The Oilers went through the 2015-16 season without a player wearing the “C” on their chest. They instead elected to go with multiple alternate captains, including Andrew Ference, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Matt Hendricks was among a few other players to don the “A” at various points of the season.
Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan confirmed with the media on Wednesday at the Mark Spector Golf Classic that the club will have a captain on opening night, when the team hosts Calgary on October 12.
“Will we have a captain? Yeah, we will,” said McLellan.
When pressed on who it might be, McLellan simply repeated himself.
“We will have a captain.”
There is no doubt defenceman Adam Larsson will be expected to take on a big role with the Oilers this season. They wouldn’t have traded for him, giving up Taylor Hall, otherwise. The 23-year-old blueliner has 274 NHL games under his belt after being selected fourth overall in 2011.
Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan says he expects Larsson to play 20-22 minutes a night “against the top level of competition.”
Will he put up massive offensive numbers? McLellan doesn’t think so, but instead points to San Jose’s Marc-Edouard Vlasic as a good example.
“Play very good minutes against the other teams’ top players and play consistently and continue to grow his game with our team as it grows,” McLellan said of Larsson’s expectations.
While Larsson is eager to take the next step and work on his offensive game, McLellan has tapped the brakes a bit on that notion. While the club expects him to eventually become a power-play contributor, that may not happen right away.
“We’ve got to take our time with him,” said McLellan. “I don’t want to be bold and tell the fans and even his teammates that he’s going to play in a situation or that situation. We’ve got to take some time with him and we’ve got to make him comfortable with what he does best, and that’s playing regular minutes and penalty killing and playing a good defensive game. Do I think the offence is there? Yeah, I do. I think in the future we can talk about working him into those roles, but right now we need to just make sure he gets comfortable here.”
The head coach also said Larsson is sure to be under a “microscope” given the trade that brought him here, so the staff will make him comfortable before placing added pressure on the young defender.
Zack Kassian, Patrick Maroon and now Milan Lucic. The Oilers are bigger and tougher to play against thanks to some of the moves Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli has made over the last year. At least, that’s the plan.
Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan sees the moves Chiarelli has made as a promising start but needs to see the consistent play the additions are more than capable of before it translates to success.
“When Peter entered the program and looked at the team, he wanted to get bigger, stronger, heavier, a little harder to play against later on in games, tougher to knock off pucks, stronger in the blue paint at both ends, and with (those) players I think we’ve accomplished that,” said McLellan.
“They still have to go out and do it. It’s easy to look at their size and their strength and what they’ve done in the past but it’s still their responsibility to bring it each and every night and for us to get stronger in that area. The game is still played at a very fast pace, so these players need to be able to execute and get from point A to point B, and we believe they can with the size they bring.”
If the Oilers could get a resurgence out of Nail Yakupov it could very well lead to more team success. The 22-year-old winger and 2012 first-overall pick is coming off a season in which he had 23 points (8-15-23) in 60 games. Yakupov has been hard at work this off-season, in an attempt to post a breakout season.
Yakupov’s hard work is not lost on his head coach.
“I believe in giving people opportunities to recover and to bring their game,” said Todd McLellan. “I know Yak has been working extremely hard. He’s done some things that he hasn’t done in the past throughout the summer — training in different areas. When he comes back, if that’s the case, I want him to have success his teammates will want him to have success and it’s a matter of finding that as quick as possible and we could use him.”
Yakupov has 50 goals and 111 points in 252 career NHL games. His best production came in his rookie season, when he recorded 17 goals and 31 points in 48 games.
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.”