Nineteen-year-old Andrey Pedan is among those Russians who preferred venturing in the Canadian junior leagues system, rather than going for the usual route for European players; playing junior hockey back home then signing a contract directly with their draft team several years later. "My agent Alexei Dementiev advised me to go and play in the OHL, and this is what I did as I completely trust him. I think it was a good decision, I already adapted to the small ice surface last year and this year I further improved my game", Pedan said in Russian.
The native of Kaunas, Lithuania, still didn't sign a contract with the Islanders, which drafted him during the third round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, with the 63rd overall pick. "As far as I know, the Islanders are planning to start discussing a contract with me just after the end of the season", Pedan explained.
The large sized defenseman (6'4, 205 pounds) significantly improved his numbers in his second season in North America. In 2010-11, his first year with the Guelph Storm of the OHL, Pedan amassed 12 points during the regular season (but in the post season his offensive production went up to eight assists in six games), while in the 2011-12 campaign he scored 10 goals and 30 assists in 63 regular season contests.
The Islanders' prospect didn't hesitate to identify the areas in which he progressed the most.
"I think that I improved a lot," Pedan said. "More than everything, I learned to react faster during those situations in which I don't have the puck possession. But I learned to react better and faster also when I control the puck. I also got more ice time this season."
With that being said, he should probably learn a thing or two about staying out of the sin bin, as he collected 152 penalty minutes during the regular season and already 14 in just six playoff games played so far. "Maybe it's because refs are always paying attention on what I do", Pedan joked.
An aspect that contributed to the spike penalty minutes is the fact that, unlike many other Russian players, Pedan is more than willing to drop the gloves. "Sometimes you just have to do it. You have to step up for your team or linemates when needed."
It was a bit surprising not to see Pedan's name in Team Russia roster for the latest WJC held in Alberta, in which the Russian side grabbed a silver medal after losing the gold to Sweden after a very tough, thrilling final game decided by an OT goal scored by forward Mika Zabinejad (OTT).
There were rumors that team Russia head coach Valery Bragin wasn't satisfied by Pedan's game during the 2011 Subway Super Series. "Of course, not being invited to the WJC was tough to swallow, but what can I do? It was our coach's decision."
Next year's WJC will be held in Ufa, Russia. Playing in the Mother Land will be a huge stimulus for a lot of players, and Pedan makes no exception. "I truly want to get on the roster for the next WJC, I will do everything I can."
The blueliner, whose younger brother Ruslan plays also in North America, in the NAHL, took part in this year's Islanders' rookie camp. "Isles' rookie camp left in me only the best impressions. It was great, the organization level was very, very high."
During the camp, Pedan had a chance to meet his fellow countryman Kirill Kabanov (NYI). "I talked with him during the practices. A very good guy and a very good player too!"
The 2012 NHL Entry Draft will be interesting for Russians as Mikhail Grigorenko and Nail Yakupov has a chance to get picked first and second overall, like it was for Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin in 2004, the first time two Russians were drafted with the first and second overall pick. Talking about the draft, however, Pedan didn't want to commit himself with a forecast: "Both are great players, it's impossible to concretely say who will be picked first."
Pedan, who declared to pattern his game after Predators' captain Shea Weber, misses, just like most of young people working abroad, his family, friends, and his girlfriend Anna, but he admitted he never thought about getting back home. Definitely something the Islanders' board will be happy to know as it isn't always easy to anticipate Russian players' decisions in terms of commitment to North America, especially since the birth of the KHL back in 2008.
They will be also happy to know that Pedan is staying focused on his path towards the world's top league, as he is very determinate to do so. "Playing in the NHL is my number one goal."
If Pedan keeps progressing like he has in Guelph, the Islanders might help make that dream come true at the end of the season.