“Going through those things can make you stronger.”
Brandon Davidson is no stranger to adversity.
“Nothing was ever given to him,” said Oklahoma City Barons Head Coach Todd Nelson, who is in Penticton, B.C. for the Young Stars Classic overseeing the Oilers prospects. “He has to work for everything he gets and he’s always going to be a fighter. When you have people like that, they’re going to get better and better.”
Although the defenceman would ultimately like to move on from the life altering circumstances that befell him in 2012, the truth is… it is a part of him. He survived it.
“It speaks volumes about who he is as a person. To overcome the obstacles he did was very inspirational to everybody around our organization and when he came back, he came back better than when he left when he was sick.”
As most in the hockey community know by now, Davidson, a top prospect for the Oilers, was diagnosed with testicular cancer in November of 2012. Three months later, he beat it and returned to the ice for the OKC Barons.
“I kept a good attitude throughout the whole thing,” said Davidson. “It plays tricks on your mind when you’re not playing especially when you’re going through a life crisis. It played tricks on me but I really want this. This is all I’ve known and I knew I had lost valuable time to prove that I could be here.”
Put aside the adversity now. Davidson did it and in doing so, he became the Barons most consistent and even dominant defenceman en route to a Western Conference Calder Cup Finals run.
“He played so extremely well for us down the stretch,” said Nelson, looking back on the end of a tumultuous season. “We’re definitely hoping he picks up for us where he left off. Because he is a very dominant guy for us… If he ends up in Oklahoma City, he’ll be a big part of our team. Hopefully he makes the big club.
“He had a great attitude and came back a better player. His attitude helped him through those situations and he’s always been a good character kid.”
Moving on from the past, Davidson now zeroes in on a new kind of adversity, one less life altering but still important. He has high aspirations to make the Oilers roster. Despite the influx of talent on the Oilers blueline and the numbers game to climb the depth chart, Davidson remains focused.
“I want to be at the highest level, the NHL.”
The Oilers are trending to a more gritty, physical and size-oriented blueline. One must only look to recent defensive prospects like Martin Marincin, Martin Gernat, Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse to see, size matters to this Oilers regime.
Despite standing 6’2”, Davidson is the smallest defenceman on the Oilers Young Stars roster, but he likes the switch in mentality of his organization.
“It’s a great transition I think,” said Davidson. “It’s definitely going to improve (the Oilers). You can see here now the calibre of players we have on the back-end and even the defencemen that are here for tryouts. It only makes everything more competitive and everybody is fighting for that spot on the big club.”
He embraces the competition.
“Battling with other players, it only makes you better. I think that’s the mentality that we want here. It’s good to compete for jobs and work hard.
“I know we have a lot of numbers. Especially in the NHL club right now for defencemen, but I’m still fighting for a spot and if I can beat a guy out, I’ll beat a guy out."
Davidson could not sit idly by this summer with the knowledge that he played well with the Barons upon his return. He may embrace the competition but he also prepared for it, bulking up his playing weight by more than 10 pounds and working diligently to become more physical.
“I knew I needed to be bigger and stronger in front of the net and I know my role, I have to be a puck moving defenceman. But I also have to be able to move guys in front of the net. My defensive game needed me to be a little bigger so that’s what I am doing by trying to get bigger, faster and stronger.
“I’m always working hard and always trying to be better and if an opportunity comes knocking, I’m ready. I’m going to push for a spot. That’s the ultimate goal.”
With the proverbial log jam of defensive prospect depth there’s a chance Davidson will have to continue to hone his skills in the American Hockey League. But the good news for Oilers fans is, if he does get sent down, there will be a lot of game tape on the young prospect as he figures to play a lot.
“There’s a lot of competition but if he ends up with us, he’s going to be a big part of our defence.” Nelson said.
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