With prospect camp set to begin on September 6th just north of Edmonton in St. Albert, almost 40 players will be trying to gain the attention and respect of the Edmonton Oilers brass. Included in the mix is the ‘Duo from Peterborough’, winger Liam Reddox and defenseman Bryan Young.
The Oilers chose Reddox and Young with back-to-back selections during the 2004 draft in Carolina. Edmonton took Reddox with their fourth round pick, 112th overall, and followed that up in the fifth round by grabbing Young 146th overall. Both players attended training camp in the fall of 2004 in Sherwood Park, but at the time, neither stood apart from the crowd and both appeared to have a stereotypical case of being star-struck.
Reddox, then a soft-spoken and baby-faced 18-year-old, was clearly intimidated by being around older and more experienced players and his play on the ice showed it.
“It’s pretty nerve-racking, but I just have to loosen up and I think it will be a good thing,” he told Hockey’s Future at the time, after answering a handful of questions with a nervous abruptness.
In his draft year, Reddox led the Petes in scoring with an impressive 31 goals and 64 points, well ahead of Jamie Tardif and Daniel Ryder (CGY). His goal total was also slightly better than that of Edmonton’s first round selection Rob Schremp, who ended the year with 30.
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The Oilers had Reddox slotted in their ‘must get’ file when they went into the draft weekend and as VP of Hockey Operations Kevin Prendergast explained, the Whitby, Ontario product was a favorite of theirs all year.
“Reddox is a kid that everyone on our staff came away with the same impression of in that there’s an upside to this kid and he just finds ways to get it done,” Prendergast explained to Hockey’s Future last April. “It might not be pretty some nights but in the end it gets done and his coach, Dick Todd, just loves him and says they need him because he does the little things right and he finds ways to win games for them.”
Coach Dick Todd has been around hockey for a very long time. After being the Peterborough bench boss for 13 seasons through the 80’s and early 90’s, Todd tried his hand at the NHL level as an assistant coach of the New York Rangers. During his first stint with the Petes, Todd oversaw the development of current NHL stars like Chris Pronger, Mike Ricci, Tie Domi and Steve Yzerman.
Reddox struggled out of the gate in 2004-05 and one OHL based scout felt that it was a typical case of a drafted player not working as hard as he did in his draft year. Eventually the forward found his groove, things started happening for him and the points began to mount. By the end of the campaign, Reddox had once again captured top spot on the team with an impressive 36 goals and 82 points.
“He has a way of scoring goals that aren’t highlight goals and then every once in a while he can bring you out of your seat,” said one OHL source. “He gets so many goals that are just in tight where little guys aren’t supposed to score goals.”
His two solid seasons in the OHL earned Reddox an invite to Team Canada’s summer World Junior Camp held in Whistler B.C. a month ago. Although he did not set the world on fire while he was there, Prendergast feels that Reddox is the type of player that people consider a slow starter.
“He didn’t get off to a very good start last year, he was just sort of ‘there’,” said Prendergast. “It’s the same way he was for the first few days of the Canada camp where he just sort of blended in.”
“With a lot of kids, it takes until they get into their comfort zone and they’re comfortable with their surroundings before they start to play the way they are capable of playing,” he theorized. “We went through that with Danny Baum in his first few camps where he was a physical player but never touched anybody through two camps. He said he had trouble trying to play that way against his own teammates, which is probably the same thing that Liam is going through.”
When asked about the slow start tendencies of his leading scorer, coach Todd said he felt it was a line change he made that sparked Reddox last year.
“He only had one goal after the first five games and not a lot after the first nine, so everybody around here was quite concerned and folks here thought he wasn’t showing me what he had,” the coach told Hockey’s Future recently. “We put together a couple of effective power play units and he moved off his own line to what you might call the ‘older line’, although by the end of the year both power play units were equal. He started to gain confidence and felt comfortable out there because he wasn’t trying to do it himself as much, he started to get into a mode where he was frustrated and trying to do too much himself.”
Reddox’s regular linemates are Ryder and Patrick Kaleta (BUF) and has been that way for the most part for the past two seasons. Quiet and shy off the ice, coach Todd certainly likes what Reddox brings to the table for his club on a nightly basis.
“He’s not a big guy and he’s got some pretty good quickness and skills for a junior player and he can score,” said Todd. “He scored some exceptionally nifty goals during the course of the year so he was a very positive factor for our team.”
“He’s a laid back kid that doesn’t want to take recognition, he wants to pass it on to his teammates,” added the bench boss. “He’s almost afraid to be regarded as your leader it looks like. He gives the impression that he plays for the team and that’s the way his focus is. In some ways that’s not great, but in other ways it is.”
Wanting to see Reddox break out of his introverted shell and become more of a leader, Todd is happy with the way the 19-year-old has come to the OHL team’s camp this year.
“I think when you have an air about you that you’re confident and positive and show everybody that you’re willing to take the ball, that that can bring everybody else along but if you’re quiet and unassuming, nobody’s quite sure what’s going to happen,” laughed Todd. “He’s got that red hair and it was kind of long last year, but now he’s completely shaved his head bald and he hasn’t got much sun so he looks like a cancer patient!”
Suffice to say that with Peterborough one of the early favorites to come out of the OHL this year, expectations on Reddox have never been higher.
“They’re going to have a really good team and Liam had 82 points last year so he could be in for a 100-point season,” said Prendergast.
The success of the club over the course of the year though may lie in their ability to keep the puck out of their own net. The Petes recently acquired goaltender David Shantz (FLA) which will help, but are also going to be looking at their blueliners such as 19-year-old Bryan Young.
“Bryan is a rugged defenseman; he’s not huge but he’s so very stocky and solid on his feet so that his strength is a real factor on the ice,” coach Todd described. “He’s a farm boy, kind of a shy kid as well but this year he came in and talked to me and I think he’s growing out of that shyness a bit and he can talk to you and look you in the face and I take that as a real positive for him.”
Young doesn’t receive a lot of notoriety because as a defensive-minded rearguard, players who contribute more to the score sheet often overshadow him.
“Last year he played a lot of the year with Mark Flood who was our captain,” Todd explained. “Mark’s a really talented puck carrier so ‘Younger’, although I think he has the ability to do a lot more with the puck than he did, given the fact that ‘Flooder’ was a quick guy who could leave the zone with the puck he used to try to get the puck over to him. This year we’re going to encourage Bryan to use his puck handling and to take charge a little more in his own zone, be a little more of a leader.”
In his draft year, the Oilers were attracted to the toughness and edge that Young played with on a regular basis. It’s still one of the aspects of Young’s game that the scouting staff likes the most. Names that have been used to compare Young’s playing style have included his own personal favorite player Adam Foote as well as current Oiler GM Kevin Lowe.
“That’s not a bad comparison,” agreed Prendergast. “On the ice he’s a mean bastard yet when you talk to him off the ice he’s the nicest kid in the world and he’s very quiet, of course, the quiet ones are usually the worst right?”
“Over the course of last year in Peterborough we watched him very closely and he played against the top lines every night and he handled these guys really well,” Prendergast continued. “He’s got to get bigger and stronger but you’re right, he doesn’t mind two-handing you or spearing you; he does what it takes to get the job done.”
Coach Todd recognized that Young’s aggressiveness was often over the top and that he needed to rein him in a bit for the betterment of the team.
“He was a bit like Bryan Marchment who will just tear across the ice to hit somebody and if the lead guy dumps the puck off to somebody it’s basically a breakaway,” Todd explained. “I probably really took that part of his game away from him so he didn’t have that many of those crashing hits but then he didn’t give up too many 2-on-1’s either so I would say he really became a far more disciplined player.”
Last season Young played through the pain of a hip pointer injury because at the time, the Petes were short on blueliner as doctors said that as much as he needed to rest the injury he also couldn’t really hurt it more by playing.
Through two seasons with the Petes, Young has scored just a single goal and added nine assists for a total of 20 points in 120 games. In that same time span he has recorded 107 minutes in penalties, the majority of which came during the 2003-04 season prior to coach Todd rejoining the team.
“The team went from being almost the most penalized in the league the previous year to being close to the least penalized team last year,” Todd stated proudly. “That was a big factor in our turnaround in that we had a good power play and we didn’t take a lot of penalties. I think our team is better this year, or should be better, and that he will probably be able to play a tougher game. Saying that though, with these new rules, penalties are going to be crazy this year I think, particularly early so he’ll be more of a penalty killer than a power play guy. I hope he can adapt to the new rules, which may not be in his favor.”
So what is the coach hoping to get out of Young this year?
“I think or I hope Bryan can be more of a Scott Stevens in the way that Stevens one year shows you that he’s a good defensive defenseman and then in other years he gets on the power play and suddenly you see he can put some numbers up,” said the coach. “Now, we don’t have that coming from Bryan Young but I think he’s got more to offer and he can mature in his skill level with the puck and in the right situations I’m not sure that he wouldn’t get some points.”
Certainly the physical prowess of Stevens is already part of Young’s game though.
“I think if you’re a player on the opposition, when he’s on the ice, you quickly become aware of it and decide that it’s not such a good idea to be too close to that side. He has that kind of an influence at this level, players have to keep their head up,” said Todd before recounting one particular instance from last year’s playoffs. “One of the (St. Mike’s) players came flying down the boards and he took him out, it was a very clean hit but the guy was gone for the year.”
Although Young has been playing under the radar and not getting a lot of attention, the Oilers are well aware of his talents and what he has to offer their organization.
“At the end of each night you look and he’s a plus player and he’d played against the opposition’s top line,” Prendergast said. “Dick Todd is very high on him. He reminds me an awful lot of where we are with (Troy) Bodie in that the more patience you have with them the better he is going to get. There’s nothing outrageous that sticks out in his game, he’s just very steady. He’s certainly a physical player, he’s a very quiet young man, he works on the farm in the mornings before going to school; he’s a blue-collar kid.”
What says Edmonton Oiler more than that?
Both Reddox and Young will be at the Oilers prospect camp and main training camp before returning to the Petes this year where as stated earlier, they are expected to challenge for the OHL crown this year. 2004-05 could be a banner year for the duo from Peterborough.
Quotes on Reddox and Young
“This kid is small but he skates very well with top speed and acceleration and he can put up points so we zeroed in on him.”
–Oiler scout Chris McCarthy on Reddox after the 2004 draft.
“Liam has a lot of drive in him, he goes to the net and he’s not afraid to go into tough areas, he handles the puck very well and he’s got a great shot, so when we’re looking for kids who can put the puck in the net he’s one that fits that bill.”
–Prendergast for the Oiler draft review at Hockey’s Future.
“I had high expectations going in and just tried to play my game and have confidence and it worked well for me.”
–Reddox after his rookie campaign where he lead the Petes in scoring with 64 points.
“If Robbie Schremp and Liam Reddox could some how splat into each other like a couple pieces of Play-Doh, you’d have a 100-goal scorer because Liam would score 50 from in tight and Robbie will score 50 absolute highlights.”
–Oiler scout Brad Davis
“With Young, every time a scout sent me a report they liked him better than the time before. He improved all year and we really started liking him from about Christmas on and we watched him really closely. When we left the hotel in the morning of day 2, Reddox and Young were the two guys we really wanted so we were pretty happy.”
–Prendergast after the 2004 draft.
“I’d say that I’m a stay at home defenseman, try to play physical and make it tough on the opposing forwards as much as I can.”
–Bryan Young’s self-analysis during the 2004-05 training camp.
“Physically he has been unbelievable, he kills every penalty and somebody comes off limping after every one of them.”
–OHL scout’s report on Young at the mid-point of the 2004-05 season.
“(GM) Jeff Twohey said they gave him shit one day for playing so awful and they told him he looked tired and he said ‘well, I am kind of tired.’ He’ll never offer why or have an excuse and so finally they find out that he had been cleaning barns for 13 or 14 hours that day before the game started because his dad was sick. That’s what kind of kid he is.”
–OHL scout’s comment last year.
“This guy is the best open-ice hitter in the OHL.”
–OHL source referring to Young.
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