From Alabama to New York to Ed­mon­ton, Tal­bot took an un­likely path to NHL star­dom. The one con­stant has been hard work

The Hockey News - - DRAISAITL - By Ryan Kennedy

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.

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