Theo Peckham - #14 in the Oilers Top 25 Under 25

Over the years this site has earned a reputation for being one of the hubs of modern hockey statistics. The other authors to this site have won well-earned acclaim for their willingness to analyze this most mysterious of all sports from a strictly rational standpoint.

So you might be horrified to hear that I've been seeing Theo Peckham good since the day he was drafted.

Peckham's just the sort of defenseman I like. He's got good size but isn't so big that he can survive off sheer height like certain Kurtis Foster types I could name. He's hard-nosed and don't take no guff in the defensive zone, and while his offense isn't a plus it at least exists. He even fights sometimes, which I realize doesn't help win hockey games but is a heck of a thing to watch. "Wreck 'Em" Peckham is ace in my books.

I was worried about Peckham this time last year. He seemed to be running in place, not showing the consistent improvement one associates with a future NHL defenseman. Then he had a good start to his first full NHL season and I felt more hopeful. Then he kept playing well on an absolutely pants-crappingly terrible hockey team and now I'm set.

You can keep Oscar Klefbom, you can hold on to Jeff Petry, and you can cram Martin Marincin into the garbage disposal. I'm taking Theo Peckham.

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jaysen Jon Scott
14 Theo Peckham 10/11/87
75 2006
7 16 15 12 10 16

 

Previous Rank: 10

As you can see, I rank Peckham higher than any of the rest of us, although most of us are at least mildly positive (Bruce and Scott are the most pessimistic but they still give him a decent ranking, particularly considering that this organization has, like, a hundred goalies Bruce has to rank near the top).

In my books Peckham has the advantage of being a bit older. It's a weird sort of advantage but defensive defensemen are weird sorts of players. You can project as much as you like but, more than most players, own-zone specialists seem to be difficult to predict. You can't teach speed or hands but you can teach positioning and persistence, which may explain why a few guys like Cory Cross and Igor Ulanov show up every year pulling themselves off the scrap heap while others (dare I say Jack Johnson?) coast on their physical skills and never come close to covering the bet.

The fact that, at age 24, Peckham is already something of a known quantity is comforting to me. He's still in the middle of his development curve but we already have a pretty dandy player: a player who could definitely be a #5 defenseman on a pretty good team and arguably higher, someone who you wouldn't be completely humiliated by if you had to put him on the penalty kill, and someone with non-zero offensive ability.

The former third-round pick and Owen Sound Attack grunt is already the second-best defenseman from his draft but is still improving. He had the team's second-best plus/minus among regular defensemen with a -5; his butt was thoroughly kicked by Chickenfoot Ryan Whitney but well ahead of the curve compared to the rest of the team's experienced, incompetent blue-liners. Golden boy Jeff Petry was -12 in 35 games.

Peckham played 18:32 minutes per game last year and was somewhat sheltered from the worst competition. What of it? He succeeded. I'd rather have a defenseman who treads water in the shallow end of the pool than one who goes off the highest diving board and drowns. He also took approximately one billion penalty minutes, which is a negative but is also something that should improve with time. Young defensemen as physical as Peckham get a notoriously tough ride from NHL referees: former Oilers penalty-prone whipping boy Matt Greene had just 70 PIM last year. There's every reason to believe that Peckham will work his way out of triple digits by the time he's in his prime. He's a hard-nosed player and his relative lack of speed will lead to the occasional obstruction call, but he's not dirty.

So he's not Al Macinnis. I can live with that. What he's proven is that he's a fine NHL defenseman who's just getting better. He fills a position that guarantees the Oilers are going to get plenty of mileage out of him. He works hard, he kicks ass, and he might knock in a slap shot or two.

If you don't like Theo Peckham, you don't like hockey.

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