Great Story

Brandon Davidson is just a guy.

He’s not an NHL player.

He will never play at the next level.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

I’ve personally said the first two sentences. Almost every
observer whose followed Brandon Davidson’s career said the last one.

Brandon Davidson has been doubted his entire life. He was a
good story, but nothing more than that. But, at least it was a heck of a story,
right?

Wrong.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

I was dead wrong on my assessment of Brandon Davidson. Many
people in the hockey world who have a lot more experience than I do were dead
wrong on their assessment of Brandon Davidson. This young man deserves full
credit, and I am just one more fool in a long line of fools who questioned the
stuff this kid was made of.

His path to the NHL was very unconventional. His family situation made it impossible for him to play the highest levels of minor hockey until he was 17 years old. When
he was finally able to play at that level he managed just
a few games with the Olds Grizzlies of the AJHL.

That should have been the end of it all. It wasn’t.

Through sheer will power, when he was 18 years old he walked
onto the Regina Pats roster. He played 59 games, scoring 1-33-34 along the way.
That year he earned the honour of being named the Pats Rookie of the Year. Then,
against all odds, the Oilers drafted him in the sixth round, 162nd
overall.

Great story. Good for you, kid.

He continued to develop offensively, this time around going 72GP,
8-44-52 in his 19 year old season. He ended up as the third leading
scorer on Regina that season and number one on their blueline.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

At the end of that season he factored into two games in the
AHL for the Barons, including one in the playoffs. He did it. He played a game of
professional hockey. A couple years before he could barely get into an AJHL
game. Then he played in minor pro, even if just for a few games.

Great story. Good for you, kid.

The Oilers didn’t send him to the AHL as a 20 year old. They
sent him back to the WHL. There’s nothing inherently wrong with sending someone
back to junior as a 20 year old, but it suggests the development just isn’t there.
And for a kid with Davidson’s size it’s a little worrisome that the Oilers didn’t
believe he was ready for the AHL.

When Davidson returned to the Pats that fall they named him
captain. The kid who wasn’t even drafted by a WHL team was now captain of one. Offensively,
he didn’t take another step forward, even at 20 in the WHL. He actually scored
less than the year before.

Worrisome, but he’s a hard working kid.

The Oilers offer him an entry level contract.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Great story. Good for you, kid.

Then things got scary for Brandon Davidson. He was diagnosed
with testicular cancer after a routine checkup with the team discovered a lump.
The offending testicle is removed. He begins chemotherapy. He wanted nothing
more but to play hockey again, even though he’d been weakened by cancer
treatments.

His cardio, his strength, his everything was barely at 70% by
his own estimation, but once again he willed himself back into his skates. Brandon
Davidson, cancer survivor. He picked up 12 points in 11 games at the ECHL level
then played another 26 games in the AHL that year as well.

And like an idiot I said, “Great story. Good for you, kid.”

He played another relatively unspectacular season in the AHL
in 2013-2014, appearing in 68 games, netting 5-8-13 with the Barons. The
offense wasn’t there. The dynamic presence wasn’t obvious.

He’s just a guy.

He’s topped out.

He’ll never play at the next level.

Sure, he worked hard, but lots of players worked hard. They
just don’t have the talent to play in the NHL. There was just nothing in
Davidson’s scoring numbers that made you think there was a burgeoning talent
there. But, there were people like Jonathan Willis who had watched him play
closely warning us not to count him out – not to doubt him.

Even when Davidson got his first call-up to the NHL, I didn’t
see anything there. He played a relatively unspectacular 12 games with the
Oilers a year ago. Even with Todd Nelson, his AHL coach, at the helm for the
NHL club, Davidson only played more than 17 minutes in a game once in the dozen
appearances he made.

But he did it. He played in the NHL. He even scored his
first NHL goal!

The kid who didn’t get a chance to play at the highest level
of minor hockey until he was well into his teens.

The kid who walked onto a WHL squad.

The kid who willed himself to be drafted.

The kid who beat cancer.

That kid did it. He got his chance to play in the NHL.

Great story. Good for you, kid.

And that’s all I thought he was. I thought he was just a
good story – nay, a great story! Still not an NHL player. Still just a guy. Still
nothing more than an AHL player who could fill-in when someone got injured.

Would anyone even claim him if he was put on waivers?

And, like the umpteen other times someone believed Brandon
Davidson was finished, I was wrong.

Brandon Davidson signed a two year bridge deal with the
Oilers today. Bob Stauffer was the first to report that it was $1.425 million
dollars per year. It represents incredible value for the Oilers based on what
we’ve seen from Davidson this season.

Everything he’s done in this lost season has completely
changed my mind, and the minds of everyone else who made the mistake of
doubting him.

As of today, you can make a pretty convincing argument that
Davidson is in Edmonton’s top three. I think it’s probably Klefbom, Sekera, then
Davidson. He came into this year as the seventh defenseman and over time
has climbed up and over much more heralded prospects.

He was good enough to allow the Oilers to send Reinhart back
to the AHL. He’s even climbed past Darnell Nurse right now. That could change as
those young defensemen develop, but today he’s better.

Davidson is intelligent, tenacious, strong, well-positioned,
and has better offensive skills than I ever gave him credit for. If they can
keep him playing in the third pairing for the duration of his new
contract then I think he’s going to help the Oilers by out-kicking his coverage. What I like about Davidson is not just that he takes the body when he engages the puck carrier. He comes in with his stick first to attack the puck, then he follows through with the body. He’s a smart defensive player with great habits.

The Oilers are so decimated by injury that almost every
young player looks like he’s in over his head. During the month of February the
Oilers played 13 games and Davidson played less than 20 minutes just once.
Unlike the other inexperienced players on this team, he isn’t drowning.

On this blueline Brandon Davidson has the best possession
and goals for metrics. He leads the Oiler blue in Corsi For percentage at 51.7%
on the strength of his shot attempts against. He has the fewest shot attempts
against per 60 minutes on that defense. He also leads the Oilers D in Goals For
percentage with 48.8%, again on strength of him having the lowest goals against
per 60 minutes.

By eye and by number Brandon Davidson has excelled this
season. He looks like an NHL player.

He’s not just a guy.

He didn’t top out in the AHL.

I don’t know what level he can take his game to, but I’m
done saying he can’t get there.

Brandon Davidson is more than just a great story.

He’s a damned fine NHL player, and he earned it without a
lot of people believing he could.

Now THAT is a great story.


  • Keepyourstickontheice

    In terms of the relative value of the pick, can anyone name a better Tambellini draft selection? Brandon Davidson is still developing, but by money, he’s already locked it down.

  • O.C.

    I like the term. This kid has overcome more than any here (probably); I would not want to dangle a long term cut rate contract.

    Besides, if he tears it up next season, you can go with a larger deal.

    On the other side, you can also argue that PC retains RFA.

    Nice write up Matt.

  • His will and determination came through in today’s interview. He sets his mind to a goal and does whatever he can to achieve it.

    It reminds me, a bit, of Ryan Smyth, and how his passion manifested in the same sort of will and determination that had him playing with some of the league’s most skilled players.

  • oddclod

    Great to see some positive things going on up highway Two. Sounds like a great kid. 3-5 yrs from now, they will be calling Alberta the Valley of Death again. Anything but the Canucks.

  • Was just on the penguin’s site regarding Schultz trade:

    “Nick Bonino was in the same division as Schultz when he was with both Anaheim and Vancouver, so he’s more familiar than most.

    “I know he’s a really effective guy on the power play and he’s a very mobile defenseman, a puck-moving defenseman,” Bonino said. “Any time you get depth on your blue line for a playoff run and for the push here, I think that always helps a team.”

    Those poor suckers…

  • GCW

    I have been a huge Davidson supporter since his last two years of junior.

    I really believe that teams that win find players like Davidson and nurture them along rather than look at their draft position and force them to make it in spite of the organization, not because of it.

    That’s how teams get strong depth.

    The Oilers, unfortunately, don’t get that and a lot of these players, while they have as much talent or more than Davidson, don’t necessarily have his absolute will to succeed. That’s not a failure on the players, its a failure on the organization as Davidson is the exception, not the rule.

    Martin Gernat was a perfect example of such a player, who had a great junior career and was treated like an afterthought from then on.

    And we are seeing it again with Slepyshev. He the Oilers top offensive forward prospect and is playing on the third line so Hamilton, Klinkhammer, Pitlick, and Ford, none of whom will see the Oilers ice, are playing in front of him and he is playing on the third line with guys who aren’t really scorers.

    Until the Oilers figure out that prospects like Davidson, Gernat, Slepeshev, Bear, Jones and Paigin are like found money and focus on thier development, depth will always be an issue with this organization.

    We can find ’em, we just can’t develop them.

    Congrats Brandon Davidson for overcoming the odds and the Oilers organization.

  • Positive Ray of Sunshine

    Using the Nikitin contract as a comparable, Howson calculated Davidson’s value at $43,000,000 per season so this is a great value contract. Good work Chia.