Bleacher Report writers Nick Frost and Sean Lennie present "Chances of Cracking The Oilers Lineup," a six-week series dedicated to determining which players on the bubble have a shot at of making the Edmonton Oilers' 2009-10 roster. Each week, we will examine a different youngster's chances—last week, we featured Gilbert Brule; this week, defenceman Theo Peckham.
After being selected in the third round by the Edmonton Oilers nearly three years ago, Theo Peckham has climbed a long way up the proverbial ladder.
Every year since turning pro, the 21-year-old has demonstrated a persistent determination in becoming the team's most NHL-ready prospect in the minor leagues. Along the way, he has made his presence felt in a number of opportunities with the AHL's Springfield Falcons, in the annual Oilers' rookies game against the University of Alberta, and with his 16 NHL games thus far.
For the time being, though, Peckham finds himself on the outside looking in. And with the Oilers rocking a full slate of experienced NHL defencemen yet again, the youngster will be hard-pressed to bump one of them out.
Straight up, Peckham is a bruiser. Since his days stirring up trouble in the OHL, he's been renowned for his physical qualities and his unwillingness to back down from a fight.
Standing tall at 6'1" and 216 pounds "Pecks"—as he's affectionately known to Oilers fans—brings an exciting big-body presence and doesn't shy away from laying opposing players out along the boards or in open-ice—just ask Blue Jackets forward Jared Boll.
Peckham has also been known to defend his goaltender's crease following skirmishes in front of the net.
His willingness to defend teammates also demonstrates that Peckham is a player with tremendous character, and someone who could potentially be a leader both on the ice and in the dressing room. Should he ever snag a regular spot in an NHL lineup, don't be surprised if Peckham is wearing an "A" on his jersey somewhere far down the road.
Outside of the obvious physical components that he brings—which are still necessary for every team to survive in the NHL—Peckham is pretty limited to what else he can do.
The main concern since being drafted back in 2006 is that his hockey sense and skating ability have been called into question. Having those components of one's game set in stone, at the very least, are necessary to maintain consistency within a niche.
A player must still be able to read the play and be able to skate in order to backcheck or hit.
Due to his one-dimensionality as a bruiser, Peckham only really has one of two potential spots that he can land in the Oilers lineup at the present time: The five-six defence pairing.
In order to get there, he'll have to battle directly against veteran blueliner Steve Staios and experienced grinder Ladislav Smid.
With 14 years of NHL experience and one of the team's assistant captain roles held down, Staios is a lock as Edmonton's No. 5 defenceman.
Smid, meanwhile, has been improving in his role as the sandpaper on the Oilers' blueline and recently signed on for another two years with the club. Because of this, if the team were to move him via trade, any potential deal would, at this point, be seen as very unsavoury.
So, what are his chances?
There's no doubt that Peckham has an NHL future ahead of him.
However, barring one of the Oilers current top-six defencemen suffering a significant injury in training camp, or an unforeseen trade being announced in the near future, Peckham's chances of being on the opening day roster this season are slim to none.
With that in mind, however, the chance that Peckham will be the first blueliner called up from the AHL in a time of need is almost certainly 100 percent.
Be sure to check out Part Four next week, when Sean Lennie takes an in-depth look at Alex Plante.
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