The Oilers Rookies game against the University of Alberta Golden Bears tonight is Darnell Nurse’s final tuneup before the club meets for main camp. The seventh-overall pick in 2013 is expected to make a push to make the Oilers roster. He is pleased thus far with his performance in Rookie Camp.
“It was a good start,” Nurse said. “The pace was a lot more manageable this year with knowing what to expect and having that year under my belt. I feel good with where I am at right now, it’s just continuing the pace and building on that on a daily basis.”
Nurse is well aware that training camp is right around the corner, but he is focused on tonight.
“I’m ready to get that going and I’m really excited to get on the ice with the big club at main camp. I’m looking forward to it but you’ve got to take it one day at a time and tonight comes first.”
Last year the Edmonton Oilers Rookie game against the University of Alberta Golden Bears got a little chippy.
Although intensity is something both teams want out of this friendly tune-up game, staying disciplined is going to be of importance.
“That was my first experience with the game last year, because we didn’t do it the previous years,” Oilers Rookies Head Coach Todd Nelson said. “It was kind of an eye-opener because I didn’t realize how intense it was going to be. I expect something very similar. I know after the game last year that (U of A Head Coach Ian Herbers) and I talked and we had wanted a spirited affair but we didn’t want it really chippy. Him and I were a bit concerned after the game that our players handled themselves that way. But boys will be boys and they are all competitive. It will be interesting to see what happens but I know Ian mentioned to me that he wasn’t very impressed with the way that things went on in the first couple of periods but things settled down as the game went on.”
Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse played in last year’s game against the Golden Bears and remembers how intense the atmosphere was in Clare Drake Arena.
“It was pretty heated, a lot more heated than I thought it was going to get,” Nurse said. “It’s a fun environment to go play in. I don’t even know if anyone was cheering for us last year. It’s a fun game to be a part of.”
As an agitator, Oilers winger Greg Chase enjoys that type of game.
“I think it’s definitely fun,” he said. “Obviously, they can’t fight (per the rules) so it makes it “scrummier” and it gets heated after whistles when that happens. It’s definitely fun to play in those games and stir stuff up.”
Nurse says the intensity is good, but winning this game would put a stamp on what has been a much more successful Rookie Camp than last year.
“It would be nice to win this game and keep that intensity up. I think it’s a lot of fun when we’re playing with that type of intensity and pace. We’ll see how it goes tonight.”
The Oilers Rookies know what to expect when they hit the ice tonight at Clare Drake Arena for a showdown with the 2014 CIS National Champion University of Alberta Golden Bears.
The Oilers are returning a handful of prospects that played in last year’s game.
“We all know that they are a fast and skilled hockey team,” said Greg Chase, who scored a goal in this game last year. “From what I’ve heard, I know I’ve only played against them once and I think I watched them once last year in Calgary, we know they are a really disciplined hockey team and they get a lot of pucks on net. They’ve got good goaltending. They’re a good all around team. I think this year we are a little more prepared with a lot of guys knowing what to expect coming back from last camp. It will be a fun game to be a part of.”
Travis Ewanyk is also impressed with the team he’ll face tonight.
“We’re definitely not going to take them lightly,” Ewanyk said. “Personally, I know from living here that the culture and the history that team has. You look up and you see the banners and you know what that team has done. They’re well-coached, they play together and they are a bunch of guys who could be in pro camps, they’ve played through the Western Hockey League and they are going to play a hard game.”
The Oilers know the Golden Bears will show up to play, as this is their opportunity to showcase to the city and the fans how they match up against NHL prospects. Likewise, the Oilers players know everyone is watching them as well.
“Any time you come on the ice, people are watching,” Ewanyk. “I think you would be ignorant not to notice that whether you were in their position or this position. They have a lot of guys who move on each year and they’ve got some really good players over there so I’m sure they’re out there to make an impression as well.”
This weekend’s Young Stars Tournament was the first chance for the Oilers to get a look at their third-overall pick in game action since he was drafted. Leon Draisaitl made an impression on General Manager Craig MacTavish, who was in attendance in Penticton, B.C.
“He did what he needed to do,” MacTavish said. “He showed an elite understanding of the game and an elite sense and you would expect a player of that pedigree to be a dominant player at this level. So we can check off the first box in terms of what he needs to accomplish to stay with us.”
Draisaitl had two assists on Monday in the team’s third and final game of the tournament. His passes were indications of what kind of player he could be in the NHL.
“That’s my game. I am a playmaker more than a finisher,” Draisaitl said.
MacTavish says his two assists were examples of the elite hockey sense that made him a top-five pick in the draft.
“He knows what he’s going to do with the puck before he gets it. That’s a pretty good indicator of elite hockey sense and he finds people just effortlessly on the rush. When players on the ice are finding players that you’re not seeing while watching the game, you know that that’s pretty special talent.”
The Oilers acquired Kale Kessy from the Phoenix Coyotes in a trade in March of 2013. He was the 111th pick, in the fourth round, of the 2011 NHL Draft.
Kessy is one of several players that General Manager Craig MacTavish says has shown improvement since last year’s tournament.
“Kessy definitely played well, did what he needed to do and showed a willingness to be a physical factor,” MacTavish said. “He made a lot more plays than he did last year, which he needed to do. He’s really come a long ways in a year.”
Kessy spent the 2013-14 season with the Oklahoma City Barons in the American Hockey League. He had six points (2-4-6) in 54 games, and had 88 penalty minutes.
The Oilers selected Jujhar Khaira in the third round of the 2012 draft. This year, he showed up for the Young Stars Tournament bigger and better than a year ago.
Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish says that after a slow start to his first game of the tournament, Khaira showed flashes of the big, physical player he could be.
“I think his first game, he started slowly and today he seemed to get better as the game wore on,” MacTavish said. “I can’t really remember that much of him last year but the things that do stand out when you’re talking about Jujhar are his strength on the puck and his character. He answered the bell physically today. There are some things that obviously he’s going to have to continue to work at but he’s an exciting prospect.”
Khaira had a goal, an assist and a fight in his final game of the tournament.
Rookie camp invite Vladimir Tkachev may be small in stature but that didn’t stop the 5-foot-9, 141-pound Russian winger from making an impression on the Oilers at this weekend’s Young Stars Tournament.
Tkachev was creative offensively, finishing the tournament with three assists.
“He was a dominant player here,” Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish said. “I’ve seen him play a few times and every time you see him play he is a dominant player. You want to continue to give him the opportunity and that definitely has caught everybody’s attention and interest at this point.”
Tkachev will get his opportunity to further showcase his skills to the Oilers at main camp, but his playtime in pre-season is yet to be determined.
“That will be up to Dallas to determine. He saw plenty here too so the next step is to see how he looks amongst NHL players and then we’ll make an assessment from there.”
It was clear on the ice this year at the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, B.C. that the Oilers had upgraded the skill and talent level of their roster. This year’s squad finished with two wins and a shootout loss, as compared to last year’s winless tournament.
Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish spoke after the final game and says there were more things to like this year.
“I feel better than we did last year coming out of this tournament,” he said. “I’ll just reiterate some of the things we said last year. There are not a lot of conclusions you can draw based on this. I think we saw some of the things we wanted to see for sure. There were some surprises and some guys who elevated themselves through the course of the tournament. Now they’ll get a little bit more of a look coming into training camp and maybe some pre-season games because of it.”
A storyline of the Edmonton Oilers Rookies thus far in Penticton has been the play of their two Russian players. Vladimir Tkachev and Bogdan Yakimov, in just two games, have gained some chemistry. They hooked up on a goal tonight when Tkachev sent a pass across the face of the Calgary goalie and Yakimov one-timed it from the circle.
It looked scripted, but it wasn’t.
“It was funny on Yakimov’s goal because we were saying, ‘get in front of the net.’ But I guess they knew what they were doing,” Oilers Rookies Head Coach Todd Nelson said.
The two are still learning English, so there was something lost in translation.
“I was telling them stuff on the bench and when he was skating to the face-off dot, the three guys turned around and said, ‘he has no idea what you just said.’
“When we scored, the guys snickered to themselves but it always seems to work out that way. They were good. Especially down the stretch there when we had some key draws, Yak was really strong in the face-off dot and Vlady once again was being creative and finding open ice. He’s a very fun player to watch.”
Yakimov’s goal was his second in two nights and he also added an assist tonight. Tkachev has three assists in two games.
Read our feature on Yakimov adjusting to life in North America.
Nelson sees much improvement in Chase, who posted career numbers last season in the WHL with the Calgary Hitmen (35-50-85 in 70 games).
Nelson was asked today if Chase was ready to make the jump to the AHL this season, considering the progress he’s made in a year.
“I’ll tell you what, he’s a lot closer now than he was last year at this time,” Nelson said.
“Last year, I thought his conditioning was suspect. He put a tremendous summer in, he really leaned out, his testing was excellent and you can see he is quicker on the ice. I saw improvement when he came to OKC at the end of the year. Maybe it was just a matter of getting into better shape and playing minutes. But he sacrificed this summer, he worked really hard and you have to give him credit.”
The Oilers signed Chase to a three-year entry-level contract this morning.
“It’s something I grew up always wanting to do; play for the Edmonton Oilers,” Chase said. “Now that I’m one step closer by signing with the team. It’s extremely exciting for myself and my family.”
Chase was taken in the seventh round of the 2013 draft.