From Alabama to New York to Edmonton, Talbot took an unlikely path to NHL stardom. The one constant has been hard work
IN AN ALTERNATE universe, Cam Talbot is working for a hedge fund right now. That Cam Talbot still tended goal for the University of Alabama-Huntsville but followed his corporate finance major all the way through four years of schooling. Instead, a hot finish to his junior season with the Chargers drew professional interest in the 6-foot-3 native of Caledonia, Ont., and he was on his way to the NHL. “If I’m going to be completely honest, I didn’t think it would ever happen until a couple weeks left in my third year,” Talbot said. “I didn’t even have an agent at the time.” But after helping the underdog Chargers put up a brave front against top-seeded Miami in the first round of the 2010 NCAA Frozen Four, Talbot signed with the New York Rangers, and his NHL journey began. Now, he’s one of the most integral players on a promising Edmonton Oilers squad that broke out
last season. “He held us in games night in and night out,” said defenseman Darnell Nurse. “You can’t put a value on what he did for our team last year. And he’s one of the hardest workers around.” Talbot learned from the best. During his time in New York, he apprenticed under Henrik Lundqvist, and the legendary Rangers starter set a solid example. “He’s a great guy to learn from,” Talbot said. “His practice habits are second to none. If he’s doing a drill and gets scored on, then he’s doing that drill again until he makes the save.” But Talbot was no charity case. His 2013-14 stats were exemplary in relief, and his 21 appearances helped immensely when incumbent backup Martin Biron retired just two starts into the season. One year later, Talbot came to the rescue when Lundqvist took a puck to the throat, causing ‘The King’ to miss 24 games. During that time, the Oilers were still a mess, with a bunch of top forward prospects but not much else. Talbot was acquired via trade at the 2015 draft for a couple of picks and, ever since, he’s been taking on more starts every year. Last season, he led the NHL in appearances with 73, while tying Washington’s Braden Holtby for the lead in wins at 42. Talbot showed no signs of wear, however, as Edmonton made it into the post-season for the first time in more than a decade. “I felt great,” he said. “That’s what you work your whole life towards.” The key during the 2016-17 regular season was honesty. Talbot gives coach Todd McLellan and his staff (including goalie coach Dustin Schwartz) a lot of credit for being great communicators and keeping the lines open. Talbot knew he could walk into their offices and be honest when he was feeling run-down, and that went a long way in establishing his workload. This summer, Talbot concentrated on his rebound control and tracking the puck, as well as his flexibility. With Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and a suddenly sturdy defense corps in front of him, Talbot has the support to push the Oilers far – perhaps even to the very pinnacle of the NHL. Last year’s playoff run was just the beginning for this group, and expectations are high. “More of the same,” Talbot said. “We set the bar pretty high last year. Nobody believed in us except the guys in the room.” But Talbot certainly has fans. One is a former teammate from Alabama– Huntsville who did not go on to become an NHL goaltender but is doing well all the same: actor Wyatt Russell. The son of Hollywood legends Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, Wyatt recently appeared in the sequel Goon: Last of the Enforcers, and is known for movies like 22 Jump Street and the TV show Black Mirror. But he’s always had time for his old Chargers buddy. “When I found out he was going to Edmonton, I was so excited,” Russell said. “Watching him do it, I feel proud to have been around when he was younger and to know him pretty well. There’s nothing like watching a friend succeed and excel in that environment. It’s more than exciting. You’re constantly rooting for them.” That pride goes both ways. Talbot knew he’d see Russell doing somewhere big in the future. “You could always tell how creative he was,” Talbot said.” Just a real down-to-earth kid, and I’m proud of him, too.” He may not be Hollywood royalty and he may not be the king of Broadway, but if Talbot can help Edmonton win the Stanley Cup, he’ll be a legend in his own right.