Ben Betker is a massive presence on the blueline here at Oilers Orientation Camp at Rexall Place. The 6-foot-6 defenceman has packed on even more muscle, saying he’s gained seven pounds this summer after playing at around 220 this season in Everett.
It was a good season for Betker, who made strides in his third WHL campaign. The hulking rearguard posted 31 points (6-25-31) in 64 games for the Silvertips, adding 63 penalty minutes.
For Betker to make the jump to the professional ranks in 2015-16 and become an impact player for the Bakersfield Condors of the American Hockey League, he says he wants to work on a few things. Betker wants to continue to add muscle and strength, while getting quicker.
One other area of his game Betker wants to address is being mean. More importantly, being mean consistently. He wants to play a hard game all the time.
“I have that. I think I need to do it more consistently,” said Betker. “I think that’s the thing, especially being physical. You look at guys like (Nashville Predators Captain) Shea Weber or (Hall of Famer) Chris Pronger back in the day, he played here. The tenacity that they play with was always in their game every night. Something like that, consistently, is what I need to bring and that will really help me out in the long run.”
Mark Messier is well known in Edmonton as one of the great Oilers of the 80s. Paul played for the Edmonton Mets in the AJHL, before a long career that ended overseas in Europe. Murdoch had a long career with the New York Rangers back in the late 20s and 30s. Esposito’s grandfather, who is in Edmonton observing Orientation Camp, played for the Oil Kings from 1954-1957 and went on to have a head coaching career in both the AJHL and AHL.
Having family like that goes a long way to helping you in your career.
“They’ve been unbelievable,” said Esposito. “I wouldn’t be here without them. From my dad’s side, even though he wasn’t a hockey player, he was a Division I soccer player and an athlete in his own right and also his work ethic. Then obviously on my mom’s side with my uncle (Mark). Even to this day he lives close to me at home. He’s been unbelievable with giving me pointers. If I ever have questions, I see him all the time so we have a good running dialogue about stuff like that and my grandpa as well, he coached me all the way up. He’s here actually this week. It’s good to have him around and it’s been great. Without them, I wouldn’t be here.”
Esposito has spent the past two years at Harvard University. Read more about Esposito and his impact on one Oilers prospect HERE.
Leon Draisaitl is in the same spot he was last summer. He is working hard to earn an NHL job out of camp. The big Oilers centre is another year stronger, wiser and more experienced but the club has also gotten better, adding to their depth.
“I’m well aware of that and I think that just makes it more fun,” said Draisaitl. “There is going to be a big competition for spots. I want to make a case for myself and I want to be on this team. Obviously, I’m going to battle hard for a spot.”
Drafting Connor McDavid first overall, adding a centre via free agency (Mark Letestu) and the emergence of Anton Lander have left seemingly few spots up for grabs. Would the Oilers be better suited to start Draisaitl out on the wing this season?
If they wish to do so, Draisaitl says that’s OK.
“I’d be totally fine with that,” he said. “I’ve played the wing before… I know how to play the wing. For me, it wouldn’t really matter. As long as I’m on the team, for me, everything works I guess.”
Having experience playing both up the middle and on the wing, Draisaitl can make that transition if need be.
“It’s easier to switch from centre to wing than from wing to centre,” said Draisaitl. “I think you have a little bit more responsibility as a centreman. A lot of times you’re the guy working down low with the defenceman and that obviously takes work. That, you kind of don’t have as a winger. I think, obviously, you have to work hard as a winger as well, but I think it’s a little different role. Like I said, I know how to play both sides and I think that’s a good thing to have.”
If Draisaitl earns a spot out of camp and it just so happens to be on the wing, it gives Edmonton another offensive weapon up front. Draisaitl had 53 points (19-34-53) in just 32 games for the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL last season. He had 28 points (10-18-28) in 19 playoff games.
With all the moves the Oilers have made since Peter Chiarelli took over as President of Hockey Operations and General Manager, there is a sense of excitement around Edmonton. The Oilers not only drafted the highly talented Connor McDavid first overall, but they executed a handful of trades that brought them two defencemen, a potential starting goaltender and a depth winger. In free agency, the Oilers snagged a top-four defenceman and another depth forward.
Combine those personnel moves with the hiring of Todd McLellan and his coaching staff, and the new-look Oilers offer a lot to be excited about. McLellan himself sees that.
“A lot of exciting things are happening in our organization,” said McLellan. “I’m back in Edmonton now for the first time in a little while and there’s a sense of excitement outside the rink and with fans that I run into and that’s exciting and encouraging. We added pieces at the draft. I thought Peter and his staff did a fantastic job of preparing for that and executing. Then obviously, yesterday (we added) a couple more pieces. Transforming the roster, trying to fill holes, trying to improve areas.”
While McLellan and his staff are excited about the changes, it’s the product on the ice that matters most.
“I’ve also reminded a lot of people, including our coaching staff, that it’s what happens between the boards for 60 minutes that really counts,” said McLellan. “We can put names on the board, we can fool around on paper and talk about a lot of things but we have to blend all this together. We have to make a decision on how we want to play and we have to commit to that, not only through some good days but through the bad days. We’ll still have those. We’ll try to work towards an identity and build on that day in and day out. The team looks different than it did a few weeks ago, but there’s work to do.”
While the coaching staff and the players maybe need to temper their enthusiasm a bit and just focus on the task at hand, McLellan says the fans shouldn’t have to.
“We have keep it real,” said McLellan. “I hope that the people in Edmonton and in the hockey world keep that excitement up. It forces us to execute and keeps us on our toes. That’s a really good thing. We also have to do this methodically. We have to incorporate how we want to play. We can’t go from A to M and skip all the other letters in the alphabet. The would be dangerous. We have to do it methodically and we have to develop an identity, we’ve got to get our foundation in place and grow as a team now. We’ve got 1/3, 1/4 turnover. There are a lot of fresh faces, new ideas, a belief system that needs to be built with the existing players that are returning and the new ones. Methodical.”
Mark Letestu Interview & Highlights | Mark Letestu Interview on 630 CHED
The Oilers have agreed to terms with free agent centre Mark Letestu on a three-year contract.
Letestu, 30, has played 318 NHL games for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets. The Elk Point, AB native has 127 points (58-69-127) in his career and has played 17 playoff games, recording a goal and three assists.
In 2014-15, Letestu posted 13 points (7-6-13) in 54 games for the Blue Jackets. His best NHL season came in 2013-14 when he scored 12 goals and added 22 assists for a career high 34 points.
He was 52.9% on faceoffs this past season.
Letestu played college hockey at Western Michigan University for one season before going pro.
The Oilers have agreed to terms with free agent defenceman Andrej Sekera on a six-year contract.
Sekera, 29, is a 486-game NHL veteran. He has played for the Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes and Los Angeles Kings since joining the league as a third-round pick (71st overall) in 2004.
Sekera has 159 points (31-128-159) in his NHL career. In 2014-15, Sekera played 57 games for the Hurricanes, scoring two goals and adding 17 assists. He was traded to Los Angeles on February 25, and played 16 games, scoring a goal and adding three assists.
His best NHL production, point-wise, came in 2013-14 when he recorded 44 points (11-33-44) in 74 games for Carolina.
He is a 6-foot-0, 201-pound native of Slovakia. He represented his country at the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics.
The Oilers have announced they have traded centre Boyd Gordon to the Arizona Coyotes, in exchange for winger Lauri Korpikoski.
Korpikoski, 28, is a left winger from Finland. He was taken 19th overall in the first round of the 2004 NHL Draft by the New York Rangers. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound forward has played in 469 NHL games over the course of his career and has recorded 68 goals, 91 assists and 112 penalty minutes. He has played 30 NHL playoff games, scoring two goals and adding three assists.
In 2014-15, Korpikoski scored six goals and added 15 assists for 21 points in 69 games with Arizona.
Gordon returns to the Coyotes where he played from 2011-2013.
|2002-2003||TPS Turku U18-Fin-U18||21||7||4||11||10|
|2003-2004||TPS Turku U18-Fin-U18|
|2003-2004||TPS Turku Jr.-Fin-Jr.||36||12||8||20||20|
|2004-2005||TPS Turku Jr.-Fin-Jr.||3||3||0||3||0|
|2005-2006||TPS Turku Jr.-Fin-Jr.||1||1||0||1||2|
|2005-2006||Hartford Wolf Pack-AHL||5||2||1||3||0||0||1||0||0|
|2006-2007||Hartford Wolf Pack-AHL||78||11||27||38||8||23||3||1||2|
|2007-2008||Hartford Wolf Pack-AHL||79||23||27||50||20||71||6||2|
|2008-2009||Hartford Wolf Pack-AHL||4||4||2||6||7||0||1||0||1|
|2003-2004||TPS Turku U18-Fin-U18||4||5||3||8||0||16|
|2003-2004||TPS Turku Jr.-Fin-Jr.||4||0||2||2||0||4||0||0.0|
|2005-2006||TPS Turku Jr.-Fin-Jr.||0||0||0.0|
|2005-2006||Hartford Wolf Pack-AHL||11||1||0||1||-4||2||1||0||0|
|2006-2007||Hartford Wolf Pack-AHL||7||0||0||0||-1||0||0||0||0|
|2007-2008||Hartford Wolf Pack-AHL||5||1||1||2||-5||0||0||0|
Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced today the club has issued qualifying offers to defencemen Brandon Davidson and Justin Schultz, as well as winger Tyler Pitlick.
Schultz, 24, is the most experienced of the three. He has played 203 NHL games, recording 91 points (25-66-91), for the Oilers since the 2012-13 season. In 2014-15, Schultz played 81 games, posting six goals, 25 assists, 12 penalty minutes and a -17 rating.
Davidson, 23, was taken 162nd overall in the 2010 NHL Draft. He made his NHL debut this past season on December 10, 2014. He scored his first NHL goal on March 30, 2015. Davidson played 55 games this season for the Oklahoma City Barons in the American Hockey League, recording 10 points (4-6-10) and 43 penalty minutes and a +10 rating.
Pitlick, 23, played 17 NHL games this season, scoring two goals. He has played 27 NHL games in his career since being taken 31st overall in the 2010 NHL Draft. He had nine points (3-6-9) in 14 AHL games this season with the Barons.
Former Oilers defenceman Chris Pronger has been inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Pronger joins Nicklas Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov and Phil Housley as the four players in the Class of 2015.
Pronger played just one season for the Oilers in 2005-06, recording 56 points (12-44-56) and 74 penalty minutes. In the Oilers ’06 Cup run, Pronger posted 21 points (5-16-21) in 24 games.
The 6-foot-6, 210-pound defenceman has played 1,167 NHL games in his career for the Oilers, the Hartford Whalers, St. Louis Blues, Anaheim Ducks and Philadelphia Flyers. Pronger won the Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007.
Pronger, 40, won the 1997 World Championship with Canada. He is also a two-time Olympic gold medalist and won gold at the 1993 World Junior Championship.
Pronger was a workhorse, averaging more than 30 minutes per game in two seasons with the Blues and more than 25 minutes per game every season from 1998-99 to 2009-10.
The Oilers made Caleb Jones the 117th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. Sports run in the family.
His father, Popeye Jones is a retired NBA player. His older brothers play hockey and one of them, Seth, was the fourth overall pick of the Nashville Predators in the 2013 NHL Draft.
Needless to say, they’re a competitive bunch. Caleb enjoyed the thought of maybe one day playing against Seth. What is the first thing he’d do?
“Ask him to fight probably,” Jones laughed. “No, but it will be good. We’ve always had battles. Even in basketball, 1-on-1, or on the ice when we were just practicing together. Maybe seeing him on the other side of the blue line one day would be pretty fun.”
Caleb compares his style of play to Seth.
“I think I play a bit like my brother,” said the 6-foot-0, 194-pound defenceman. “I think we’re both two-way defencemen. I think I’m more of a physical and aggressive player than he is but I say, in sense of the whole entire game, we’re pretty alike.”
Seth helps his younger brother train in the off-season.
“He’s been really big for me,” said Caleb. “I’ve trained with him the past three summers and he’s really pushed me. He’s consistent with his work ethic every day. It has really taught me what it takes to get to the next level and be a pro.”