By Ryan Dittrick
EDMONTON, Alberta – Brandon Davidson has overcome a lot in his brief professional career.
Seemingly blind to the odds stacked against him, the former Pats captain has persevered at every turn — personally, and within the game he loves so dearly.
Davidson, the 162nd pick in the 2010 Draft, is now “living in the moment” after getting his first call to the NHL.
“It’s been an amazing experience,” Davidson said after a 90-minute practice Wednesday at Rexall Place. “I’m excited from the second I get up to the second I go to bed. I’m still on Cloud 9 right now.
“I’d like to get in a game, I’m eager for sure, but I know that will come. In the meantime, my focus is on working hard in practice, pushing the pace and making a good impression. I’m willing to do anything. If I get the opportunity [to play], I’ll be ready to go.”
Davidson had a strong training camp and appeared in two pre-season games, tallying one assist in the process, but was later assigned to the Oilers’ AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City on Sept. 18.
The return flight wasn’t too far off, though.
“I was a little disappointed with how early I went home, but I knew there was a bit of a numbers situation (on defence),” Davidson said. “It was still a great experience and I got some excellent feedback from the Oilers before going down to OKC. They were very pleased with my development and with what I showed at camp. Basically the message was, ‘Be ready to go, because at any time you could get called up’ — and I didn’t have to wait too long, so that was nice.”
With a healthy group on defence, Davidson will likely not appear in any games on this current stint. In place of game action, however, he’s soaking up as much as possible in practice and by participating in the pre-game skates prior to puck drop.
As a quick and attentive learner, it’s all about staying in that rhythmic game routine.
“I’m all ears and have 21 questions every practice,” Davidson said. “(Captain Andrew) Ference has been a great role model for me — (Mike) Brown, (Jeff) Petry and (Ladislav) Smid, too. Those guys have been around for a long time and they have a winning culture about them. It’s in my best interest to ask as many questions as I can, making sure all the little things are there. They’ve all been huge in helping me along and making me feel comfortable throughout my stay.”
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound defenceman spent three seasons in Regina, scoring 22 goals and 135 points in 200 career games before graduating to the pros.
Splitting the 2012-13 campaign with the Barons and Stockton Thunder of the ECHL, Davidson, 22, had an incredible year. The product of Lethbridge, Alberta, was diagnosed with testicular cancer last October, but made a miraculous return to the sport less than three months later after undergoing successful chemotherapy treatment.
Playing big minutes alongside longtime AHL vet Garrett Stafford and recording six assists in 17 games, Davidson emerged as one of the Barons’ top defencemen in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
He looked like a seasoned pro and was consistently being rewarded for his exceptional play.
“That was an important push for me,” Davidson said. “I hadn’t had much of a season to show what I had, so I really wanted to make a good impression leading into the summer. I thought I performed well in the playoffs last year and it’s too bad we didn’t get a Calder Cup, but it was still an awesome experience.
“I’m glad I’m here now and that they see something in me.”
Davidson arrived back in Edmonton on Oct. 6 and was in attendance at Rexall Place when the Oilers mounted a phenomenal comeback against the New Jersey Devils. Rallying back from a 3-0, third-period deficit, the Oilers emerged victorious 5-4 in a shootout.
It was one of the most unlikely comebacks in club history, one that gave Davidson a quick taste of what life might be like as an Oiler someday.
“I haven’t seen anything like that in a long, long time,” Davidson said. “Just to be in the building, to feel the fans and all the excitement, it makes me even more eager to get in the lineup and be a part of it all up close.”
— Ryan Dittrick | @ryandittrick