On March 21st, 2018, the Edmonton Oilers acquired the rights to Cooper Marody from the Philadelphia Flyers for a third round pick in the 2019 draft. It was the draft pick they received in the Patrick Maroon trade a few weeks earlier. Marody, the Flyers’ sixth round pick in 2015, finished his NCAA career and was about to turn pro. He wasn’t going to sign with the Flyers, instead he would become a free agent and pick a team where he felt he’d get a good chance to play and develop. So the Flyers decided to trade him rather than lose him for nothing.
The Oilers made the deal and Marody played three AHL games late last year, scoring 1-2-3. He came to training camp this season, got into a few preseason games and started the year in Bakersfield. He played five AHL games before being recalled to the Oilers. He played two games in October, was sent back down, played two more AHL games, was recalled again and played four more games with the Oilers between November 17th to 23rd. He played a total of 41:30 in his six NHL games.
He had six points in five AHL games before being recalled, then had four points in the two games between NHL stints. He didn’t get a lot of playing time in the NHL, and likely wasn’t ready, but he has had an excellent year in the AHL.
He has points in 13 of his last 14 games and now has 49 points in 47 AHL games. He is their first line centre, and is playing more minutes as the season progresses. Jason Strudwick and I caught up with Marody on my radio show last week to talk about his first pro season. We also discussed his other passion, music.
Jason Gregor: Quite the first pro season for you. You got a taste of the NHL, are having great individual success in Bakersfield, and most important your Condors team is rolling. Has it been a dream first pro season?
Cooper Marody: No doubt about that. It’s been a really fun group to be a part of. I think my teammates and myself, we have such a great bond as well as the coaching staff and it’s just been a really great environment to be in every day.
Jason Strudwick: Was there a time where you noticed in the first part of the season where this group was coming together and there was something special developing?
Marody: Yeah, I think we always knew we had a pretty special group, and I think right before we went on the winning streak, the long run, we lost I think three or four games in a row but we were in every single game and had some unfortunate bounces go against us. We knew that if we kept sticking with it and doing the things that we’re doing well that it will pan out in the end. We’ve been on a nice run as of late.
Gregor: You did play three AHL games late last year, but the jump to pro hockey is definitely different. It is a more taxing schedule compared to what you are used to, but you’ve adapted well. What’s worked for you to be a point-a-game player as a rookie?
Marody: I think a good summer’s worth of training, on and off of the ice. I worked with a guy, Brandon Narado in Michigan, and we worked with a bunch of NHL guys, who I also skated with, multiple times a week. I think that really prepared me for getting used to the NHL and pro hockey speed. Also my summer training, just in the weight room really prepared my body. Also on the mental side, I felt really good coming into the season. I have a coach and an organization who really believed in me, and also teammates who really believed in me so it’s a fun environment for me to be in. I feel great so far.
Strudwick: What have the coaches helped with specifically in your game?
Marody: I think that so far every day, after games, coming into the rink coach [Jay] Woodcroft, or Coach [Jean-Francois] Houle has clips from the game, just little details that the average person wouldn’t see in a hockey game, but will help you be the best NHL player you can be one day. Just little clips and little details all around the ice. Like being harder on pucks, or making sure that you’re above centre after a faceoff loss in the offensive zone. Just little details that help you be the best overall player you can be. And the best NHL player that I know I can be someday.
Gregor: You did play six games with the Oilers. Was six games enough for you to know what areas of your game you need to improve to become a regular in the NHL?
Marody: Yeah. I know I belong in the NHL and I’m going to prove that every day in the AHL and every day in the weight room in the summer. I’m a firm believer in myself and I’ve overcome a lot of adversity so far in my career. Obviously, I would have liked to get my first call-up and stay for the rest of your hockey career but that didn’t happen. I’m going to continue to develop and work on my career here in the AHL. I have phenomenal coaches and phenomenal teammates to help me to learn and to help me be a better player with. I’m going to continue to do that this year. This summer is going to be big for me. I’m going to continue to put on muscle and strength and speed. I’m looking forward to improving myself continually this year and next year at training camp.
**Here is an interview with Marody when he was at Michigan outlining his path to the NCAA. Show this to kids who want to quit because they get cut or aren’t their team’s best player.***
— Michigan Hockey (@umichhockey) February 24, 2016
**This is from 2016, when Marody he performed at Michigan’s annual “Mock Rock” talent show for hundreds of people. Student-athletes got on stage to perform.**
Strudwick: Cooper, I’ve heard you are quite talented when you pick up the guitar, and can sing. Are there some go to songs you crank out when you’re around the campfire?
Marody: Yeah, I play guitar and some piano, sing and write songs. That’s something that is really fun to do. I do it mostly in the summer because with the hockey season it’s tough with all of the travel and all of the taxing schedule, but it’s something that I love to do. I think that pop country is something that I’m really interested in. Guys like Sam Hunt, big country artist, he’s a former college quarterback and I really like his style of music. It’s kind of like an R&B poppy country version. I didn’t grow up on a farm or drive pickup trucks on backwoods, so I don’t really sing about that stuff or write about that stuff. I want to be real and talk about and sing about who I really am and my real life experiences. But I think that the songwriting and the chords of country music is what makes my stuff country.
Gregor: Did I read correctly, where an artist produced one of the songs that you wrote?
Marody: Yeah, I have two producers who I’ve come really close with down in Nashville, they’re actually brothers — Gary and Gavin Garish down in Nashville. I have a lot of my songs produced that I’ve written actually and they’re not completely done yet, but I think that sometime, I don’t know if it will be this summer, or next summer, but I might have something released on Spotify and iTunes.
It’s just something fun for me and it helps me to become a better hockey player. I know I have another option. You come to the rink every day thinking ‘hockey is all I got.’ You put so much pressure on yourself, so being able to go to the rink and to know you’re doing it for the enjoyment of the game and realized the impact that you can make is comforting. Music has helped me to become a better hockey player, there is no doubt about it.
Gregor: Your teammates know you can sing. At rookie night in Bakersfield did you have to get up and sing, or do you serenade your teammates in the room at all?
Marody: (Laughs) You know that’s funny, I thought that there may be a possibility of that coming, but I didn’t have to sing in front of the guys yet. Some of my teammates come over to my place and I jam with them a little bit. So some of them have heard me, some of them have heard the produced songs but not many actually. Maybe sometime soon.
Gregor: Can any of them jam effectively?
Strudwick: Can they play the bass or the drums in your band, or backup singer?
Marody: Yeah. Tyler Vessel and I always joke about him singing harmony on my tracks. I’ve sent him some of my songs. It’s funny, Jake Kulevich actually plays the guitar pretty well and he’s come over a couple of times and we’ve jammed for a little bit. It’s something just so fun to do, get your mind off of hockey a little bit.
Strudwick: Cooper, teammates are always original. I find there is at least a guy on the team who is always just a walking sideshow. Is there a guy on your team that you could write a song about, a guy where something is always happening to him?
Marody: (Laughs) Oh jeez, I think there are a lot of very cool, interesting characters on our team. That would be tough though, most of the songs I write are about a girl, or something like that. I don’t know… it would be tough to write about a teammate.
Gregor: I can tell you Studdy loves ballads. So if you were to write a ballad, Struddy would download it on Spotify guaranteed.
Marody: I love it. I will send him a copy when it comes out.
YOUTH IS SERVED…
Gregor: Now back to hockey. You and fellow rookie Tyler Benson have built some great chemistry together. You had Josh Currie on your line before he was recalled and now you [Kailer] Yamamoto in on the wing. Is chemistry a main reason for your success, since you guys are winning so much your coach really hasn’t had to change the lines very often?
Marody: No doubt. I think the coaches are really happy with all four of our lines and our defensive pairs. I think everybody has been pretty consistent throughout the entire year and that is really important if you want to build a successful team. I’ve been able to develop a really good connection with Benny and we played with Currie, who is doing great up in Edmonton right now and we’re all happy for him. He’s a great shooter and me and Benny are more playmakers. We also have the ability to shoot too. You see it every day in practise, Benny is shooting the puck a lot and I think he will start scoring more goals.
“Yamo has come in and has filled Currie’s void very well. He’s just a phenomenal player. He’s had a taste of the NHL as well. He’s a young player too and we’re all learning and all developing and it’s something that’s really fun to be a part of. We have a great relationship off of the ice as well. We’re trying to make each other better and we know amongst each other that we can do the same thing we are doing now later in the NHL. We’re pushing each other forward and just trying to be the best players we can be for the Bakersfield Condors we can right now.
Gregor: I’m going to ask you one favour, when you become a regular for the Oilers, in the NHL. Each year we have a karaoke contest we host for charity. Struds tried it once — it did not work very well. So he hasn’t made the cut since, but we’ve had Mike Reilly, Grey Cup champion quarterback, some other NHL guys who have sang, so maybe in advance of your making the team in the future at one time, you could commit to being a part of our karaoke one night for charity?
Marody: I would love to be a part of it.
Strudwick: I don’t think that’s fair, this guy is a pro.
Gregor: What’s wrong with that?
Strudwick: Why don’t we invite Garth Brooks down? I don’t like it.
Gregor: Karaoke is all about stage presence as well, it’s not just about if you can sing. You’ve got to engage the crowd.
Marody: That’s true!
Strudwick: I’m protesting this right now.
Gregor: Struddy is mad because he got invited once, but never again.
Strudwick: I haven’t been invited back five years in a row! It’s outrageous.
Marody: (laughs) I look forward to it.
Marody is having a stellar rookie season. He is over a point-per-game, and is more of a playmaker than shooter. He, like most AHL players, wants to get a bit quicker, but he is a very smart player and has worked on all elements of his game. His head coach Jay Woodcroft discussed Marody’s development.
“Earlier in the year he relied solely on his skill level,” said Woodcroft. “It is a very good level, and it something we want to continue and develop it. But we have encouraged him to play the entire 200-foot game. If he wants to play centre in the NHL we have talked about the importance of faceoffs, how important it is to be a trusted player in his own end.
“I can tell you, both him and Tyler (Benson), and Yamo (Kailer Yamamoto) when they play all together, we don’t shelter their minutes, they play against top competition and the growth in their game, specifically after Christmas time as been quite obvious to me as a coach.
“Cooper is a student of the game. He takes his craft seriously. He thinks hockey. He talks hockey. He watches hockey. He has ideas and I encourage him to share them, because he sees the game in a unique way.
“I think he is very serious about trying to live up to his potential, and part of that is a relationship between his head coach, but also with the assistant coaches and the trainers. There is a whole bunch of resources here for him to get better and he is enthusiastic about using all of them,” said Woodcroft.
Marody could push to be a consistent third line centre for the Oilers in the next two seasons.