When Slater Koekkoek is asked who taught him the value of hard work, he points one branch up the family tree.
“My dad. I always looked up to his work ethic and everything he did for our family,” said Koekkoek, who signed a one-year deal with the Edmonton Oilers on Boxing Day.
“He was a farmer when I was growing up, just outside of Ottawa in Hallville. Now he works for Hydro One. I always loved his work ethic and everything he did for us.”
Koekkoek brings his game to Oil County after helping eliminate from the Oilers from the playoffs last season as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks.
“Definitely in this last season in Chicago, I came into my own on the defensive side of things,” he said. “I’m hoping to shut things down against some of the opposing team’s top players.”
Kookkoek said he’s comfortable jumping into the rush occasionally but doesn’t expect to be a big point producer. He knows dynamic young defencemen like Quinn Hughes and Cale Makar are grabbing headline while players like him work in the trenches.
“Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, you’re still going to have those solid penalty killers and guys who are getting into the corner heavy,” Koekkoek explained. “Ultimately, you look at a team who wins and a team who goes far in the playoffs, they still have those solid, bigger defenders who are mean and tough to play against.”
Koekkoek, 26, was drafted tenth overall by Tampa Bay in 2012. After stints with the Lightning and Blackhawks, he’s glad to join a Canadian team, especially with the pandemic limiting travel.
“I’m excited. It was definitely a factor throughout free agency, especially with the border closures. Just being close with my family and a lot of people here in Canada, it’s nice to be here,” he said.
Koekkoek will be working out at his hotel in downtown Edmonton as he waits for the start of training camp on Sunday.
“I’m excited, joining Connor and Leon. We have a great group here. We have a lot of good pressure on us to do well this season,” Koekkoek said.