Located along the Otonabee River a little more than an hour northeast of Toronto, Peterborough, Ont., has been cultivating young NHL talent since the Montreal Canadiens planted the seeds of greatness there in the 1950s.
In Peterborough the air is heavy with the intoxicating aroma of oatmeal from the nearby Quaker plant with a trace of NHL potential wafting down George Street from the grand old Memorial Arena on Lansdowne. During the bitter, blowing winters, Peterborough is a hot stop for NHL scouts sniffing for prospects. And why not? The Petes have graduated more NHL players – Steve Yzerman and Chris Pronger to name a couple – than any other Canadian junior team.
One of the latest full-time grads is Edmonton Oilers rookie Liam Reddox.
“We followed him in his first year and then in his draft year exclusively,” said Edmonton Oilers head scout Stu McGregor. “He’s always been a high-scoring player who had good numbers in Tier-II (Jr. A). If I remember right, he was rookie of the year in the Ontario Provincial Junior League, or at least for his division. Then he had a great year as a 17-year-old, scored some points and continued on.”
While with the OPJHL’s Wellington Dukes in 2002-03, Reddox notched 64 points in 45 games, but went scoreless in four call-up games to the Petes. The following year, he scored 64 points in 68 games as an OHL rookie and was drafted in the fourth round by the Oilers in 2004. After two more productive seasons with the Petes, Reddox joined the ECHL’s Stockton Thunder.
His first pro experience was trying, as he managed only 26 points in 70 games. But Reddox recognized the work he would have to put in to move to the next level and impressed the Oilers brass with how he responded to a setback season.
“I think he really had a great summer after his first pro season with Stockton of the East Coast League and got himself in just tremendous shape,” McGregor said. “He worked on his foot speed and to add that to the package of his hockey sense and hockey skill is what gave him a great opportunity the following year in Springfield and then this year obviously coming up to play regularly.”
Reddox was scheduled to play a second season in the American League with Springfield this year, but after a quick start and more improvement he found himself a part of the Edmonton roster. Even though he isn’t the offensive wizard he was in junior, Reddox is dangerous on a checking line because he still has those instincts and it didn’t take him long to record his first NHL marker.
“My first game up in Edmonton this year against Colorado,” Reddox recalled with a grin. “Second period. I took a shot off the boards and put it up top on (Peter) Budaj and that was an incredible feeling.”
But even though he only has nine points in 40 games this season, don’t let it distract you from the fight he brings to the game. As Reddox has moved up through the ranks he’s had to adapt, which isn’t easy for a 5-foot-10 slickster to do. He’s had some good teachers guide his game along the way and one of them is still on the bench with him today.
“The assistant coach here, Kelly Buchberger, he was down with me in Springy (Springfield) last year and he really helped me become a complete player – playing with the puck at both ends of the ice – and that’s really helped me get to the next level,” Reddox said.
Three years ago ‘Little Liam,’ as some dubbed him, was an offensive cog taking the Peterborough Petes to the 2006 Memorial Cup tournament, but now he’s evolved into a grizzly grinder on a depth line with the Oil. And while most of the elite NHL scorers can look pretty on the ice, Reddox’s game now lends itself to a few bumps here or there. In fact, he was sporting a plump lip after Saturday’s win in Toronto.
“Ah nothing,” Reddox laughed. “Just a puck in the face.”
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