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.
Although Oilers forward Jordan Eberle is looking forward to getting out on the green for the Celebrity Pro-Am that will help kick-off the Syncrude Oil Country Championship presented by AECON, he’s also been using the summer to keep his strength and conditioning in check.
- Click Jordan Eberle on Oilers NOW to listen to his interview with Bob Stauffer
“In the gym, with the kids coming in, everyone’s so fast now, you just want to continue to get faster and stronger,” Ebele said to Oilers NOW radio host Bob Stauffer. “I think that’s always a big thing.”
Regardless of ensuring that — as a veteran player — he’s able to keep up with the young players that cycle into the NHL each year, Eberle said he’s taken it a step further to work harder on certain aspects of his personal development.
“I actually hired a shooting coach out of Vancouver, so I’ve been working with him the last little bit and trying to improve my shot, one-timer release,” he explained.
In doing so, Eberle said he feels it will help him become a more dynamic player for the Oilers inaugural season at Rogers Place.
“I’m just trying to find ways to improve my goal scoring abilities. It’s one thing I’ve definitely added to my game this summer.”
The Celebrity Pro-Am that will kick off the Syncrude Oil Country Championship presented by AECON is just three days away and Oilers forward Jordan Eberle said he’s looking forward to the event.
“It’ll be a good event,” Eberle told Oilers NOW radio host Bob Stauffer. “I know there’s a lot of alumni coming back, there’s a lot of current players coming. We’ve been away from each other, as far as teammates, for the last three, four months, so it’ll be nice to rekindle a little bit and play some golf and do it for a good cause.”
The inaugural event will also see Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and newly acquired Oilers defenceman Adam Larsson among the celebrity lineup that will see them tee off alongside Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada pros.
“It’s funny, we [as a team] don’t really get to play with each other as much as we probably want,” said Eberle. “Maybe one or two rounds during the season if we have a couple of days off. But I know Nuge is a good player… I think, generally, if you’re a hockey player, you usually have a decent swing. You hit the ball pretty far it’s just a matter of if it goes straight or not.”
The Celebrity Pro-Am will be played at Edmonton’s Glendale Golf and Country Club on Monday, July 25.
Oilers goaltender Laurent Brossoit hit the rink to participate in some Oilers Hockey School on-ice sessions with youth hockey players in St. Albert on Wednesday.
As the netminder helps to coach young, up-and-coming players on cultivating new skills, he’s equally aware of the ‘newness’ that awaits him, and goalies across the league, this year.
For the 2016-17 season, goaltenders will be required to wear equipment better suited to their body size.
“I’ve yet to see any of the gear, I’m nervous to see it,” said Brossoit. “I don’t know how much they’ve taken up, I’m pretty sure it’s just the chest protection and the pants.”
Reductions will be made to the pants and upper body of the equipment, thus cutting down on unnecessary “fat” which didn’t serve to protect goaltenders, only help some gain an unfair advantage.
The call to action for the equipment change came from a number of the league’s top goaltenders with an end-goal that would see goaltending position be more about skill and less about the puck ricocheting off enormous equipment.
“I mean we’ll see what it looks like and I’m sure, like we always do, the goalies will adapt and be just as good.”
It was a big year for Oilers goaltender Laurent Brossoit.
The 23-year-old netminder, who appeared in 31 games with the Oilers American Hockey League affiliate Bakersfield Condors, posting an 18-9-3 record, a 2.66 goals against average, a .920 save percentage and three shutouts, signed a two-year contract extension with Edmonton in February.
Though a few months have come and gone since the Oilers said their farewells and played their last game at Rexall Place on April 6, Brossoit said he relishes the opportunity the club gave him in the 2015-16 season.
“It was awesome,” he said. “Even though, you know, the numbers and a couple of my performances didn’t go the way I planned, [it was a] huge learning curve for me and it really opened my eyes to what I need to work on and the things I need to get better at. I was very, very happy and fortunate that I got that opportunity.”
Brossoit, who played in five games with the Oilers during the remainder of the season, posted a 0-4-0 record, a 3.61 goals against average and a .873 save percentage.
Though the 6-foot-3, 200-pound goaltender admits he was disappointed in how some of his game-play panned out, he also felt encouraged, having gained more knowledge on the league, recognizing where there is room for improvement and what is to be of expected of him at Oilers camp in the coming months.
“So far, [improving] the mental side, just staying calm and prepped for situations — not that I don’t have that ability — just to have that ability at the bigger stage,” said Brossoit. “[Including] cardio and just upping every aspect of my game.”
Servus Credit Union Place in St. Albert was a-buzz on Wednesday as youth hockey players took to the Mark Messier and Troy Murray arenas for their afternoon on-ice sessions at the Oilers Hockey School.
A special guest was also in attendance this week as Oilers goaltender Laurent Brossoit took some time away from family and friends to join in on the activities with the eager, young players.
“My summer’s been excellent, it’s been long, so I’ve had a lot of time to catch up with family and friends and get a little relaxing in along with the training,” said Brossoit.
In town for the eighth annual hockey school, Brossoit found some time from his busy schedule to join-in on the 4-week program to spend some time and work with the kids.
The 6-foot-3 netminder said he was more than ready to get his skates on and was looking forward to getting involved in the on-ice sessions.
“I’ve had the itch (to play) for a while now,” said Brossoit. “This is the longest summer I’ve had since my professional career and…the eagerness is there and it’s been there for a bit.”
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Of the 36 prospects attending Oilers Orientation Camp this week, five are goaltenders.
Goaltending Coach, Dustin Schwartz, and Goaltending Consultant Sylvain Rodrigue have worked with each netminder, breaking down their strengths and weaknesses so each prospect can see the areas that need work and where there is room to improve.
“You kind of take each one as their own individual,” said Schwartz. “Ultimately, whether they’re a part of our organization or not, they’re here. In this moment, you’re working to help them all be better. If they can leave the camp and have a few things improved in their game I think that it benefits everyone.”
Two of the five goaltenders joined the organization this year.
Nick Ellis, 22, was a college free agent and signed a two-year entry level contract in early April. He recorded a 25-7-4 record, a 1.80 goals against average, a .936 save percentage and four shutouts playing for Providence College.
“He’s a wonderful kid, he’s got a great compete level,” said Schwartz. “He never quits on a play. He’s got a few things that he’s aware of and that we talked about even prior to him coming here that he wanted to improve on and we were on the same page right away, so it was good to have that dialogue before he came to camp.”
Meanwhile, Dylan Wells, 18, was selected by the Oilers in the fifth round, 123rd overall, at this years NHL Draft. The goaltender played 27 games for the Ontario Hockey League’s Peterborough Petes this season, recording a 9-13-3 record, a 4.59 goals against average and .871 save percentage.
“He’s a big kid, he’s pretty athletic for his size, he moves well,” said Schwartz. “There are things in his game that he needs to work on, but he’s still young so I think there’s lots of time to develop some of those skills. We kept it to one thing at a time with him this week, making sure that he understood and continued to build the reps in so he can make it become more of a habit. I think he’s going to put the work in this summer. He’s very diligent, a good athlete off the ice as well so there’s some upside there that I think is definitely a real bright future for him.”
Overall, Schwartz said it was important that he and Rodrigue looked beyond evaluating each netminder and really break down what each goalie could work on to improve their style of play.
“We’ve talked a lot about details in their game and development and for the importance of moving and take the next step in their career for some of them that’s going to be taking on a start job this year, for others its going from college to play pro hockey,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of conversations and all of them have been receptive.”