The Oilers have loaned forward Bogdan Yakimov to Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik of the KHL.
The 21-year old was taken 83rd overall in the 2013 NHL Draft. He has played one NHL game in his career. He played 36 AHL games for the Bakersfield Condors last season, scoring five goals and adding 10 assists for 15 points.
The Oilers went through the 2015-16 season without a player wearing the “C” on their chest. They instead elected to go with multiple alternate captains, including Andrew Ference, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Matt Hendricks was among a few other players to don the “A” at various points of the season.
Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan confirmed with the media on Wednesday at the Mark Spector Golf Classic that the club will have a captain on opening night, when the team hosts Calgary on October 12.
“Will we have a captain? Yeah, we will,” said McLellan.
When pressed on who it might be, McLellan simply repeated himself.
“We will have a captain.”
There is no doubt defenceman Adam Larsson will be expected to take on a big role with the Oilers this season. They wouldn’t have traded for him, giving up Taylor Hall, otherwise. The 23-year-old blueliner has 274 NHL games under his belt after being selected fourth overall in 2011.
Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan says he expects Larsson to play 20-22 minutes a night “against the top level of competition.”
Will he put up massive offensive numbers? McLellan doesn’t think so, but instead points to San Jose’s Marc-Edouard Vlasic as a good example.
“Play very good minutes against the other teams’ top players and play consistently and continue to grow his game with our team as it grows,” McLellan said of Larsson’s expectations.
While Larsson is eager to take the next step and work on his offensive game, McLellan has tapped the brakes a bit on that notion. While the club expects him to eventually become a power-play contributor, that may not happen right away.
“We’ve got to take our time with him,” said McLellan. “I don’t want to be bold and tell the fans and even his teammates that he’s going to play in a situation or that situation. We’ve got to take some time with him and we’ve got to make him comfortable with what he does best, and that’s playing regular minutes and penalty killing and playing a good defensive game. Do I think the offence is there? Yeah, I do. I think in the future we can talk about working him into those roles, but right now we need to just make sure he gets comfortable here.”
The head coach also said Larsson is sure to be under a “microscope” given the trade that brought him here, so the staff will make him comfortable before placing added pressure on the young defender.
Zack Kassian, Patrick Maroon and now Milan Lucic. The Oilers are bigger and tougher to play against thanks to some of the moves Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli has made over the last year. At least, that’s the plan.
Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan sees the moves Chiarelli has made as a promising start but needs to see the consistent play the additions are more than capable of before it translates to success.
“When Peter entered the program and looked at the team, he wanted to get bigger, stronger, heavier, a little harder to play against later on in games, tougher to knock off pucks, stronger in the blue paint at both ends, and with (those) players I think we’ve accomplished that,” said McLellan.
“They still have to go out and do it. It’s easy to look at their size and their strength and what they’ve done in the past but it’s still their responsibility to bring it each and every night and for us to get stronger in that area. The game is still played at a very fast pace, so these players need to be able to execute and get from point A to point B, and we believe they can with the size they bring.”
If the Oilers could get a resurgence out of Nail Yakupov it could very well lead to more team success. The 22-year-old winger and 2012 first-overall pick is coming off a season in which he had 23 points (8-15-23) in 60 games. Yakupov has been hard at work this off-season, in an attempt to post a breakout season.
Yakupov’s hard work is not lost on his head coach.
“I believe in giving people opportunities to recover and to bring their game,” said Todd McLellan. “I know Yak has been working extremely hard. He’s done some things that he hasn’t done in the past throughout the summer — training in different areas. When he comes back, if that’s the case, I want him to have success his teammates will want him to have success and it’s a matter of finding that as quick as possible and we could use him.”
Yakupov has 50 goals and 111 points in 252 career NHL games. His best production came in his rookie season, when he recorded 17 goals and 31 points in 48 games.
Sure, vacation is nice and getting away from the cold rinks and daily grind is fun for a while. But now is about the time NHL players start to get the itch to return to action. The Oilers are no exception to that, as several players took part in the Oil Country Championship Celebrity Pro-Am on Monday and were brimming with excitement for the new season.
“In the summer, as soon as the Draft comes and free agency comes, right around that time you start getting excited about your team and start getting ready for camp,” said Jordan Eberle. “We’ve been off for a long time already. It’s hard to believe we still have two months until camp. I like what we’ve done. I think we’re going to be a bigger team this year, and we’re going to be hard to play against.”
The Oilers have made several big moves, including shaking up their forward group by trading Taylor Hall to New Jersey and adding Milan Lucic in free agency, while picking up Jesse Puljujarvi in the Draft. With a few new faces, and some returning players who joined the team midway through the 2015-16 season, there is much excitement to see how everyone meshes together.
“It’s exciting. We’re looking like a team,” said forward Zack Kassian. “We have a mixture of players and personalities and in order to win in this league you need that. You need different personalities, you need different types of players. The acquisitions we’ve made I think show that. We’re really looking to gel as a team, first and foremost. All the good teams seem to stick together and get along well off the ice, and I think we have the fit for that now. I think we’re looking forward to get going here. Everyone I’ve talked to is very excited and can’t wait to get going.”
A new season with new faces in a brand-new arena has Edmonton buzzing, and the Oilers chomping at the bit to return.
“I’m excited. I think our whole team is excited,” said Matt Hendricks. “We want to turn this thing around. There’s been some moves, some big moves. We take a lot of value in that, but let’s be honest – there’s a lot of hype around here with the new arena opening, and that’s exciting. We can see Connor (McDavid) in his second year, and that’s exciting. We’re going to continue to improve, and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”
“We all know what he brings.”
Milan Lucic doesn’t even have to skate a single shift at an Oilers practice, and the players on the roster already know all about him. The veteran of nearly 700 NHL games was the team’s big free agency signing, and his reputation precedes him.
“I’ve never played on his team, but I’ve played a lot against him,” said Oilers winger Matt Hendricks. “I’ve played in playoff series against him when I was in Washington and he’s a beast. We need more of that. I’m excited that he’s coming, because he has that top-line mentality. He can play those big minutes, the top power play, first line, he has a lot of success there and he brings another element to our team that I think is very important.”
Hendricks spoke with media members at the Oil Country Championship Celebrity Pro-Am on Monday. He, along with other Oilers representatives voiced their opinions on the off-season moves. Lucic was a popular topic, even with one of the newest members of the team. Defenceman Adam Larsson, whom the team traded for a month ago, is used to playing against the opponents’ top lines. Therefore, he knows how tough of an opponent Lucic is and what kind of presence he can bring when he’s on your side.
“Obviously, he’s one of the toughest forwards in this league,” said Larsson. “It’s good to have him on your own side. That’s going to be fun.”
Lucic has 159 goals and 397 points in 647 regular season games. He also has 64 points (26-38-64) in 101 playoff games.
The Oilers aren’t done looking for ways to improve their roster, but they did conclude their free agency spending on day one feeling much better about the state of the team.
Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli patched a big hole on defence by adding defenceman Adam Larsson via trade before free agency opened. On Friday, the Oilers added a top-line winger in Milan Lucic to help fill the void left by Taylor Hall’s exit in the Larsson trade. Chiarelli also added backup goalie competition by signing Jonas Gustavsson, and some physical blueline depth for the farm with Mark Fraser.
“We’ve improved our team significantly,” said Chiarelli. “We’ve added what I assess as a top defenceman. He’s going to be a two at some point, Larsson. We’ve added Milan Lucic, who is going to help lead this team. He’s going to play a physical style of hockey, he’s going to score, he’s got a really nice set of hands. We lost a really good player, Taylor, and who was a real significant part of this team but I feel we improved by the style of player we’ve brought in and the approach to the game.”
As for adding another defenceman or making another move, that may come down the road.
“I’m really happy with what we’ve done the last few days,” said Chiarelli. “I’m gonna let the dust settle a little bit before we go out looking again. But really happy with what we’ve done. There’s been some change and some attitude change based on what we’ve done and, at this point and time, I’m quite satisfied.”
Milan Lucic was one of Peter Chiarelli’s first draft picks as general manager of the Boston Bruins in 2006. Now the two are reunited in Edmonton, after Lucic signed a seven-year deal with the club on the opening day of free agency.
That relationship played a part in reeling in the big fish of free agency.
“It helps. It helps a lot,” said Lucic. “Obviously, I got to spend eight years with him in Boston and he’s always been great to me and he’s always put the right pieces in place at the right time. It definitely is a vote of confidence when you know the GM is going to do the right thing to benefit the team. I think that’s the main thing, is making the team better and not always individuals better. Because it’s a team sport, the best team usually wins. He’s going to do whatever he can to make sure he has the best team.”
Chiarelli used the shopping period to reconnect with an old friend and rekindle that Boston bond.
“That made his visit a lot more comfortable and it was also fun just to reconnect,” said Chiarelli. “Once I left Boston, I didn’t really have the chance to see or talk to anybody. I always enjoyed my time talking to him in Boston and I like to hear his thoughts on the game and on players. He knows all the players in the league and how they play and stats. Very insightful guy.”
It just so happened the prior relationship also made it easier for the free agent to sign in Edmonton.
“There’s a lot of familiarity there with me and Milan,” said Chiarelli. “You can tell he’s a very sincere individual and he’s a terrific, impactful player. He’s going to change a lot of things here just by the way he plays and the way he leads. I’ve known him for a long time. I’ve seen him grow as a person, and I’m so excited to have him here.”
Chiarelli showed Lucic and his wife the new arena, they walked the downtown area and spoke about the city. But in the end, Lucic was sold on Chiarelli and the young talent on the roster, making it an easy choice despite being offered more money and longer term by other teams.
“It doesn’t surprise me one bit,” said Chiarelli. “He’s not in it for the money, and I know you hear that with every free agent signing. It doesn’t surprise me. You’ll learn that Milan is like that. It doesn’t surprise me.”