The third-overall pick in the draft has been looking forward to his first training camp on-ice session for months. Leon Draisaitl centred a line with David Perron and Benoit Pouliot during the scrimmage today.
“It felt really good actually,” Draisaitl said. I felt really good out there. Obviously, my two linemates helped me a lot out there. They’re established NHL players, they’re both really skilled guys and I think we had a little bit of chemistry already and I felt pretty good out there.”
The talented 18-year-old has already drawn compliments from one of those linemates.
“He’s looking good, he’s slick,” Pouliot said. “He’s a big centreman and in this league you need big centres. I think he can do the job. The way he played today, he’s only 18. You don’t want to put too much pressure on the guy, just let him play. Today was exactly that, he put a lot of pressure on their D and he played very well. It’s just a matter of getting comfortable and he’ll be perfect, he’ll be fine.”
Pouliot and Perron both scored goals in the scrimmage.
Draisaitl’s playmaking ability was something his head coach noticed during the brief time on ice today.
“He can distribute the puck,” Dallas Eakins said. “He can make a play on his forehand and his backhand. He showed some spurts that he does have some speed. I think the one thing that you find all the time, especially with guys coming out of junior and they’ve been key guys on their team, their pace usually isn’t where you want it. The pace is there but they aren’t playing at the highest pace because they played so many minutes and they have to find places to rest on the ice. There’s room for improvement there but he shows he can do it. He can certainly move the puck, distribute it and he certainly didn’t look out of place out there.”
Eakins was also pleased with the little bit of chemistry that line was already displaying.
“They all came as advertised. David Perron loves hockey. He’s one of those guys that I’m sure is out in the street playing with kids. Leon can obviously make plays and Pouliot showed us a lot of why we wanted to sign him, and we’re so fortunate to have him. He was constantly on the puck. That’s a great lesson, those three right there. Watching them from up top you can hear them talking and communicating the whole time. When you’re doing that on the ice it helps focus the other player and he knows where you’re at and it shows your teammates that you’re ready to play. Those three were all yapping out there to each other and it was good that Leon brushed up on his French.”
In today’s scrimmage between Team Messier and Team Kurri, Jeff Petry left the ice after a hit. He did not return for the second half of the skate.
Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins says it doesn’t look serious.
“He left the ice. He tweaked his shoulder, we don’t think it’s anything huge. He’ll be day-to-day,” Eakins said.
The Oilers took part in fitness testing yesterday and the results were encouraging for second-year Head Coach Dallas Eakins.
“The results from yesterday, just to follow up, I did get to see our fitness results and huge compliments to our players,” he said. “Their commitment and work ethic was certainly there this summer. We’ve had some massive gains by a lot of our players so we’re very encouraged by that. Not only are they fitter but it shows a great commitment level when 99% of your group comes in like that. We’re extremely happy and we’re very proud of our strength and conditioning staff. They’ve done one hell of a job there.”
There are several players to report to camp who bulked up over the summer. For example, Martin Marincin gained 15 pounds, Mark Arcobello is up to 172 from 166, Nail Yakupov gained nine pounds and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins says he’s up to 192 from 180.
The Oilers signed defenceman Mark Fayne in free agency and it doesn’t take long to understand what his game is all about. As he was with the New Jersey Devils, Fayne is all about being solid defensively and only jumping in the play offensively when his own end is taken care of first.
“Simple. I guess that is the best word,” Fayne laughed. “I try to keep the puck out of our own end as much as I can. When it is, just shut it down and get it up to the forwards. I help out whenever I can offensively but my main focus is to cover up the D end and join the rush.”
Fayne is 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds. He uses that frame to engage physically when the moment calls for it.
“As much as I can without taking too many risks. You want to pick your spots when you know you can have a good physical presence. You’ve got to make them not want to go to the corners, stand in front of the net and that definitely takes a physical aspect.”
The Edmonton Oilers weighed in at training camp on Thursday and there were a few noticeable changes to some of the players.
Defenceman Martin Marincin, who said it was his goal to beef up this off-season, weighed in at 203 pounds. That is 15 pounds heavier than the 188 he was last year.
An updated list of heights and weights is available on the Oilers roster on edmontonoilers.com.
The Edmonton Oilers head into training camp with uncertainty at a couple of positions. An influx of depth and talent, as well as exits by some players has created position battles.
“We expect there to be some battling at camp,” Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “Obviously, there’s going to be some battle down the middle. We have two NHL centremen right now and I have know idea who the other ones will be. That will be for the players to decide.”
The battle at centre will feature third-overall pick Leon Draisaitl, as well as players like Mark Arcobello, Anton Lander and prospects like Jujhar Khaira and Bogdan Yakimov. Centre isn’t the only position where Eakins sees a competition.
The additions of defencemen such as Mark Fayne, Nikita Nikitin and Keith Aulie, along with prospects like 2013 seventh-overall pick Darnell Nurse, 2011 19th-overall pick Oscar Klefbom and Martin Marincin make for an interesting competition.
“We’re obviously going to have a battle on defence. We’ve got some guys that played some games in the NHL last year, we’ve upgraded our D with what I call ‘full-time NHL defencemen’ so there will be a battle going on there. There will also be a spot or two open on the wing we believe. It can only be one. When there is only one spot open, that usually creates a great competition with our players.”
When Taylor Hall was selected first overall in 2010, it was expected he would become the face of the franchise. Since then, the 22-year-old has watched as teammates have left and the roster has changed dramatically.
There may have never been an official changing of the guard, but it looks like the 2014-15 Oilers are even more in the hands of Hall and his fellow young stars than they have ever been.
“There’s never been an official changing of the guard but it seems every year we come in with more pressure on players like myself and I think that’s a good thing,” Hall said. “As you get older and more mature you learn how to deal with that and you learn who to listen to and who not to listen to and those type of things. Having a more relaxed and more calm, confident mindset coming into camp I think is going to benefit our team a lot more. Trying to exceed expectations instead of living up to them is a good mantra for our team.”
The 22-year-old Taylor Hall is coming off his best season offensively, with 80 points (27-53-80). Hall says his main focus going into camp this year is his defensive play. Should he become even more of a complete player, that’s scary for opponents.
When asked if he is ahead of where he was defensively to start the season last year, Hall didn’t know. However, he says it is on his radar to improve in that category.
“I haven’t played any games yet so I think time will tell, but that’s definitely been a bigger focus of mine this year coming into camp,” he said. “Maybe in past years I’ve been looking forward to getting points and stuff. I want to round out my game as best I can so that from the start of the year I don’t have any glaring deficiencies and I’m helping out my team the best I can.”
Nail Yakupov is one of the players the Oilers will want to take his play to the next level if they want to have a successful season. After some adversity last season, Yakupov is ready to turn the page and put the past in the past.
The Oilers winger brought up the Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings and how they put the past behind them and just focus on the year ahead. Yakupov wants the Oilers to do the same.
“You’ve got to be positive this year, because if you’re going to think about all of the negative from last year I don’t think that’s good,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you did not make the playoffs or if you won the Stanley Cup like Los Angeles. I’m pretty sure they forgot about last season and they forgot that they want to win the Stanley Cup. They just want to improve on things and try to win another one. As an Oiler, as a team and as our teammates I am pretty sure we want to be in the playoffs first and then fight for a Stanley Cup. We have to stay positive and not think about last year and what place we were. Let’s start from a new page.”