Edmonton Oilers defenceman Brandon Davidson was in a bit of a tough spot heading into training camp. In order for the 24-year old to start the year in the NHL, he needed to make enough of an impression on head coach Todd McLellan to slot him above two of Mark Fayne, Andrew Ference, Oscar Klefbom, Nikita Nikitin, Darnell Nurse, Griffin Reinhart, Justin Schultz and Andrej Sekera. To his credit, he accomplished exactly that and has not looked back since.
Brandon Davidson’s strong game was no fluke. He was best Oilers prospect in AHL playoffs last year.
— David Staples (@dstaples) October 30, 2015
So much so that if we fast forward to the present, we now see Davidson coming off a game in which saw a career-high of 23:40 in ice-time during Edmonton’s 5-1 win over the New Jersey Devils. While a good chunk of that total came courtesy of the Devils handing the Oilers six chances on the man advantage, the Lethbridge native has cemented himself a spot inside the club’s top-six and now finds himself being used in all situations. Not sure about all of you but you can certainly put me in the category of not seeing this one coming.
Oilers Were Out of Options
While Davidson earned his way onto the roster to start the year, part of the reason he was in Edmonton was due to the fact he would need to clear waivers to go down to the AHL. Obviously, management felt they would not be able to sneak the sixth-round pick of the 2010 Entry Draft through waivers and so they decided to keep with the big club as an insurance. In essence, his play during the pre-season forced the organization’s hand.
While he dressed for only one of the Oilers first eight games, Davidson has been in the lineup for 10 of the last 12 and, for the most part, looked pretty darn good in doing so. Make no mistake, he has had his share of mishaps along the way but all things considered, he has arguably been Edmonton’s fourth or fifth best defenceman since Justin Schultz was forced from the lineup with a wonky back. Not too shabby for roughly six weeks of work.
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For the moment, it appears as though the quartet of Sekera-Nurse and Klefbom-Fayne are McLellan’s go-to pairings and with Schultz expected to return to the lineup during the club’s current five-game road trip, Peter Chiarelli will be forced into freeing up a spot on the roster. With Ference being used in the role of “designated press-box sitter” and his contract status being what it is, one of Davidson, Gryba or Reinhart will draw the short end of the stick.
Reinhart Will Probably Be the Odd Man Out But…
From a cap space standpoint and with the Oilers lack of veteran presence on the backend still an issue, chances are the former Edmonton Oil Kings captain will find himself heading to the Bakersfield Condors in the not too distant future. With that said, one can easily make the argument that Gryba is the one blueliner who looks most out-of-place. His inability to move the puck and knack for routinely making poor decisions has become painfully obvious to anyone who has watched this team with any sort of regularity.
However, considering McLellan would also need to pull another player from his lineup to sit alongside Ference, perhaps the 27-year old Saskatoon native would be best suited as that “in-and-out” of the lineup guy. Be it in a third-pairing with Schultz or possibly Fayne, it looks as though Davidson has earned himself a spot on this coaching staff’s backend and we should not expect that to change anytime soon. The kid has shown to be among the Oilers best puck-movers and has an absolute bomb from the point…two things which this blue line has been short on for some time.
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While fans of the Edmonton Oilers are hoping their team can add a legitimate No. 1 defenceman in the very near future, the chances of them being able to do so are likely not very high. Focusing on potentially adding so-called No.2/No.3 guys and waiting for one of Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse to hopefully develop into that top flight player may end up being the route this organization has to take. Should that be the case, players like Brandon Davidson could wind up being a key contributor in a support role.
Rob Soria is the Author of Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One. He has chronicled the Orange and Blue since creating his Oil Drop blog in 2011 and has also had his writings featured over at HometownHockey.ca and Vavel USA, where he has covered the NHL, MLB and ATP Tour. Rob was born, raised and still resides in Edmonton, Alberta and can be reached via twitter @Oil_Drop.