He's determined to stay

Oilers rookie Theo Peckham runs as hard as he can during a drill at the second day of Oilers Rookie...

Oilers rookie Theo Peckham runs as hard as he can during a drill at the second day of Oilers Rookie Camp at Foote Field yesterday. (Sun Media/Tim Smith)

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:35 AM ET

Last September Theo Peckham made a good impression with the Edmonton Oilers.

The native of Richmond Hill, Ont., was big, strong and solid on the blueline. That endeared him to the coaching staff - never a bad thing.

This September Peckham, 19, is hoping those terms of endearment land him a job.

"The way I'm looking at it, my goal is to play in the NHL next year," said Peckham, who is taking part in the Oilers annual development camp. "I'm not going to be disappointed if I have to go down and play in the AHL, I don't have a problem with that, that'll be great. But going into camp I want to make the best impression that I can and hopefully stick."

Peckham was the Oilers second pick (75th overall) in last year's NHL Entry Draft. The six-foot-two, 220-pound defenceman was impressive at the team's rookie camp last season and would have taken part in main camp had he not fallen ill.

FELL ILL AT 2006 CAMP

"That was hard, getting sick and not being able to play," Peckham said. "I wasn't able to skate at main camp, then I went home and I wasn't able to skate for half a week. But the rookie camp helped me out a lot, especially coming back this year."

Peckham returned to the Owen Sound Attack of the Ontario Hockey League and had a strong campaign with 10 goals and 25 assists in 53 regular season games with a couple of injuries and a couple of suspensions.

He added an assist in the playoffs as the Attack were bounced in the first round by the London Knights.

"We were rated pretty high going into the season, then we slipped at the end and finished eighth," Peckham said. "I would say it was an underachieving season team-wise. Individually the suspensions were probably something I could have avoided, they weren't too smart on my part. But overall it was an all right season for me."

Known more for his physical prowess than his scoring ability, Peckham turned heads by getting off to a quick start last season with 11 points in the Attack's first seven games.

Peckham scored more goals and registered more points last season than he posted in his first two years combined with Owen Sound.

BREAD AND BUTTER

But his bread and butter is still knocking people on their backsides.

"In junior playing with some 16 and 17 year olds, it's a lot easier to muscle them off the puck," Peckham said.

"That's definitely what I was doing. I was trying to get the reputation that when I was on the ice I wanted the other team to know it and not come down my side of the boards, or go into the corner with me sort of thing.

"I know, though, that to take that to the next level, I have to be that much strong and that much better condition-wise."

Being in better shape is one of Peckham's main goals at training camp this September. He's weighing essentially the same as he did last year, but this time around he has more muscle mass.

"This is probably the leanest I've ever been," he said. "Last year I came in and had 14.9% body fat that's definitely something I can try and get down.

"With three months to go in the summer I'm looking to not be a big, bulky guy, but a strong, lean player."

Off-ice workouts such as the one conducted yesterday by Oilers strength and conditioning coach Chad Moreau at Foote Field should prove beneficial in that regard.

After the camp wraps up on Saturday the prospects will return home to prepare for rookie camp, Sept. 6-9 in Yellowknife.

Peckham is still eligible to return to junior next season as an overage player.

However, he would rather begin his professional career next season, although it still hasn't sunk in that he's now a professional despite signing a three-year entry-level contract last month.

"You're still playing for the same reasons, because you love the game,"

Peckham said, "I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't love it, so ultimately it's all the same to me. It hasn't hit me that I'm a pro hockey player, because technically, I'm really not yet."


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