BLOGS
POSTED ON Wednesday, 05.27.2015 / 1:30 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

The Oilers have agreed to terms with winger Anton Slepyshev on a three-year entry level contract.

Slepyshev, 21, was taken in the third round (88th overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft.

He has played the past three seasons with Ufa Salavat of the KHL. The 6-foot-2, 194-pound winger had his best production this season, as he scored 15 goals and recorded 25 points in 58 games.

Slepyshev led Ufa in scoring at the Spengler Cup this year, with two goals and three assists in five games.

Read the full press release.

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 05.27.2015 / 7:00 AM MT
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

As the Oklahoma City Barons final season comes to an end, with the Oilers moving their AHL franchise to Bakersfield this upcoming season, one of their longest-tenured players closes out his best season as a pro.

Curtis Hamilton, selected 48th overall by the Oilers in 2010, has played in OKC since the 2011-12 season. Those formative years spent as a young prospect down on the farm are filled with memories.

“I came here when I was 20 years old I think at the end of my last year in junior and I kind of got to know the city,” said Hamilton. “It’s crazy thinking back that it has almost been five years since then. I spent all that time here and it’s been an awesome city. I’ve made a lot of memories here and it’s something I’ll never forget.”

The one thing that sticks out the most to Hamilton during his four seasons with the Barons is the quality of teams he played on.

“We had a lot of playoff games here. We had a couple overtime games I remember watching, playing in or winning. We always had a lot of good teams here and great teammates here so I have a lot of fond memories of those games,” Hamilton said.

This year’s playoff run ended in the Western Conference Semifinal with a 1-0 game-seven loss to the Utica Comets. But what happened before that finale was special to Hamilton.

In game one against the Comets, Hamilton scored the game-winning goal in the fourth overtime period. Playing in a game like that is perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Scoring the winner? That’s even more memorable.

It capped off Hamilton’s best season as a professional, in which he recorded career highs in goals (12), assists (20) and points (32). He also earned his first NHL call-up, playing for the Oilers on April 9, against San Jose.

“This year as a whole (was memorable),” said Hamilton. “I got to go over to Switzerland and play in the Spengler Cup, which was awesome. Playing my first NHL game was a dream come true. Getting that fourth overtime goal was just the icing on the cake. I had a great year and I’m very proud of it.”

Hamilton now turns his focus to building off this season with a good summer of training.

“There are a whole bunch of things (I want to work on),” he said. “Obviously, conditioning and weight training, skating and what not. You go through kind of everything. You go through all the hoops to get ready for the next season. But right now I will probably take a week or two just to relax, let everything heal up and get ready for the summer.”

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 05.26.2015 / 8:41 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

The Oshawa Generals managed to hold onto the lead they earned in the second period, taking down the Kelowna Rockets 2-1 in Tuesday’s much-anticipated Memorial Cup matchup.

After a scoreless first period, the OHL champion Generals would draw first blood.

Dakota Mermis fed Cole Cassels at the side of the net and he buried it at 4:15 of the second period. Michael Dal Colle recorded the second assist.

Tobias Lindberg gave Oshawa a 2-0 lead at 17:16 of the middle frame. Coming down the ice on a 2-on-1 rush, Lindberg executed a beautiful toe-drag and buried his shot behind Kelowna goaltender Jackson Whistle. Sam Harding and Anthony Cirelli both added assists on the goal.

Before that score was finished being announced over the sound system in the building, the Rockets responded. Tyson Baillie found Gage Quinney skating toward the net and chipped the puck up the middle. Quinney settled the bouncing puck and finished to cut the Oshawa lead to 2-1. Madison Bowey added an assist.

The Rockets, still trailing by one, were given a huge opportunity to tie the game late in the third. A kneeing call to Mermis gave Kelowna a power play, and a delay of game penalty made it 5-on-3 for a full minute.

Despite some chances by the Rockets on that man advantage, Oshawa goaltender Ken Appleby was outstanding and Baillie missed a wide-open net.

Rockets centre and Oilers prospect Leon Draisaitl finished with three shots on goal. He was 16 of 29 in the faceoff dot.

Oshawa finishes the round robin with a perfect 3-0 record and advances directly to the Memorial Cup final on Sunday.

If Quebec beats Rimouski in the round-robin finale tomorrow, Kelowna and Quebec will square off in Friday’s semifinal. However, if Rimouski earns its first win of the tournament, there will be a three-way tie at 1-2 and a tie-breaker game on Thursday will have to be played to determine Friday’s semifinal matchup.

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POSTED ON Monday, 05.25.2015 / 11:06 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

The Kelowna Rockets rebounded from their opening loss at the Memorial Cup in a big way, downing Rimouski 7-3 on Monday. Oilers prospect Leon Draisaitl finished +3 with two goals and an assist in the win.

Nick Merkley opened scoring just 52 seconds into the game, setting the tone for the rest of the night. Draisaitl recorded an assist on the goal.

Madison Bowey’s shot from the point banked in off the post at 6:16 of the first for a 2-0 Kelowna lead.

Gage Quinney made it 3-0 at 14:27, getting his shot through traffic in front of the net.

Rimouski made a comeback bid at the end of the first, scoring at 15:14 and 18:14 to make it 3-2.

However, Kelowna bounced back in the second with three unanswered goals. Quinney potted a power-play tally at 1:52 of the middle frame. Merkley followed that up at 10:42.

Draisaitl, the Oilers third-overall pick in 2014, scored during 4-on-4 play at 13:18 of that same period. He patiently waited in the slot as the puck moved down low, jumping up at the right moment to bury a pass by Dillon Dube for the 6-2 lead.

Frederik Gauthier tallied a power play goal at 13:36 of the third to pull Rimouski to within three.

Draisaitl potted his second goal of the night, shorthanded, at 14:16 of the final frame on a magnificent solo effort down the right side, making it 7-3 and leading Kelowna to their first victory of the tournament.

The Rockets conclude round-robin play vs. Oshawa Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. EDT.

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POSTED ON Monday, 05.25.2015 / 2:09 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

After three years at Western Michigan University, Jordan Oesterle chose Edmonton as the next stop in his hockey career. The college free agent defenceman signed with the Oilers on March 31, 2014.

Although he played four games for the Oklahoma City Barons last season, even scoring his first professional goal and adding one playoff game under his belt as well, this year was his first full professional season. And it was a good one.

“I’m happy with the way my first year went,” said Oesterle. “I’ve got a lot of good things to build on, and going into the summer I’ve got a lot to work on to get to the next step that I want to be at.”

Making the jump from the college game to the pros was an adjustment at first. The biggest thing was the amount of time devoted to hockey now that the schoolwork is complete.

“The amount of practices. You’re not practicing as much at school, and the amount of games,” he said.

But once you get to those games, the competition is much more fierce as well.

“In the games, the strength of the players and the skill level of all the players. All the players are top-league guys and you just have to be ready every night,” the defenceman said.

Oesterle played 65 games for the Barons this season. His 25 points (8-17-25) were good for second on the team in defensive scoring behind established AHL blueliner, Brad Hunt.

His first call-up to the NHL will likely be the most memorable thing he’ll take from this season. Oesterle made his NHL debut on February 28, against St. Louis. He recorded his first NHL point with an assist against Los Angeles in his second game on March 3.

Although Oesterle says he is happy with how his first season played out, he knows his development is just beginning.

“It’s definitely been a good first year and something I’ll build on,” he said. “I won’t be satisfied with the way the season has gone. I’ve liked the progression I’ve made through the year and I’ll just take that into the summer… with confidence and do what I need to do to hopefully make the team out of camp.”

With his eyes set on competing for an Oilers roster spot, the 22-year-old Dearborn Heights, Michigan native will attempt to beef up in the off-season. Oesterle is just 6-foot-0 and 182 pounds. He possesses excellent skating ability already, but wants to ramp up his physical gains during the summer.

“Going into every summer, the biggest thing for me is to get stronger,” said Oesterle. “Being a smaller guy, I need to work on that every summer more than my on-ice stuff. I think I’m going to do a little extra this summer and try and work on all areas of my game.”

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POSTED ON Sunday, 05.24.2015 / 2:01 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

Jujhar Khaira had just finished his first professional season, which ended in a 1-0 game seven loss to the Utica Comets in the Calder Cup Playoffs. He couldn’t help but mention his teammates when summing up the season that was.

“With the group of guys we had this year, I’ve been on a few teams in different leagues, and I’ve never been on a team with a group of guys like this," Khaira said after the game. "Everybody was close, there were no groups or anything.”

As a 20-year-old making the jump to the professional game, having a group like he did in Oklahoma City helped Khaira grow as a player and as a young man.

“I thought it went really well,” Khaira said of his first pro year. “I thought I learned a lot this year just with information coming from the older guys and the coaches and watching video and all that. It was a disappointing loss (in the playoffs) but overall I had a lot of fun and a pretty good season.”

Playing with the Barons and those in that locker room was his favourite part of the 2014-15 season.

“I just liked being around the guys,” said Khaira. “I think any time you’re around the guys, it’s always a blast. I can’t really pinpoint one part of the season, but the whole season was a lot of fun.”

Khaira finished his first pro season with four goals and six assists in 51 games, adding 62 penalty minutes. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound centre came up big in the playoffs.

After missing time due to an elbow injury, Khaira returned to the lineup for game three against the San Antonio Rampage. Up 2-0 in the best-of-five series, Khaira would help the Barons advance.

The Oilers 2012 third-round pick scored a goal at 5:01 of overtime to clinch the series. Even with scoring that big goal, the time spent with his teammates after the win sticks out even more in his mind.

“I think just beating those guys,” said Khaira. “All year, it was just a war against them and it was just nice to beat them and move on. Just the feeling after with the guys, I’ll remember that a lot more than scoring.”

Khaira scored two goals in game four of their second round series against Utica. His performance helped the Barons win 7-4 and tie the series at 2-2.

Heading into his second professional season, Khaira has a few areas of his game he looks to focus on this summer.

“I’m always going to be working on my skating, just protecting the puck, my stick handling in small areas, making plays at full speed,” he said. “I’m going to try and do a lot of that this summer.”

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POSTED ON Friday, 05.22.2015 / 8:32 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

A shorthanded goal at 2:08 of the third period gave the Quebec Remparts 3-1 lead. Although it got tight at the end, they eventually beat Leon Draisaitl and the Kelowna Rockets, 4-3 in the opening game of the 2015 Memorial Cup.

Nikolas Brouillard opened scoring at 5:18 of the first for Quebec.

Matt Murphy gave the Remparts a 2-0 lead with a point shot that snuck past Jackson Whistle at 13:22 of the second. Oilers 2013 second-round pick Marc-Olivier Roy got the second assist on the goal.

Kelowna drew within one at 17:56 of the middle frame as Cole Linaker dished the puck in front of the net and Nick Merkley put it away, shorthanded.

The Remparts responded with a shorthanded goal of their own. Anthony Duclair had a breakaway and the rebound from his shot was buried by Ryan Graves.

Kelowna again responded, scoring on the power play at 12:43 of the third.

An empty-bet goal by Quebec’s Adam Erne gave the host team a 4-2 lead.

Draisaitl, the Oilers fourth-overall pick in 2014, scored backdoor with 36 seconds remaining in the game to draw within one, but Kelowna could not find the equalizer.

The Remparts face Oshawa on Sunday and the Rockets play Rimouski on Monday.

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 05.19.2015 / 4:55 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

There is no doubt that Todd McLellan brings experience and name recognition to the Oilers organization. The long-time coach has worked his way up through the hockey ranks, with stops in the SJHL, WHL, IHL and AHL on his way to the NHL as an assistant and head coach.

His winning record (311-163-66) as the bench boss in San Jose the past seven seasons is also a plus. But Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli spoke more specifically about McLellan, following the hiring announcement. McLellan becomes the 14th coach in Oilers franchise history.

“Todd brings with him a wealth of experience, a level of energy and intellect I haven’t seen in a long time,” Chiarelli said. “He’s been a coach for a number of years, most recently a couple of days ago where he won the gold medal with Team Canada over in Prague. I had a chance to meet with him over there and talk at length on a number of different levels. I’m very impressed with him, meeting him face to face. I had been very impressed with his teams over the years in the NHL with Detroit and with San Jose.”

When Chiarelli came to Edmonton, he spoke about wanting the Oilers to play harder. That doesn’t necessarily mean getting bigger or more physical, and Chiarelli feels McLellan gets that.

“We talked a couple of weeks ago at my press conference about different ways of playing hard, rather than switching out a whole team’s roster. Both those teams in Detroit and San Jose, you look at them and how they play, the personnel, and they know how to play hard. Todd is one of the main reasons for that, instilling a level of confidence, energy and discipline into these players,” said Chiarelli.

Chiarelli says McLellan was the top target for the Oilers.

“His level of energy and his level of thinking really impressed me,” said Chiarelli. “If you look at him behind the bench, he’s active. I think he’s a terrific bench manager. A lot of reasons. My time in Boston, we didn’t play the Sharks a lot, but whenever we played them they were hard games, they were games where adjustments would be made all the time. They were heavy on the puck and he really looked like he enjoyed coaching. A number of those reasons helped me make my decision in choosing Todd.”

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 05.19.2015 / 4:53 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

The Oilers have had five head coaches since the start of the 2009-10 season. Stability is something the Edmonton organization would like to have with Todd McLellan, who was announced as the 14th head coach in franchise history on Tuesday.

McLellan most recently coached seven seasons in San Jose, posting a record of 311-163-66 in 540 games. Six of those seven seasons, McLellan and the Sharks made the playoffs. His record indicates that he could be a more long-term fixture for the Oilers.

Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli talked about stability at that position and all that goes into developing a long-term relationship.

“By no means, is there a perfect amount of time for a coach. I think from a consistent messaging viewpoint, that’s important,” said Chiarelli. “In delivering your message and from a coaching perspective, he’s the main messenger and I think to have it over time, with more or less the same group, you’ll see it reaps tremendous rewards. Having said all that, there’s a lot of stuff in between. Not just having a stable coach for a certain number of years. You have to work well together, you have to have a plan and it has to be laid out and executed. Todd’s one of the top coaches in the league and we’re fortunate to have him here.”

Prior to San Jose, McLellan coached the Swift Current Broncos in the WHL, the IHL’s Cleveland Lumberjacks and the Houston Aeros in the AHL. He was also an assistant in Detroit for three seasons.

“Todd brings with him a wealth of experience, a level of energy and intellect I haven’t seen in a long time,” said Chiarelli.

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 05.19.2015 / 4:51 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

The search was a relatively short timeline from start to finish. The Oilers season ended on April 11, and on the 20th Todd McLellan and the San Jose Sharks mutually parted ways after seven seasons. Now, one month later, McLellan has found his new home in Edmonton.

Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli didn’t waste any time in meeting with McLellan following the season. Chiarelli knew the free agent coach would be sought after for multiple vacancies around the league. So Chiarelli, trying to get a head start on the competition, got on a plane and travelled to the Czech Republic to meet with McLellan, who was coaching Team Canada at the IIHF Men’s Hockey World Championship.

“It happened fairly quickly, as far as trying to set something up,” said Chiarelli. “We wanted to get ahead of it with Todd. I went over to Prague and we spent three or four hours on a number of different things. I had a fairly exhaustive checklist to go through with him and he had a lot of questions for me. We felt it was a better time in the tournament, earlier on. The competition, the pace, the daily schedule grind wasn’t quite up to speed yet. It was a good time to do it. I knew there would be a lot of teams that would want to talk to Todd so I wanted to be kind of first in to let him digest it and get to know me and what we’re about here and what we’re trying to do here. Timing and opportunity was good and the fact that he had the time was good too. He’s the guy we wanted and wanted to get on to in a hurry.”

The 2015 Worlds ended on Sunday, with McLellan and Canada taking home gold and finishing 10-0 in the tournament. Barely off the plane from Prague, McLellan was announced as the 14th coach in Oilers franchise history, concluding the short hiring process.

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