by Lindsay Kramer || NHL.com
Lindsay Kramer, the AHL correspondent for NHL.com, profiles an up-and-coming player each Monday during the season, and his AHL notebook appears each Thursday on NHL.com.
Lowell center Rod Pelley‘s view of hockey this season has been pretty consistent.
A rookie on the left. A rookie on the right. Youngsters just about everywhere he turns. From Pelley’s perspective, the good news is that at least all the rookies understand their status, which isn’t always true of all newcomers.
"They realize they are rookies. They are not going to act like they are a veteran player," he said. "They are all approachable, easy to talk to. They are not shy to come and ask."
Whether or not he knows them, Pelley has to be the one who sounds like he has the answers. At the spry age of 24, Pelley is the captain of the Devils’ developmental squad.
Five of the team’s top 11 scorers are rookies, as is promising netminder Jeff Frazee. Ten Devils have yet to blow out 23 candles on their birthday cakes. Lately, Pelley has been skating with right wing Matt Halischuk and left wing Vladimir Zharkov, both rookies.
Zharkov doesn’t speak a lot of English, so Pelley will pull him aside during practice, diagram plays for him and ask if he understands. The rookie group as a whole has queried him about what it’s like to play four games in five nights, and how they should be taking care of themselves.
Pelley has also been an answer man for Devils coach Kurt Kleinendorst. Jay Leach was Lowell’s first captain this season, but he was recalled. Pascal Rheaume is officially Lowell’s captain, but he’s been hurt. So Kleinendorst has turned to Pelley as the stand-in leader when Rheaume is unavailable.
"He’s just one of those guys who would do anything I asked of him, and never ask why," Kleinendorst said. "He’s what you call an old-school hockey player."
Despite all the life-lesson responsibilities, Pelley’s production has helped tug Lowell into playoff contention in the Atlantic with a February that included 5 goals and 8 assists in 12 games.
"When you get on the ice, it’s practice every day, get better every day. The little things that young guys can see and address," Pelley said of his message. "You are doing good things because you are making yourself available to the young guys. To me, watching (a rookie) grow, thinking maybe I helped him a little bit, that makes me grow. I’ve usually been the younger guy on the team."
The most recent example of that came last season when Pelley played 58 games in New Jersey as a second-year pro. Pelley admitted that when the Devils sent him down this preseason, he was the one searching for some answers. As the efforts of Pelley and the team itself indicate, it didn’t take him long to start figuring out things.
"I took it kind of hard. It took me a little bit to get over it. It was more a couple of weeks to say, ‘This is OK,’" he said. "It was realizing I’m here, I can’t control things that are out of my hands. I’m having a lot of fun. We’re in a battle here for the playoffs. The most heated hockey is the next 25 games."