Exhibit A in “Life isn’t fair” on the Oilers roster is without question Taylor Fedun. Through no fault of his own, the young defenceman missed a golden opportunity to find an NHL career in Edmonton, and it appears as though his window to capture a job on the club’s blue line has all but closed.
“That Man Made Me Miss My Destiny”
Napoleon Bonaparte uttered the line quoted above, referring to British Admiral Sidney Smith; one wonders if years from now Taylor Fedun will say something along the same line about Eric Nystrom.
The story is likely familiar to everyone reading. In the fall of 2011, the Oilers were desperately short of established NHL defencemen. Thirteen different rearguards would play at some point over the season, including:
- Corey Potter, a 27-year old AHL journeyman who had a total of nine games of NHL experience. He averaged 19:56 per game over 62 contests.
- Theo Peckham, a 24-year old whose poor performance over 54 games helped undo the impression he’d left during a strong rookie campaign.
- Cam Barker, the third overall pick in 2004 who so badly flopped for the Minnesota Wild that they paid him to go away played 25 (mostly ineffective) games in Edmonton; he has appeared in just 14 NHL contests since.
- Colten Teubert, an NHL rookie in 2011-12, appeared in 24 games. He was a healthy scratch for most of the AHL playoffs this season after badly regressing; the organization opted not to re-sign him this summer.
- Friend of the waiver wire Taylor Chorney played five games in 2011-12: three in Edmonton and two in St. Louis. Those are his only five NHL games over the last two seasons, but he has played 123 in the minor leagues.
- Prospect Alex Plante played three NHL games that year; given the way his career has gone of late they’re likely to be the his final three.
- Offensive defenceman Bryan Rodney, who managed 15 points in 44 games for Manchester of the AHL this season, played one game for the Oilers as an injury fill-in.
It’s a pretty brutal group of depth defencemen, and while Potter impressed in training camp that year the real story was Taylor Fedun, who looked brilliant in exhibition play. There is simply no doubt that he been healthy, he would at least have been given a cameo, and it could have grown into more than that.
Then came the play in the video above, a race for an iced puck that went sour. The resulting injury – a fractured right femur – cost Fedun not only his first taste of NHL action but also the entirety of his first professional season. It also impacted him during the 2012-13 campaign as he worked his way back, something Oklahoma head coach Todd Nelson made plain in a December 3 interview with Bob Stauffer 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.
In a full-blown rebuild and with a paper thin blue line, Fedun was a shoo-in for NHL work at some point. That was the case two years ago; today, however the Oilers are trying to come out of a rebuild and the depth on defence has been substantially improved. The list of capable players outside the top five (Jeff Petry, Ladislav Smid, Andrew Ference, Justin Schultz and Nick Schultz) is remarkable.
- Denis Grebeshkov, a 29-year old veteran of 227 NHL games, and a guy who managed 39 points under Craig MacTavish during his last season coaching the Oilers.
- Anton Belov, a 26 year-old puck-moving defenceman with size (6’4”, 212 pounds) who was one of the top defenders in the KHL last season.
- Philip Larsen, a 23 year-old who has posted strong numbers at other levels and already has 95 NHL games under his belt.
- Corey Potter, mentioned above.
- Oscar Klefbom, the 19th overall selection in 2011 and a guy The Hockey News rated as the 37th best prospect in the league last season.
- Martin Marincin, another big (6’5”, 196 pounds) defender with puck-moving ability, who as a rookie AHL’er put up 30 points and a plus-20 rating.
As it stands, there’s a pretty decent chance that Potter – the best of that group of 2011-12 reserve defenders – won’t even make the team out of training camp. If the Oilers carry eight defencemen, Fedun needs to beat four players of that group above for a job; if they only carry seven he has to pass five players.
It’s a tall order. It’s all but certain that Fedun won’t make the Oilers out of training camp, so he needs to first hope that the Oilers lose a player (likely Potter or Larsen) to the waiver wire and second he needs to establish himself as a better recall option than Klefbom or Marincin. Even in this scenario, the first injury to the Oilers’ blue line would only put Fedun eighth in the pecking order, and the club might choose to recall a 14th forward and stick with seven defencemen.
Two years ago a lot had to go wrong to keep Fedun out of the NHL, and it did. Now, a lot has to go right for him to get that elusive first major league game.
Recently around the Nation Network
It was a very good draft year for teams in the QMJHL. At NHL Numbers, Derek Zona finds that Quebec’s top junior league had a banner year in terms of the number of its players selected by NHL teams:
The QMJHL’s 31 selections accounted for 14.7% of the draft, marking the largest Q draft in the 11 year period tracked. I noted it a number of times in the notes of my Consensus 100 articles and it came to fruition on draft day. Unlike previous drafts, the Q did not rely on imported players to buffer their numbers, in fact, only three imports were taken out of the Q.
Click the link above to read more. Otherwise, feel free to read some of my recent pieces: