South­west Al­berta na­tives weigh­ing their NHL op­tions

Prairie Post (West Edition) - - Alberta - BY DALE WOODARD SOUTH­ERN AL­BERTA NEWS­PA­PERS

Bran­don David­son knows there’s al­ways room for im­prove­ment.

With that mind­set and a new train­ing reg­i­ment and lo­ca­tion, the al­most 27-year-old de­fence­man from Taber is con­fi­dent that will land him a new team when the 2018-19 Na­tional Hockey League sea­son be­gins.

“It’s been a dif­fer­ent sum­mer for me,” said David­son re­cently at his home­town Taber Arena, where he is a spe­cial guest in­struc­tor at the an­nual Ver-Set Skills Camp run by Leth­bridge’s Kris Ver­steeg, Taber’s Devin Se­toguchi and Rich Wi­est.

“Usu­ally, I stay in the Leth­bridge area, but I’ve been liv­ing in Ed­mon­ton this sum­mer. I switched train­ers and hired a skills coach and a skat­ing coach and it’s been good. We’re all work­ing to get bet­ter ev­ery year and like I tell the kids on the ice, ‘I’m 26 years old and I’m still try­ing to get bet­ter.’ It’s a never-end­ing game and it’s been great. I’m also look­ing to get a job as well and things are start­ing to hap­pen and it’s ex­cit­ing. I’m just mak­ing sure I’m ready per­son­ally for the next step and mak­ing sure I can put my best foot for­ward.”

David­son started the sea­son with the Montreal Cana­di­ens be­fore get­ting traded to the Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers, the team that drafted the six-foot-two, 208pound blue-liner in the sixth round and 162nd over­all in the 2010 NHL En­try Draft.

But at the trade dead­line, David­son found him­self headed back east as the Oil­ers sent him to the New York Is­landers, who didn’t ex­tend David­son a qual­i­fy­ing of­fer at the end of the sea­son.

That has the Taber prod­uct kick­ing the prover­bial tires.

“There has been some in­ter­est, for sure, from three or four teams at this point,” said David­son. “We’re mov­ing into Au­gust and you kind of want to have some se­cu­rity and know where you’re go­ing. I’m at the point right now with a few teams that we’re go­ing to start mak­ing some com­mit­ments and hope­fully start a new chap­ter in my life. I’m re­ally ex­cited and ready for a new op­por­tu­nity and ready to make this my own.”

Ver­steeg has spent the past week over­see­ing the camp that bears part of his last name.

Like David­son, the Leth­bridge prod­uct with a pair of Stan­ley Cup rings dur­ing his time with the Chicago Black­hawks is also look­ing for a new team af­ter not get­ting a qual­i­fy­ing of­fer from the Calgary Flames.

“I’ve talked to a cou­ple of teams and I’ve talked to a cou­ple teams in Europe so far as well,” said Ver­steeg, who has spent most of the sum­mer train­ing in On­tario, where his wife and chil­dren are. “I’m not rul­ing any­thing out of the equa­tion. I’ll go play any­where as long as I’m wanted.”

Ver­steeg put up eight points in 22 games with the Flames be­fore un­de­go­ing hip surgery in De­cem­ber.

He re­turned in mid-March, but only played in two more games.

“I feel great right now,” said Ver­steeg. “I can skate and train on the same day and I’m able to do a lot of things that I wasn’t. I feel re­ally good and I feel re­ally con­fi­dent go­ing into the sea­son that no mat­ter where I play that I’m go­ing to be at the level I want to be at.”

No mat­ter where they wind up, the duo were back on their south­ern Al­berta home stomp­ing grounds last week.

“I just came home for the week,” said David­son. “All my fam­ily still lives in Taber, some have moved to Leth­bridge, but this is my home.”

And he spent the last week giv­ing back to his fel­low lo­cals.

“Not many peo­ple get to ex­pe­ri­ence what I have and that’s just a bless­ing,” said David­son.

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