As Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan continues to watch the 36 prospects perform on ice and participate in a week-long session of team bonding, one question hangs in the balance, will the Oilers 2016 NHL draft fourth-overall pick, Jesse Puljujarvi, crack the lineup for the start of this season?
“That’s a difficult question for me to answer at this point because he hasn’t been on the ice,” said McLellan.
Puljujarvi went under the knife following the U18 World Championship for a minor knee surgery and has been working on regaining his strength.
"The words I keep hearing are complete player... We feel he has the opportunity to compete for a spot." Coach McLellan on @Jpuljujarvi— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) July 5, 2016
Though he may not be participating in the on-ice drills, he has been soaking in the week-long experience, bonding with a number of the prospects.
“Obviously, we’ve done our homework video-wise and through the scouting staff and the words that I keep hearing are [that he’s a] complete player,” said McLellan.
“He plays a full 200-foot game and has an energy and a passion level that is real strong and high and a skill-set to go with it. We feel that he has the opportunity to compete for a spot this season. We need to get him healthy here and get him up and running. But once that happens the rest will be up to him and his teammates to make sure that he feels comfortable and I hope that he can challenge for a spot and make our team out of camp, but that’s yet to be seen.”
Hectic was the word Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan used to describe the last few weeks that saw big changes to the team roster.
“I think when you fail to reach your goal, and we did that last year, then changes have to be made and there’s a number of different avenues that happens,” he said.
The 2016 NHL Draft saw the Oilers come away with nine new prospects, one of them being their fourth overall pick, Jesse Puljujarvi. Less than a week later, Oilers General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced they had acquired right-shooting defenceman Adam Larsson from the New Jersey Devils, in exchange for Taylor Hall.
Finally, on the commencement of the NHL’s Free Agency Day, the Oilers hooked highly coveted free agent Milan Lucic and have signed three more free agents since then.
“We were lucky enough to get Milan and his family to join ours in Edmonton,” said McLellan. “
“We wouldn’t have gone through what we did to acquire him. I know that his thoughts are identical to ours, so that’s a good marriage right off the bat. I probably don’t have to explain to the fans very much about what his assets are: his size, his strength, his skill-set, his ability to score goals while providing that physicality and toughness. He’s also been in some really good winning environments. We think those are the intangibles that he can bring. Leadership and accountability to the locker room.”
“Losing Taylor in the trade, we knew we had to replace some of that ruggedness and that care-free play, if you will, and Milan does that as well, so, really happy about getting him.”
The 36 prospects may be working to one day fill a spot on the Oilers future roster, but for Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan, he feels it’s equally important that the coaches give these players exposure to what their teaching philosophy is like.
“It’s an opportunity for us to be involved and create some relationships with our future prospects and it also gives us a chance to sell our identity to these young players, because some of them are going to be Oilers for a long time,” said the bench boss.
“There’s no better time than now to get them learning and understanding what our language is and what our habits are, how we want to play the game and more specifically, the skill-set that’s needed to play the game within our system.”
As players work hard in hopes of making long-standing impressions on the 10-man on-ice coaching staff, McLellan chose to sit just within reach of the rink, watching and providing feedback when necessary.
“I’m not evaluating, I’m not sitting here saying that this guy has a chance to play or that guy does, that will happen at training camp,” said McLellan. “We have to remember that it’s very early in July and we encourage these players to step outside their comfort zone, think outside the box a little bit. We want to see them make mistakes and try things, so the biggest thing that we have to do is come in with an open mind and not an evaluation mind.”
As day four’s on-ice sessions wrap up from the morning, McLellan said he’s pleased with what he’s seen both from the players and the staff.
“The coaching staff has done a really good job preparing meetings and drills and video sessions, really breaking down individual skills and the players in turn have been extremely receptive.
“To this point, we’re really happy with it and we’re hoping that it finishes on a positive note so these guys can take what they learn here and apply it to their games in the winter.”
The Oilers prospects are back at it for day four of Orientation Camp. All 12 defenceman have taken to the ice first to run drills for their morning session.
Stay tuned for news, video and more throughout the day.
- FEATURE: Marino makes waves in first USHL season
- BLOG: Day three commences
- BLOG: Jones excited for this year's camp
Day three of Oilers Orientation Camp is underway and experienced camp-goer Caleb Jones says he really feels a heightened comfort level with the staff and players at this years camp.
“Last year, coming in as a first year guy, there were guys like [Darnell] Nurse and [Leon] Draisaitl and Connor [McDavid], that’s three pretty good players right there in development camp, you don’t see that too often,” said the Oilers defensive prospect.
“I think this year for me, I have a lot more confidence and I kind of want to be one of the best players out there for sure. I kind of also want to be a leader for the younger guys that are coming in and try to help them out, [those] that just got drafted.”
Coming off a big season playing with the Western Hockey League’s Portland Winterhawks, Jones put up big numbers, recording 10 goals and 45 assists for 55 points in 72 games, as well as two points in four post-season games.
When the Winterhawks were knocked out of their post-season run in the first round, Jones had a chance to join the Oilers AHL affiliate, the Bakersfield Condors, for the remainder of their season.
“It was great for me,” he said. “I thought I played pretty well up there, coming in. I was one of the younger players on the team, obviously, so I had to learn a lot from the veteran players but the game was definitely a lot faster, a lot bigger, stronger players, but I got adjusted pretty well I felt like, it was good.”
With his overall 2015-16 playing experience, Jones said he found the transition into his second camp to be quite seamless with both the players and staff.
“I’m really comfortable, especially when I went off to Bakersfield within the last year, I had a chance to be with Gerry [Fleming] and his staff for a couple weeks, which was great,” he said.
“I’ve obviously seen Todd now a couple times at camp and rookie camp last year, so I’m pretty comfortable with it and I just want to soak up everything they say because they’re the coaches of the NHL team so eventually, hopefully you’re playing for them one day.”
Oilers Orientation Camp is off to another high-intensity start as half the group of 36 prospects take to the ice while the others embark on some strength and conditioning in Jasper.
Stay tuned for news, videos and more throughout the day on edmontonoilers.com.
- FEATURE: Camp expectations
- BLOG: Prospects on ice
- BLOG: Puljujarvi takes in camp
- BLOG: First on-ice session
- CAMP RAW | Ethan Bear on Day 2
- CAMP RAW | Jesse Puljujarvi on Day 2
- CAMP RAW | Rick Carriere on Day 2
- CAMP RAW | Jay Woodcroft on Day 2
With fitness testing out of the way, it was time to get down to business on day two of Oilers Orientation Camp in Jasper.
Divided into two teams of 18, the prospects hit the rink for their first on-ice session of the week.
“It was really fast-paced and we got right at it right away,” said Oilers defensive prospect Ethan Bear. “I Haven’t had a skate like that in a while. So it really felt good to get a feel of what the guys are like, it was really good.”
What may sound like a bit of wake up call for the prospects was actually something that Oilers Senior Director of Player Development, Rick Carriere, said he liked to see.
“I think it’s important that in the drill, they’re executing with intensity and with purpose, we’re not looking for a lot of tempo and flow in the practice. The practices can be slowed down, it’s all about teaching and development. But when they’re actually in the drill we like to see more of a game pace, and they’ve been able to carry that quite well right now.”
The Edmonton Oilers have signed winger Taylor Beck to a one-year contract.
Beck, 25, appeared in 50 American Hockey League games last season with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and San Antonio Rampage, accumulating 34 points (17G, 17A), 32 penalty minutes.
The 6’2”, 203-pound forward also appeared in two games with the New York Islanders in 2015-16, posting two penalty minutes.
The St. Catharines, Ontario native has played in 87 career NHL games with the Nashville Predators and New York Islanders, registering 23 points (11G, 12A) and 28 penalty minutes.