A lack of opportunity for Taylor Fedun

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.

The Present

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:

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    It will be tough for any AHL vet to get a cup of coffee with the big club, but I think one of Schultz or Potter is traded before training camp. Gotta think Potter with his cap friendly deal, size and offensive ability on the pp could land him a similar role somewhere else. Something has gotta give come October.

    • Eddie Shore

      3 goals and 1 assist last year doesn’t scream offense to me. Guys like Potter are a dime a dozen. I think most teams probably have their own Corey Potter so I don’t see him going anywhere unless included in a deal with another player. My guess is he spends the year in OKC (hopefully).

  • The Soup Fascist

    Based on watching him play a couple of exibition games, he reminds me a lot of Troy Brodie……..always skating and moving the puck logically.

    I really hope that this guy get a chance to play………the only thing working against him now is is size.

  • John Chambers

    Assuming Potter gets picked up on waivers, or we trade another Dman, Fedun is the first waiver call-up prior to Christmas, ahead of Klefbom and Marincin.

    In 2014 however, Klefbom and or Marincin will have enough experience in OKC to warrant a cameo with the big club. For Fedun, at least he can buy some decent furniture for his OKC apartment.

    Willis – what is Fedun’s contract status after this season? Is he free to go ply his trade elsewhere, maybe with a god-awful team like the Calgary Flames?

  • The Soup Fascist

    I could foresee a possible:

    1) Potter or Larsen lost on Waivers
    2) a trade involving N Shultz
    3) Injury or 2 during the season to the D…

    Voila! Callup.

  • The Soup Fascist

    I realize it is a long shot but I hope the kid gets a chance to play a few games in Oiler silks. Has paid his dues, been a good soldier and worked hard.

    BUT for that to happen there likely has to be some unappetizing circumstances in E-Town, so file under “careful what you wish for”.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Considering Fedun has had only one season in OKC, another year there will do him good developmentally. My hope is that we will know by 2014 if we have a player worth keeping.

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    Don Malhoney(GM coyotes) said in an interview today that the teams biggest need is to acquire a SCORING WINGER- enter Ales Hemsky.

    Rumors on the net(Eklund) has a source that has the Oilers making a big push for Grabovski.

    If the oilers dump Hemsky to the coyotes and pick up Grabovski…

    That would BE BOLD…

    • Bob Cobb

      That would be bold, won’t happen, because as pointed out before, any Eklund source, or rumor, is likely Eklund flinging crap against the wall and hoping something sticks. Unless one of the big players, like Dreger, Mckenzie or one of the other talking heads, that actually have credible sources report it, don’t believe it.

      The Oilers are done, unless there is a trade MacT has in his pocket for Hemsky.

      • nuge2drai

        Oiler Domination To Follow

        MacT would be an idiot not to contact Grabovski.

        MacT would be an idiot to be happy with his AHL center depth. I think he’s finally showing his poker face.

        Ill give you the third one, guys right 1-1000 times.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    I sure hope Tay gets to play at least one regular season game for the Oilers, as his whole extended family have been die hard Oilers fans forever so we need to see our boy in the Oilers silks. He is the strongest, smartest, hardest working and most determined person I know so they would be wise to give him a shot and see what he can do for this team.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    I love our depth on D right now. We should be able to survive a few inevitable injuries. I’m always rooting for Fedun and it’s definitely unfortunate how he was so close to breaking through when he had his injury. One thing working in his favour could be the lack of right-handed shots on the blue. If we lose Potter, then that leaves Petry, Schultz Jr. and Larsen as righties.

  • Bob Cobb

    I think we will all be surprised by Fedun. He had a remarkable training camp and pre-season two years ago and is better now. He may not make the Oilers, but I don’t think the odds are that bad. Belov and Klefbom haven’t played on the small ice and I vet they start in the A. Grebeshkov is past peak and even at peak he was error-prone. He hasn’t seen the small ice since the last winter olympics.

    Just based on his character and how he has rebounded and beaten the odds so far, I’m confident he will deliver a performance that turns heads and at least garners interest from other teams.

  • adams

    The Oilers have 6 right handed defencemen, 2 are a lock (Petry and Justin), and IMO Fedun is probably the one with the most potential out of the last 4 (Grebeshkov, Larsen, Potter, Fedun). He probably isn’t even close to the best one of the group right now tho. I agree that he won’t make the team out of camp but I disagree with the rest. One of Grebeshkov, Larsen, or Potter will be dealt or let go on waivers before the first regular season game. Fedun is the best right handed shot under contract in OKC so I believe it is only a matter of time(injuries) before he gets his chance to prove he belongs in the NHL.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    ^Detroit has always had one advantage that lets them keep their prospects in the minors longer, in some cases to “over-ripen”, the fact they can sign great UFA’s like Rafalski and Hossa, all the while getting great mileage out of a long term core of Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Lidstrom, Franzen, Holmstrom, Cleary and Draper.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Obviously I am in the minority here but I do not get all the love for Grabovski. The guy scored 16 points last year, was the most obvious deer in the headlights Leaf in the last 10 minutes of Game 7 vs. Boston, whined like a baby in the off-season, competes sporadically from what I can see and is smaller than Gagner who many feel is a smurf. Sorry, throw all the advanced stats you want out – I see a low scoring, smallish center with dubious work ethic and character. Pass.

    Like I said, I am in the minority from what I am reading. Someone please tell me what I am missing.

    BTW – if Eklund says something – the only thing certain is that there is a good chance it is a product of a fertile imagination and little fact. So I am feeling better already.

  • nuge2drai

    Fedun, despite being 25, needs another year in OKC, to hone his skills and get his speed up. Still has a chance to make the bigs, only because this guy never quits a getting rehabed and stronger in his game. Might not be with the Oilers… he’s a better bet than Plante and Teuber.

    Say no to Garboski.Time the Oilers developed some players down on the farm.

    I think OKC operation is more intent on winning to save the franchise and their butts….or get Nelson a ticket to the NHL. So get rid of Nelson or MacGregor… something is not working here.

    Also now that they have built up the roster a bit
    time to set a drift some of the rift raft…. Hamilton, Plante…wast of contracts.

  • Should I even bring up the subject of no-touch icing? I love the competition of fighting for the puck, but if it means a good guy like Taylor Fedun missing his shot at the big time, is it worth it? Taylor’s even lucky he can still play, let alone walk.