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Theo Peckham - #15 in Copper & Blue's Top 25 Under 25

You've got to love that grin.
You've got to love that grin.

When Theo Peckham was called up in October of 2009, I saw Peckham's potential as a fifth or sixth defensemen, and identified Rick Berry as a pretty good comparable. So far, that comparison is tracking well enough, although Peckham is clearly ahead by some measures. For example, like Berry, Peckham played his first full NHL season at 23, but unlike Berry, Peckham played a good portion of those minutes on one of the top two pairings (he played 18:36 per game compared to 11:23 per game for Berry). Of course, Peckham was generally overwhelmed in those minutes, while Berry had to crack the 2001-02 Colorado Avalanche, a team that was just a wee bit better than last year's Oilers. Berry played in parts of two more seasons before washing out of the NHL after 197 games, a casualty of the "new NHL" after the lockout.

Theo Peckham has now played 148 games in the NHL, but has had trouble getting into the Oilers' lineup consistently when everyone is healthy. That means not being able to outplay Cam Barker or Andy Sutton. That's a problem. Is Theo Peckham on his way out of the NHL?

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Jon Ryan Scott
15 Theo Peckham 11/10/87
75 2006
8 16 11 20 16 17 17

Previous Rank: 14

Safe to say that Ben doesn't think so. Either that, or he thinks that our group of U25 players is even more shallow than I do. Maybe a bit of both. When a twenty-four-year-old in his fifth pro season who isn't an everyday player in the NHL is ranked in the top twenty by everyone on the panel, you know that there are a lot of longshots in the mix.

So why am I down on Peckham? I'll let Derek summarize:

Peckham needs to better his positioning and awareness before he can be effective. His propensity to take dumb penalties is magnified by him always being out of position.

That's pretty much it!

The puck generally isn't moving the right way when Peckham is on the ice. His Corsi rate last season was worse than everyone save Taylor Chorney and Jason Strudwick, two guys who probably didn't belong in the NHL. This season, he bests only Ryan Whitney and Cam Barker, and given Whitney's injuries, that's two more players who haven't been good NHL options. If we turn to scoring chances, when playing with anyone but Tom Gilbert his scoring chance percentage is abysmal. Last year it was 40%. This year, I don't have his Gilbert splits, but he was trucking along at 42% overall through the first half.

Lest we think this is a product of poor teammates, Peckham is well down the list on David Staples' individual scoring chances project with a whopping -78 rating, which is last on the team by a mile. His individual scoring chance percentage of 29% is atrocious, but not quite last thanks to Taylor Chorney and Colten Teubert, two more players who - you guessed it - don't belong in the NHL.

Penalties. Peckham takes a lot of them. Last season, he was third in the NHL among all players with 38 minor penalties. This year, he's tied for 15th with 22. Looking at just defenders, he's one of three Oilers in the top fifteen for penalties taken per sixty minutes. Last season, he was among the top ten. That's a lot of penalties, and it takes an awful lot of good play to make up for that much time sitting in the box.

There you go. Right now, Theo Peckham is a bad defenseman. So how does he make the top twenty on every ballot? I think there are three big reasons. First, he's in the NHL. On some level, he's made it, and if given enough chances, he could still develop into that solid fifth or sixth defender on a good team. Second, after you get past the wunderkinds, the Oilers don't exactly have a heaping helping of amazing prospects. Everyone has their flaws, and that will keep propping Peckham up. Third, he's really likable. He pounded Claude Lemieux. He kept Max Lapierre from turtling. He always has a huge grin on his face. I have him as high as I do because I think that he still has a chance to become a bit more disciplined, and improve his overall game enough to hit that reliable five or six spot, and because, if he does, the finished product will no doubt bring a smile to my face many times each year.