If it seems that Adam Pelech is comfortable in his role as one of the Erie Otters’ elder statesmen, it may be because it’s a position he feels he’s played for a few years already.
“I’ve been one of the older guys for the past three years, just because of how young this team has been,” he said. “It’s a role I enjoy.”
Pelech, who was selected in the third round, 65th overall, of the 2012 NHL Draft by the New York Islanders, is a key player on a resurgent Otters’ squad. Along with Connor Crisp, Pelech was a rookie on the 2010-11 team that finished with 40 wins and lost in the first round of the OHL playoffs. Since then, the Otters have suffered through some very lean years, with 10 and 19 wins respectively.
And while many of the names have remained the same over the past couple of years, the 6’2, 210-pound blueliner said the Otters, who recently set a franchise record with 11 straight wins en route to a 16-3-1-0 start, have had a huge addition to the roster — confidence.
“I think the past two years we were a really young team and we didn’t have confidence,” he said. “You look at the roster we have now and it’s pretty much the same. We’ve added a couple of players, but the biggest thing is that we have that confidence — it’s something we didn’t have here before.”
Pelech has been known more for his defensive play the past few seasons, scoring only 11 goals and 62 points in 168 games. This season, he’s approaching a point-per-game pace with 15 points, including five goals, in 20 games. While defense remains the focus, Pelech said adding an offensive element was a conscious goal this year.
“It’s definitely something I wanted to add,” Pelech said. “It’s something that’s come with extra experience along with the fact that we’re having team success this year. I’m just trying to make the smart plays and it’s working.”
Pelech said he benefits from the experiences shared by his older brothers Matt and Michael. Matt, a former first-round draft pick of the Calgary Flames, started his career as a defenseman, but has transitioned to forward and is now in the San Jose Sharks’ system (two NHL games played so far this season); Michael, a centre, was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings and is currently playing in the ECHL with the Cincinnati Cyclones.
“We all work out together and work on the ice,” he said. “We all help each other, but they especially help me out because they’ve got more experience than I do.
“They’ve gone through what I’m currently going through.”
Adam said he and Matt used to be able to share tips much more, but since the elder’s position change, the shared experiences are few and far between.
“When he was still a defenseman we could talk about things more,” Pelech explained. “Now it’s kind of weird since he’s a forward.”
Pelech said he benefited from attending the Islanders’ camp this summer, especially considering that he was recovering from off-season wrist surgery to clear up an issue that had been nagging him since the 2011-12 season.
“It was good. I was injured the past summer, so it was good to get out there, experience the game and talk to the team so that I can get an idea of what they want out of me,” he said, adding that those expectations are for him to continue along his current path.
“It’s just a lot of hard work. Putting in good practices and applying that to the game,” he said. “That’s what they’re looking for.”
He also took the opportunity to get some expert advice on his nutritional and exercise regimens.
“We talked about taking care of my body, working out, and eating the right things,” he explained. “It’s not new information, but they’re a lot more knowledgeable than we are about this stuff — they’re the experts.”
Pelech’s looking forward to continuing the Otters’ early season success and returning to the playoffs for the first time in a couple of seasons. To help the team reach those goals, he said he wants to improve on his speed and physicality.
“I think I’ve always needed to improve my skating,” he said. “I also want to be a tougher player to play against — not so much fighting, but battling hard in the corners and being one of those players that’s tough to face every night.”
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