SUN Hockey Pool

Theo making an impression

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:32 AM ET

CAMROSE -- Theo Peckham left an impression on the general manager two years ago at his first training camp.

The good kind. The kind that rockets a a player up the depth chart.

Now skating with the Edmonton Oilers rookies for the third consecutive season, the talented defenceman almost looks out of place.

It's as though he's beyond it, and should be battling with the veterans for a spot on the main roster.

"Coming into rookie camp, I just want to establish myself and get my feet underneath me," Peckham said prior to suiting up in a 1-0 loss against the Calgary Flames rookies last night at the Encana Arena.

"It's been a long time since a lot of us have played in a game, so it's good to come in here and get in some game time.

"But I'm coming in with the mindset to move on to the main camp and try to win a spot on the team."

Peckham, 20, has already made his NHL debut.

The Oilers called up the native of Richmond Hill, Ont., from Springfield last season for one game, giving him a taste of the life.

"It was a dream come true," Peckham said. "It was good to see just how they prepare and how fast the game is up there. It was good to see what level I have to play at to make the jump to the next level."

Peckham stood up well in the contest. He played over 13 minutes, on the road, against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The next day he was sent back to the Oilers AHL affiliate in Springfield, going on to develop into one of the team's most reliable defencemen.

Last night, on the top defensive pairing with Taylor Chorney, Peckham killed penalties and ran the power play. He also took a penalty and got into a fight with Flames winger J.D. Watt.

"For a young guy, he played a lot of minutes for us last year," said Springfield Falcons head coach Jeff Truitt, an assistant under Kelly Buchberger last season.

"We had some injuries with our back end, and he was thrown into some situations where he was in our top four.

"He was a shutdown defenceman in the last couple of minutes of a period. He was a penalty-killer, he showed some grit at times. He was reliable with the puck and was probably our most physical defenceman in Springfield.

"He had to learn the pro style a little bit, then caught fire at the end."

Peckham finished with six goals, seven assists and 174 penalty minutes in Springfield.

He was the Oilers second pick (75th overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft after three years of junior hockey with the Owen Sound Attack.

"Last year was a great development year for him, both mentally and physically," Truitt said.

"Seeing him this year, he's more prepared for the season than he was last year. That's going to really help him through this camp and on to main camp."

The Oilers are big on Peckham.

"It's a good thing when they like you, it helps you," Peckham said.

"They drive you a lot more, they push you a lot harder and it motivates me to work harder."

This summer, part of that work involved getting bigger and stronger physically. Peckham bulked up while at the same time working on his skating ability.

"I always think you can get faster as a skater, it doesn't matter if it's pivots, turns, stops, starts or explosiveness," Truitt said.

"I think he's got NHL skating ability right now, though it can always get better. You can go from month-to-month during last season and see the different stages that he took.

"When we needed some grit, he provided that. He never turned a blind eye to anything and just continued to keep getting better and better and better."


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