I've written before about Kevin Lowe's preference for drafting intelligent players, a tendency that he seems to have impressed upon Steve Tambellini who recently signed Princeton defenseman Taylor Fedun. Fedun, a mechanical and aerospace engineering major was Academic All-Ivy League and designed a hovercraft for his thesis. He also spends his spare time building robots.
The Oilers followed up on the Fedun signing by inking Maine center Tanner House. Like Fedun, House was an NCAA Captain - he was awarded the 'C' during both his junior and senior seasons at Maine - and like Fedun, House excelled academically, appearing on academic honor rolls throughout his career. House was named a finalist for the Lowe's Senior Class Award. From his profile as a finalist:
Tanner House has an impressive resume in the classroom. He has a 3.8 GPA in finance. In 2010, House was named the recipient of the University of Maine M Club’s Dean Smith Award, presented annually to the top male and female student-athlete at Maine. The award is normally awarded to seniors, but House won as a junior. House is a three-time Maine Scholar-Athlete Award winner. He has also been named to the Hockey East Academic Honor Roll in each of his three seasons. In addition, House was named to the Hockey East Academic All-Star Team in 2008. House has also been named to the Dean’s List in each of his years at Maine. He is also a member of SPIFFY, a student investment group. In addition, he has been inducted into the business honors society.
In the video above, the interviewer asks "What are your career plans after college?" House replies:
I'm not sure. I want to take hockey as far as I can, try to play a little pro and see where I can take it and maybe go overseas or something. When that's done, hopefully I'll have my finance degree from here; I like doing that, maybe financial advising or something like that.
Like Fedun, House is well-spoken and composed in the interviews and his "uhs", "ums" and "y'knows" are kept to a minimum. The interviewer also asks "What is your favorite NHL team and who is your favorite NHL player?" House's answer leaves something to be desired, and we can hope things have changed since this interview, or at least the signing. At least his dad, Calvin, has kept his head about him.
Adding additional smart guys to the organization calls to mind Bruce's article about Dr. Randy Gregg:
Randy Gregg may have been new to university hockey that season, but he wasn’t new to university life. Indeed he was in his fourth year medicine, having been accepted as a 16-year-old whiz kid. He played midget and juvenile hockey the early years before deciding to try out for the Bears. It turned into a four-year gig as he continued the onerous trek through medical school.
I'm not a fan of Oilers' management, their performance over the last five years, the path they've taken in re/building the Oilers, or the bill of goods they've been able to sell the fans, but I continue to admire Kevin Lowe's predilection for intelligent players. Time and time again since the lockout, the Oilers have shown a willingness to specifically seek out intelligent players through the draft and free agency, bucking the trend of drafting loyal soldiers willing to run through a brick wall without thinking about it. "Hockey smarts" is a common hockey term, often discussed, especially at draft time and when describing players perceived as overachievers, but real intelligence is overlooked by those who cover the sport. Intelligence is often underrated as an asset in team-building, especially in a sport where heart, courage, and especially obedience are the primary virtues desired by coaches at all levels.
*Note to artistic Oklahoma City fans, or Photoshop junkies, this image is screaming out for some Tanner House rework.