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Top 25 Under 25 - #21 Theo Peckham

Ronald Martinez

In what will be Theo Peckham's final appearance in the Top 25 Under 25, he continues to rumble down the list in reverse. In the Winter 2011 edition, Peckham peaked at #10, before dropping to #14, then #15, and finally #21. That trajectory tells you exactly what kind of year Peckham had. I've written about his struggles earlier this off-season, and suggested that there was a pretty good chance he wouldn't be back in 2011-12 based on his performance and the number of spots the Oilers had already committed to other defensemen. But Peckham made it through the draft untraded, and when he received a qualifying offer, he made sure to sign it. It looks like Theo Peckham is going to get another chance.

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Alan
Jon Ryan Scott
21 Theo Peckham 1987-11-10
75 2006
23 18 21 16 25 20 19 21

Previous Rank: 15

Despite the negative commentary Peckham's received in these parts over the last year or so, no one had Peckham ranked lower than #25. Now, you can look at that and say that it's because we're pessimists about a lot of Edmonton's depth prospects, or you can look at that and say that it's because we're optimistic about Peckham's chances of a rebound season. It's probably a little of both, but I'll focus in on the reasons for optimism.

The first reason to be optimistic is that Theo Peckham hasn't really ever been able to find his legs against the flotsam of the NHL. During a fair chunk of the 2010-11 season, Peckham played alongside Tom Gilbert and tried to handle the opposition's best. During the 2011-12 season, Peckham's responsibilities were dialed back, but he still played more difficult minutes than many of Edmonton's other bottom pairing men. Does that make Peckham a good player? No, but it does suggest that if he's on a protected third pairing, he may be able to keep his head above water.

His other positive attributes should help him to turn breaking even into a career, so long as he's willing to continue playing a very physical game. Peckham is a player that will actually be on the ice with some of the team's young stars, so he's in a much better position to step in immediately if someone pushes the envelope (example). There's a chance that this part of his game fades into the background after enduring two concussions last season, but I doubt that will be the case.

Finally, Peckham is a young player who got a real kick in the ass last year. He knows that he didn't play all that well last year, knows that he'll need to be better to keep a spot on this team going forward, and knows that he's had an entire summer to put himself in a position to impress the coaching staff from the day he arrives at training camp. His play in the AHL over the years suggests that he may have the ability to become an NHL player, and he certainly sounds determined to get his spot back:

When you don't play to the best of your ability, there are two ways you can go about it. You can let it drag your career down or take it as an opportunity to show not only the coaching staff but this town that you have a lot more left and you can play a lot better. I'm not going to wait and see what happens. I'm just going to go in and take my spot. I'll let that be known.

With seven other defenders on the roster (Petry, Potter, Schultz, Schultz, Smid, Sutton, Whitney) and three more with an outside shot at making the team (Fedun, Plante, Teubert), Theo Peckham isn't in an ideal position heading into training camp. But he's not in a terrible spot either. He's got a one-way contract, some NHL experience, and a skill-set that the Oilers love. He'll certainly get a chance.