news if Fedun can make the jump to be an NHL player. Marincin, Klefbom, Gernat, Musil...the more the merrier.

None of them may be the answer to a top pairing D. Some may fill holes on the 2nd or 3rd pairing. Some could be part of a trade the Oilers need to make. And if a guy like Fedun can progress enough it may allow the Oilers to trade Petry or Schultz.

The more assets the better.

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#28 Zarny
January 18 2014, 12:38PM
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The 'whoa' comment caught my attention. "A particularly hot cross-ice pass" isn't uncommon with the big team. Quite indicative of the type of risk the Oilers' young kids still fall victim to a few times a game in fact.

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#29 Spydyr
January 18 2014, 01:36PM
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Give the kid a chance.That is what the rest of this season should be all about.Finding out who is in the plans moving forward and who should be moved.

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#30 oilerfan
January 18 2014, 02:37PM
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call him up. get rid of softy petry.

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#31 toprightcorner
January 18 2014, 02:59PM
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with Nurse being 1-2 years away (hopefully 2) and Klefbaum being a year away, I don't see it being possible to have Marincin, Fedun, Gernat as well playing on a team that is hoping to be competitive in 2 years. I see at least 2 of these guys being a perfect add on for a trade to get a top pairing dman.

I see Klefbaum and Marincin fitting into this category perfectly but it would be smart after the trade deadline to have both Fedun and Marincin playing on the big club to see which one is a better fit in the future or the bigger trading chip.

Gagner and Klefbaum and should be able to get a solid veteran top pairing dman, (add a 1st for some of the top guys) or big quality 2C or power forward like

Tyutin Byfuglien Bogosian Yandle Erhoff Marc Methot Roman Josi Cody Franson

Dubinsky O'Rielly Zajac Brower

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#32 Dangilitis
January 18 2014, 03:15PM
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Hey Jonathan, I had written this last night on LT's article, which echoes what you said here, but I would take it further and cut bait with Schultz ASAP even if the return is smaller than in March. Do you really see a successful team next year carrying Belov, Fedun, Marincin, with Petry, Justin Schultz and Ference as the veterans? I think 1 of these 6 needs to go or upgraded

"If Nick Schultz is not dealt for whatever reason, Fedun needs to be brought up in his place, and they need to decide whether Belov or Fedun is the guy they are going to overextend next year by forcing into a top 4 role.

In all seriousness, I would try and trade Nick Schultz right now, even if its a bit low. Gives you time to bring up Fedun and have him compete with Belov before the trade deadline. Either way, both those guys need NHL experience this year, as all the Oilers should be furiously focused on developing/auditioning players at the NHL level while the points don't matter. Belov and Fedun should be auditioning for a role alongside Marincin in the #4-7 rotation (to be joined by Marincin as well as Ference and J Schultz).

If neither work out, then trade one or both, as we have a log jam of #4-7 D-men with more coming up in the system.

Petry should be a #3, but next year I will be content if he is a #2 D-man and the Oil bring in a #1 and #3.

But for goodness sake, show the fans you have a plan on how the prospects are going to be integrated, and sell D prospects from a relative position of strength (when they are non-urgently disposable commodities, not roster spots that urgently need to be disposed of)."

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#33 Woogie63
January 18 2014, 03:55PM
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JW

Any word on either of the Hamiltons? Given we are firmly in next year territory would either of those big men benefit from a 5-8 game run in the NHL? I think we know what has in Joenesu.

Also is Simpson signed, are we in danger of not signing him?

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#34 nunyour
January 18 2014, 04:00PM
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More veterans less rookies for me,trade for some quality vets,two minimum.

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#35 Dockstaff
January 18 2014, 05:34PM
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@the tikk

Gilbert sometimes moved the puck well, until he coughed up a cross ice pass along the ice from his own zone, or tossed it up the boards without looking to see who was there.

Top six NHLers don't do that. Not for very long anyway.

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#36 Dockstaff
January 18 2014, 05:39PM
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@Dangilitis

Dangilitis, you had me until you said Petry and #2. He still makes bad decisions with the puck, prefers to play the puck instead of the body (I watched four different times against the Jets where Petry ignored the body; one resulted in a scoring opportunity, the other cost us the game!) Until he learns the defensive side of Defense, he's #4 at best... and that's only because he can skate.

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#37 DrunkGuyTy
January 18 2014, 09:02PM
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Fedun is a great story a hopefully he turns into an NHL player. Too bad he's more of the same... 25 years old, barely 6' and tryin' to crack 200 lbs. ...too bad.

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#38 NJ
January 18 2014, 10:36PM
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Everyone continues to mention all the 4-7 slot d men that may possibly be in the lineup next year. Fact. We all know they aren't going to fix our problems... No Fedun is not a 1-2 dman. Yes, we need a big ole center or winger, probably 2 and a couple real solid d men.

Who cares. We want depth for when injuries occur. They aren't "trade bait"... Trade bait is something another team wants. That would be Gagner, Yak, Eberle... So move some of those guys to get what we need and leave the 4-7 d men where they are. 1,2 Dmen and top 6 forwards require the same going back.

I've played with Fedun. Great guy, will work his ass off and skate his heart out. I'd hate to see him in anything but Oil blue. However, if he's not gonna get a shot here I would love to see him play NHL hockey and succeed somewhere else. I still can't quite figure out why he was sent back down after scoring twice in 4 games. He definitely didn't turn he puck over any more than our other d men. As always, ON is behind him wishing him the best of luck.

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