INSIDE THE OILERS
POSTED ON Thursday, 04.28.2016 / 11:04 AM MT
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

Two Oilers prospects are participating in the 2016 CHL Playoffs. Defenceman Ethan Bear is skating for Seattle in the WHL Playoffs, while goaltender Keven Bouchard is starting for Moncton in the QMJHL Playoffs.

It was a thriller for Bear and the Thunderbirds Wednesday night. Kelowna had a 4-2 lead in the third period, but Bear and his teammates rallied to tie and send it to overtime. It would take until 7:52 of the second overtime for the game-winning goal to be scored by Matthew Wedman, completing the Western Conference Final series sweep for Seattle. The Thunderbirds outshot the Rockets 76-32 in the 5-4 win.

Bear scored with 1:15 left in the third period to pull Seattle within one, and assisted on the equalizer with 2.7 seconds left, sending the game to overtime. Bear’s third-period goal was his second of the night as he turned in a three-point performance. Bear finished the game with two goals and an assist, and the Seattle blueliner now has 15 points in 13 playoff games.

Seattle advances to the WHL Final, where they will play either Brandon or Red Deer. Brandon leads the Eastern Conference Final series 3-1 with Game 5 on Friday.

Also on Wednesday night, Bouchard put forth a valiant effort in net, however Moncton fell 1-0 to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. Bouchard made 28 saves on 29 shots in the loss. Moncton falls behind 3-1 in the semi final series and will need a road win on Friday to avoid elimination.

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 04.27.2016 / 10:30 AM MT
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

Two Oilers prospects are participating in the 2016 CHL Playoffs. Defenceman Ethan Bear is skating for Seattle in the WHL Playoffs, while goaltender Keven Bouchard is starting for Moncton in the QMJHL Playoffs.

Bear and the Thunderbirds kept it rolling Tuesday night with a 3-1 win over the Kelowna Rockets in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final. Seattle took a 3-0 series lead over their opponent and will try and close them out on Wednesday.

Bear scored a goal 58 seconds into the third period to give Seattle a 2-1 lead. The defenceman, taken 124th overall in the 2015 NHL Draft, is second on Seattle in scored with 12 points (4-8-12) points in 12 post-season games.

In the QMJHL, Bouchard made 37 saves as his team fell to Rouyn-Noranda 5-1 in Game 3 of their semi final series. Bouchard and Moncton fall behind 2-1 to the Huskies in the series. Game 4 is Wednesday in Moncton.

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POSTED ON Monday, 04.25.2016 / 3:35 PM MT
By Meg Tilley - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

Congratulations to Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan’s son Tyson McLellan.

The 20-year-old is one of three freshmen who officially signed their national letters of intent last week to join the University of Denver Pioneers hockey team for the 2016-17 season.

“These young men are great additions to our program and we’re thrilled they’ve decided to come to Denver,” Denver’s hockey coach Jim Montgomery told denverpioneers.com.

“Tyson is an extremely intelligent forward that will fit in well with the culture we’ve created here and will be able to play solid, Denver-style hockey right away for us.”

Tyson played his 2015-16 season with the Madison Capitals in the USHL where he recorded 10 goals and 15 assists for 25 points in 46 games. Prior to being acquired by Madison, the 5-foot-9, 170-pound centre spent two seasons with the Waterloo Black Hawks.

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POSTED ON Saturday, 04.23.2016 / 10:47 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

Ethan Bear and the Seattle Thunderbirds went up 2-0 in their Western Conference Final series against Kelowna, courtesy of a 3-2 win Saturday night.

Bear, a fifth-round pick in 2015, finished the game with an assist to give him a total of 11 points in 11 games this post-season (3-8-11). The defenceman has recorded at least a point in five of his last six games.

Seattle heads home to host Kelowna for Game 3 on Tuesday.

In the QMJHL, Oilers prospect Keven Bouchard recorded the win in Game 2 of his series. The Moncton Wildcats goaltender stopped 17 shots in a 5-4 win over Rouyn-Noranda. The bounce-back game for Moncton tied the series at 1-1.

Game 3 is Tuesday in Moncton.

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POSTED ON Friday, 04.22.2016 / 10:53 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

Oilers defensive prospect Ethan Bear recorded an assist on the game’s opening goal as the Seattle Thunderbirds beat Kelowna 2-1 in Game 1 of the WHL Western Conference Final.

Bear passed the puck to Mathew Barzal and the Thunderbirds forward took it toward the net and sniped the game’s opening goal at 18:34 of the second period, on the power play.

Although the Rockets would score at 19:38 of the third, it was too little too late for the home team, and Bear and the visiting ‘Birds were able to hang on and take a 1-0 series lead.

Bear now has 10 points (3-7-10) in 10 games this post-season. He was taken 124th overall in the 2015 NHL Draft.

Seattle tries to go up 2-0 on Saturday.

Meanwhile, in QMJHL action, Oilers goalie prospect Keven Bouchard suffered a 4-1 loss in his playoff series. The Moncton goalie made 23 saves on 27 shots, however Rouyn-Noranda took Game 1 of the semi-final series. The two teams meet again Saturday.

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 04.20.2016 / 2:12 PM MT
By Meg Tilley - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

The dust has finally settled on Round 2 of the Western Hockey League playoffs.

Oilers defensive prospect Ethan Bear and the Seattle Thunderbirds will face-off against the Kelowna Rockets in the Western Conference Championship.

Bear has recorded three goals and added six assists for nine points in nine playoff games.

Defending their 2015 WHL Playoff Championship title, the Rockets look to make the advance once more, this time without Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl in their lineup.

The Rockets alumnus was a pivotal piece in their ranks during the 2014-15 WHL season and 2015 post-season run, scoring 10 goals and adding 18 assists for 28 points in 19 games.

Meanwhile, Oilers goaltending prospect Keven Bouchard and the Moncton Wildcats will take on the Rouyn-Noranda in the QMJHL semi final series.

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 04.19.2016 / 3:06 PM MT
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 04.19.2016 / 3:02 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

A pair of Russian forwards spent part of the 2015-16 season down in the American Hockey League with the Oilers affiliate. Anton Slepyshev and Bogdan Yakimov each played over 35 games for the Bakersfield Condors.

Slepyshev opened the season in Edmonton (11 games, one assist), but was assigned down to Bakersfield. It took him some time to adjust to his new surroundings in his first North American season.

The winger seemed to find his groove in the month of March. He had a stretch of games in which he recorded three goals and four assists for seven points in seven games. He finished the season with 21 points, including 13 goals, in 49 games for the Condors.

“I think Slepy got better as the year went on and I think you’ll see more offence from him next year,” said Condors Coach Gerry Fleming, who spoke with Bob Stauffer on Oilers Now Tuesday. “It’s always tough when you don’t understand the language, different culture, the game is a little bit different here with just the size of the ice and the way the philosophies are. It took him a little while to adapt to that but I think there were signs toward the end of the year that he does have that club in his bag and he’s got a good skill-set. He’s big, he just needed time to get comfortable.”

Yakimov had much more of a rollercoaster season that saw him return to the KHL for 11 games and then the playoffs before returning to Bakersfield to finish out the year. He finished his 2015-16 AHL campaign with 15 points (5-10-15) in 36 games. This came a year following a promising first North American season in which a strong rookie camp put him right in the thick of the top end of the Oilers prospect pool. The return to Russia could be seen as a bump in his development road, but his return was encouraging for the Condors and the Oilers.

“Double-edged sword there,” said Fleming. “He thinks that going back helped him not only physically but mentally. He says it’s a different game, they play a little bit differently. Maybe a little more skill-set is required so maybe you have to be focused on that. He came back and kudos to him for coming back and trying to help us. He was good on draws for us down the stretch. Obviously, we’d like to see a little more offence from him but it wasn’t from lack of trying, that’s for sure.”

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 04.19.2016 / 3:00 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

The Bakersfield Condors rolled out a largely young and inexperienced lineup this season, especially on defence. The Oilers American Hockey League affiliate played host to several young blueliners in either their first or first few professional seasons. Condors Head Coach Gerry Fleming provided his breakdown of some of those young players when he spoke to Bob Stauffer on Oilers Now Tuesday.

Joey LaLeggia enjoyed a fruitful career at the University of Denver. The 23-year-old played five games as a pro last season when his collegiate career ended, but this was his first full year in the AHL.

The defenceman had to spend time playing forward several games due to injuries and call-ups, but the Condors and Oilers are pleased with his progression. He finished the season with 27 points (8-19-27) in 63 games.

“I think Joey got better as the year went on,” said Fleming. “He’s a good player with the puck, but he expanded on that. He was walking the line a little bit more, he had more poise with the puck and his defensive game got better and better. There’s still areas in his defensive game, because he’s a little bit of a smaller guy he’s got to get a little bit stronger but overall we liked his progression and like where he’s at right now.”

Another former collegiate defenceman enjoyed a very promising second pro season in the eyes of his coach.

Dillon Simpson, I thought overall, was probably our most consistent d-man all year long,” said Fleming. “I don’t know where to begin. There’s so many improvements in his game that have happened not only this year but last year as well. He doesn’t make many mistakes. He’s low maintenance, he’s a good leader and he assumed that responsibility this year. I think more time for Dillon and hopefully he gets some games up and down next year to see where he’s at. He was great for us all year long.”

Simpson spent four years at the University of North Dakota. The 2011 fourth-round pick finished this season with 20 points (4-16-20) in 57 games.

Jordan Oesterle is a name very familiar to Oilers fans, as he spent 17 games with the big club this season and drew much praise from the Edmonton staff. The second-year pro posted 25 points (4-21-25) in 44 AHL games with the Condors and returned to them late in the season.

“Before he left he was playing a really high level of hockey at this level, and he came back and picked up right where he left off,” Fleming said of the college free-agent signing out of Western Michigan. “He was a big part of our push down the stretch here especially over the last weekend.”

The Oilers invested a first and second-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft to acquire 2012 fourth-overall pick Griffin Reinhart. While he spent half his season with the Oilers, Fleming and the Condors did get a chance to work with the blueliner for 30 games. There were positive signs upon his late-season return to the AHL.

“Griff, when he came back, I thought he played a lot heavier,” said Fleming. “There was times we’d show him the importance of that aspect of his game and being consistent with it. I thought when he came down he played a lot more physical.”

Another year of development has paid dividends with some of the Oilers defensive prospects.

“There were some good signs,” said Fleming.

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 04.19.2016 / 1:31 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

The Bakersfield Condors would like to be sitting in a playoff spot right about now, but unfortunately they fell just short of that goal. But for their bigger goal and the bigger picture, there were successes this season.

As the American Hockey League affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers, the Condors main purpose is to develop the NHL club’s young prospects and prepare them for life in the NHL. The staff down in California takes great pride when they are able to tell a player they’ve gotten the call-up.

“Ultimately, that’s our job is to prepare these guys to play in the NHL,” said Condors Head Coach Gerry Fleming. “We had pretty much all of our guys at some point or a majority of our guys play in the NHL and contribute or perform well up there. That speaks volumes to the reception they receive down here. People don’t understand that coming to these games and watching these guys develop is a big part of what we’re trying to accomplish here. In that respect, it was a positive thing. But at the end of the day, you’d always like to make the playoffs, and I think that experience of going into the playoffs and learning how to win and playing those games is a huge part of their development.”

Players like Darnell Nurse and Leon Draisaitl began the year on the farm, but earned call-ups and stuck with the Oilers the rest of the way, taking advantage of an opportunity that presented itself with injuries to the parent club. Prospects like Jujhar Khaira and Jordan Oesterle took advantage of their opportunities as well and were able to turn heads on the Oilers first-year coaching staff. Laurent Brossoit earned time in the NHL after an All-Star campaign down in the AHL.

That being said, all of the call-ups this season left the Condors fighting for their playoff lives and struggling to piece together a full roster. But that’s the life of an AHL team, and through the disappointment there were successes.

“I don’t think it’s a question of frustration,” said Fleming. “I am disappointed for the guys because they do put the sacrifice in and the hard work and the time and details that need to go into getting into the playoffs. But at the end of the day, their ultimate goal is to play in the NHL and contribute to that team and to further their careers. They all want to play in the NHL. At the end of the day, we’re here to service the Edmonton Oilers. They want us to make the playoffs because it is a big part of their development. To see the amount of guys we had move up and progress in their careers was rewarding.”

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INSIDE THE OILERS BLOG