What an incredible Cinderella story, this unknown comes outta nowhere..
--Carl Spackler, Caddyshack
Brandon Davidson is a curious player. He was passed over in 2009, mostly because he spent 2008-2009 playing for Lethbridge Y's Titans, a AAA midget hockey team. Davidson's story is well-known to prospect watchers - he didn't have the resources to play high-level hockey and spent his formative years playing in second-tier programs, getting by on hard work alone. Give credit to the Regina Pats and their scouts - they found Davidson and immediately began working on his game.
Now he's one of the leading defensive scorers in the WHL, yet he's still developing at this late stage and likely has a long way to go. There remain obvious flaws in his game, but Davidson's upside is just as obvious. Last season, Scott hand counted Regina's goals for and goals against and came up with the numbers pictures in the table. Scott's explanation of the numbers was as follows:
...Davidson seems to be taking on the second toughest minutes for the Pats rather than handling the opposition's most dangerous offensive firepower. It's probably worth noting that although Davidson looks like he's fifth here, he's actually fourth because Delahey - Davidson's partner for the early part of the season - and McColm were traded for one another half-way through the season and thus never spent time together on the the same roster. But if you're projecting him as a shut-down defenseman, these results are probably something of a disappointment.
It was his qualcomp and his plus / minus that stood out to me, so much so that I said "...had I known about these numbers before making my rankings, Davidson would have been much higher on my list." Davidson has the requisite size - he's 6'2", 194 lbs and judging by his work in training camp can add another fifteen pounds to his frame. He's a left-handed shot and a very good raw skater. He keeps his head up and he moves the puck up the ice extremely well. I mention that he's a good raw skater because I noticed some deficiencies in his game during the rookie tournament, especially relating to the way he played while under pressure.
In the small sample size that we've seen him live, Davidson struggled in two areas - decision-making and recovery. If you didn't see the rookie tournament, from time-to-time Davidson would make a poor decision and find himself out of position, much like Theo Peckham. He would end up in no-man's land, they have to scramble back to play defense. Understanding defensive and positioning should improve with time, especially as his experience in higher-level hockey increases. His other noticeable short-coming, his technical skating, should also improve with time. I spoke to a couple of extremely knowledgeable Oilers fans about it and each one said the same thing - Davidson's raw skating ability is fine, above average even, but his struggles are almost all technical. His hip turns, his foot placement, his turns and pivots all lag behind higher-level players.
Davidson's NHLE shows him to be more of a play-making defenseman:
|Year||NHL PPG||NHL82 G||NHL82 A||NHL82 P|
Judging from the boxscores, Davidson is spending significant time on the power play and penalty kill in addition to even strength, so he's being relied upon in all situations.
I don't think anyone following Edmonton's prospects expects Davidson to make the jump to the AHL next season, so he'll have one more season in Regina to hone his game. The two biggest deficiencies in his game are both correctable, especially with additional work and coaching. He's got the physical traits and the underlying ability to be a NHL defenseman, it seems like time is all he needs to actually make it. Can he hone his game in the next year to eighteen months to move back onto a fast track to the NHL?