Silvertips' Abney making his presence felt
With many of his teammates battling injuries, Cameron Abney has people taking notice -- including NHL scouts -- with his rough and tumble play
However, while the injury crisis has caused consternation, it's also presented opportunity. Players who spent most of the season as fourth liners and healthy scratches suddenly found themselves thrust into crucial roles, logging an exponentially larger amount of playing time and finding themselves on the ice at critical junctures of games.
And of that group, none has grasped the opportunity moreso than Cameron Abney.
Abney has seized the moment, building himself an identity over the past few weeks and carving out a role with the team. As a result he's put himself firmly in the team's plans for the playoffs, as well as turned the heads of a few NHL scouts.
"All the injuries forced our hand, and some guys have risen," Everett coach John Becanic said. "(Abney) is certainly a guy who with an increased role and opportunity has shown more.
"As we're starting to trickle back bodies, it helps us identify who we think can play in the playoffs," Becanic added. "The way he's playing now is the type of game we need from a younger player in the playoffs: go out there and be a physical presence and not be a liability on defense."
Abney, a 17-year-old winger from Aldergrove, B.C., has become something of a fan favorite at Comcast Arena for his willingness to drop the gloves. During the current injury phase he's enhanced that reputation, including a strong showing against Kelowna overager Ryley Grantham, considered by many to be the league's top heavyweight.
But Abney's not just a fighting sideshow. He brings an element of toughness much needed for a younger and smaller team. When a teammate takes a hit that crosses the line, Abney is the one there to let the offender know that's not acceptable.
"We're a pretty small team and I'm a bigger guy, so I create space for the guys," Abney said. "I'm just a guy who can protect my players, and the guys don't have to worry about any rough stuff."
Now Abney's bringing more than just pugilistic prowess and intimidation to the table. He's a good skater for his size (6-foot-4, 192 pounds) and he's been using that size by throwing heavy checks at opponents -- so much so that opposing defensemen are beginning to hear footsteps whenever Abney is bearing down. And though it hasn't showed up in the statistics yet -- he has just one goal and two assists in 43 games this season -- he causes problems for the defense when he camps himself in front of the goaltender.
Because of his efforts Abney found himself playing on Everett's second line alongside Zack Dailey and Dan Iwanski, and being effective in the process.
"I think I can help the team with a lot more than fighting, that's for sure," Abney said. "Hitting guys, even helping out offensively. The more I hit guys the more offensive space opens up for me. When I dump in the corner the defenseman will let me get the puck because he doesn't want to get hit, so my offense will hopefully pick up as the playoffs come around."
All those attributes -- the size, the skating ability, the hard hitting and the willingness to fight -- are beginning to attract glances from the NHL. Even though his numbers are modest, the potential that exists from the total package may result in Abney's name being called during this year's NHL draft.
"I get a number of calls and taps on the shoulder from scouts wanting to know about Cameron Abney," Tips general manager Doug Soetaert said. "He's brought attention to himself. He's 6-4 and as a 17-year-old he's stood in well with a number of heavyweights, so he's building a reputation. The key to the whole thing is that he not lose sight of playing the game, and that part is coming around."
Not bad for a player who wasn't even listed in the NHL Central Scouting Bureau's midterm rankings for this year's draft.
"I'm definitely thinking about it, but I'm trying to keep it in the back of my mind until the draft comes around," Abney said. "I've talked to a couple scouts and I'm only hearing good things, so they like what they see and hopefully I can improve my game."
Nick Patterson's Silvertips blog: http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog
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