VANDEVELDE NO LONGER THE NEW KID ON THE BLOCK
By Cassie Gage,
VandeVelde was named an alternate captain for the upcoming season on Tuesday, an honor that is no surprise to anyone that has watched him develop over the last three years.
“(Being a veteran) feels good,” he added. “I’ve been a leader – showing it on and off the ice. I just want to go out there and work hard and contribute in some way.”
VandeVelde has accepted whatever challenge Barons head coach Todd Nelson has thrown at him – everything from the penalty kill to playing on the fourth line. He has never complained once.
“I have a lot of respect for him,” Nelson said. “He could have been playing on the first or second line last year, but he accepted his role on the fourth line. He played on the top line for us in the playoffs, but he never once complained. He just did his job and took pride in being a top penalty killer for us. He just has a fantastic attitude.”
That attitude has earned VandeVelde the respect of his teammates,c oaches and fans. He is proud to be a part of the Barons, the Oilers organization and proud to be a part-time resident of Oklahoma City.
“Our fan base has grown every year I’ve been here,” he said. “It’s good to see. With these new faces, I hope it grows even more. Oklahoma City is a great place to be. The weather is usually pretty nice
compared to a lot of places.”
Nelson’s often been described as the ultimate player’s coach and VandeVelde is perhaps the best example of that. VandeVelde’s managed to handle everything the coaching staff has given him and believes that because of Nelson and the coaching staff, his future could include a more permanent place in the NHL.
“Todd’s done a great job, as well as Rocky (Thompson) and Gerry (Fleming),” VandeVelde said. “I definitely wouldn’t still be here if it wasn’t for them. They’ve given me an opportunity to grow as a
player and to play in the NHL. I think I’m right there when it comes to getting a full-time job up there, so all the credit to them. I’ll just keep working hard and see what happens.”
This year marks his fourth season in professional hockey after finishing his career at the University of North Dakota, VandeVelde is exciting for the upcoming year. He’s been called up to the NHL in each
of the last two seasons and gets the opportunity to play with some of the organization’s best young talent this year in Oklahoma City.
“As a team, we excited,” VandeVelde said. “We’ve got a lot of new faces and a lot of young talent. It’s going to be a lot of fun."
During those previous call-ups, VandeVelde has had the chance to play with big-time talent so having Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in Oklahoma City is nothing new for him. VandeVelde’s eager to learn from the duo and in return, maybe reciprocate some of that knowledge.
“You learn just by seeing what they do every day in practice,” VandeVelde said. “They’ve got some God-given talent; maybe I can learn something from them. Maybe they can learn something from me. This
situation is a benefit of being in the Oilers organization. It’s awesome to get to play with them.”
VandeVelde had a breakout season last year, and Nelson hopes VandeVelde continues to build on that this season.
“Chris really learned a lot his first year as a professional,” Nelson said. “He improved over the course of that season, but where we saw the biggest improvement was last year. He finally grasped the system
play we were teaching, and you could start to see his leadership qualities come out. I thought he was one of our strongest playoff performers last year, which speaks volumes for him.”
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