Oscar Klefbom learned a lot last season.
“It was a huge season last season,” he said following an informal skate with fellow Oilers players Monday at Millennium Place in Sherwood Park. “It was a big ego boost. Now I know how it is and the coaches know that I am ready for the NHL too. It was a really good season for my confidence so it was a big one.”
The 19th overall pick by the Oilers in the 2011 NHL Draft got his first taste of North American hockey last season. Not only that, he also earned 17 games in the NHL and even chipped in with a goal and two assists.
Now heading into training camp, Klefbom knows exactly what to expect in Edmonton, which is all thanks to the 2013-14 season.
“It’s huge. It helped me a lot and now I feel more prepared. I know what I have to do and how it works up here. I just try to prepare myself the best way to get ready.”
In addition to his 17 big league appearances, Klefbom played 48 games in the American Hockey League with the Oklahoma City Barons and added two playoff games there as well.
Confidence is one thing that Klefbom wants to transition over from last season. That confidence will eventually lead to him not only defending well but also gaining more offensive bravado, allowing him to jump up in the play more.
“I just want to stay confident on the ice with the puck. Last season at the end of the season was really good for me. It feels like I have more confidence on the ice right now with the puck. I am not just out on the ice to make the play but I can hold the puck and follow up some rushes too.”
Oscar Klefbom, 21, is heading into his second season with the Oilers. The former first-round pick gained 17 games of NHL experience last season and now knows what is expected of him.
The Oilers added some depth on the blue line during the off-season with veterans like Keith Aulie, Nikita Nikitin and Mark Fayne. Those experienced rearguards, along with other young defencemen such as Martin Marincin and Darnell Nurse, provide Klefbom with more competition for a roster spot heading into training camp.
Klefbom isn’t shying away from that competition and embraces it, knowing it could make him a better player in the long run.
“It’s always good when you have to compete hard for your spots on the team. I think that will make us better players in the future so it’s a really good thing.”
Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins and Captain Andrew Ference teamed up with a Canadian triathlon legend to compete in the corporate sprint relay race at the ITU 2014 World Triathlon Series at Hawrelak Park in Edmonton.
The pair of Oilers partnered with their long-time friend Simon Whitfield to complete the three-sport event. Whitfield is a four-time Olympian who won gold in Sydney (2000) and Silver in Beijing (2008).
“I’ve gone out to some of his races, I’ve trained with him in Victoria and have gotten to know him very well over a number of years,” Ference said. “He’s a great competitor. He’s taught me a lot about nutrition, recovery or just going out and raising the bar with training and stuff.”
Ference first met Whitfield over a decade ago and the two have remained good friends since. Eakins has also been friends with the triathlete for quite sometime. Being able to compete with Whitfield on Sunday was “an honour” for Eakins.
“Simon and I have been friends for a long time now and I know Andrew has developed a relationship with him too. It’s always interesting because you forget who your friend is sometimes. He’s a great ambassador for Canada and we’re proud to be on the same team supporting this great event today,” Eakins said.
Whitfield started off the race with the 740 metre swim. Ference followed Whitfield with the 20 kilometre bike ride and Eakins wrapped the race up with a 5 kilometre run. The head coach drew the short straw as he was the last to respond to the email from Whitfield setting up the event.
“I jumped on the bike as soon as I could because I didn’t want to run so Dallas had to run,” Ference said.
Eakins finished the race strong for the team, who was the first trio of participants to cross the finish line. They were bested only by a solo athlete -- Paul Tischler -- who just so happens to be an Olympian.
“It was interesting coming in and being in the lead because there were so many switchbacks out there,” Eakins said. “The guys seem to be closing in on you and you’re just in a panic. It’s like you’re being hunted. I probably ran faster than I should have and I’ll probably pay for it tomorrow but that’s okay. It was a lot of fun being a part of this.”
Oilers captain Andrew Ference and head coach Dallas Eakins will be taking part in the Sprint Relay prior to Sunday's ITU Trathlon Grand Finale event at Hawrelak Park.
"I've seen the preparation that they do and they're outstanding athletes," Ference remarked. "I have a lot of respect."
Ference and Eakins will team up with Canadian Olympic Gold Medalist Simon Whitfield to form their team for the event. Ference will bike 20 kilometres, Eakins will run five kilometres and Whitfield will swim 750 metres.
"I called bike right away. I'll be doing the course. I definitely didn't want to swim. Simon's going to be by far the fastest doing that. Dallas was the last to email back so he got stuck with the run," Ference chuckled.
Edmontonoilers.com will provide coverage of Sunday morning's event with a report back on how Ference, Eakins and Whitfield did.
The Oilers announced today that they will be concluding Rookie Camp with a game against the U of A Golden Bears. It will be held on Wednesday, September 17 at 7:00 p.m. at Clare Drake Arena Click here for more details.
MacTavish didn’t hold back when speaking about the high potential of Schultz and what he could possibly become someday. The most bold statement was perhaps the following.
“I think that Justin has Norris Trophy potential and I don’t think there are too many people who would disagree with me in that regard,” he said.
The James Norris Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the NHL defenceman who demonstrates the greatest all-around ability throughout the season.
That’s high praise for the 24-year-old, who heads into his third season with just 122 NHL games under his belt.
The 2014-15 season is a big one for Schultz as he tries to earn himself a long-term deal. But the Oilers clearly view him as an important piece of the club’s future.
“He is right in the mix with the most important guys on our team, there is no question about that,” MacTavish said.
Like the rest of the Edmonton Oilers, the 2013-14 season didn’t get off to the best start for Justin Schultz. Admittedly, Schultz saw room for improvement at the start of the season. But as the year wore on, Schultz came around defensively to the point where there was a noticeable improvement in his game.
Schultz says that it wasn’t only him who saw personal improvements but the team improved overall in the defensive category as well. It’s a finish to the season that Schultz hopes he and the Oilers will build off of.
“Defensively, the start of the year was a little rough for me and the team but I thought as the year went on everything improved. Our team was improving. We obviously didn’t finish the way we wanted to but it was a good finish for us and hopefully we build off of that and start strong this year,” Schultz said.
The RFA has agreed to terms with the club on a one-year contract.
RFA defenceman Justin Schultz has agreed to terms with the Oilers on a one-year contract. In doing so, Schultz has the opportunity to prove his worth this season on the road to a longer term contract. That makes the 2014-15 season a big one for the 24-year-old blueliner.
This season, the main area of his game he wishes to improve upon his on the defensive side of things. He was -22 last season and cites plus-minus as a number he wishes to improve.
“I want to be a plus player,” he said. “Improving my plus-minus is something that’s going to come with being better defensively. Also, having a better team game and winning more games. Hopefully we get off to a good start and build off that.”
“I knew it was going to get done,” he said. “I didn’t want to drag it on into training camp and be a distraction. I wanted to get something done, they were the same way and it worked out well.”
Schultz is happy with the term of the contract, citing his need to prove himself more at the NHL level as the reasoning behind the one-year deal.
“I think we are both pretty happy in getting it done, having this drag on. I’m happy with the contract. I obviously have to prove myself more to get a longer term. Hopefully I have a good year this year, the team does better and we’ll get it done.”