Mitch Moroz was a second-round pick by the Oilers in 2012. He is coming off a Memorial Cup Championship season with the Edmonton Oil Kings, in which he scored 63 points (35-28-63) in 70 games.
Moroz was a little banged up in the playoffs and at the Memorial Cup but fought through to help lead the Oil Kings to victory. Now fully healed from his shoulder and knee injuries, Moroz is ready to hit the ground running in Penticton, a tournament he missed last season while recovering from a different knee injury.
‘Compete’ is the key word for what Moroz is looking to accomplish in Penticton.
“They’ve put a lot of emphasis on coming in and kickstarting the season in Penticton and get the ball rolling in that sense,” Moroz said. “They want to filter that right into main camp so everybody has been asked to compete, to push and win. That’s the message, to win games now and that’s from the top to the bottom.”
Moroz’s offensive game excels when he is physically involved in the game. Coming off of a short summer in which he only had 6-7 weeks of full off-season training, Moroz says he would have been nervous about jumping back into game action a few weeks ago but he’s as ready as he’s going to be and confident there won’t be any hesitation.
“It might have been three or four weeks ago if you had asked me that but I’ve come such a long way that I’m not thinking about those things on the ice anymore. It will be nice just to go in and play and be able to play my game right away. Hopefully I will be able to bang some bodies and create some stuff out there.”
The third-overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft is ready to make a good first impression when he puts on the Oilers crest for the first time in game action. The Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, B.C. is Leon Draisaitl’s opportunity before training camp to put the Oilers management on notice that he's ready to compete.
“Definitely, I want to make a good first impression and I think everyone does,” he said. “I can talk for everyone here. It’s special to put that jersey on, play some actual games and get in game shape.”
Draisaitl, along with the rest of the Oilers prospects, will use Penticton as an opportunity to make a good first impression and return to game shape heading into training camp.
“I talked to the guys who were there last year and they all said it was a great tournament,” Draisaitl said. “They’re all top prospects and high draft picks and they are all really good players and potentially will play one day in the NHL. It’s a really good tournament to get used to playing again and get ready for training camp.”
For Draisaitl, it’s just exciting to get back to playing after the summer away from game action.
“Now it gets going and I think everyone is really excited, and so am I. It has been a pretty quick summer and also a pretty long summer. Everybody wants to get going and play games. I think we are all really excited to get going.”
Leon Draisaitl heads into rookie camp and the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton bigger than he was at the draft. Draisaitl stayed in Edmonton all summer working on getting bigger and stronger with the Oilers training staff.
“I worked on my weaknesses over the summer with the trainers and they helped me a lot throughout the summer. It’s been a really good summer,” Draisaitl said.
When asked what his weaknesses are, Draisaitl said, “I think it’s just strength. I’m 18-years-old, I’m not a grown man and there are some things I had to work on with my foot speed and strength. That’s what I did.”
The third-overall pick in this year’s draft says he is up to 215 pounds.
Mark Messier spoke with the Edmonton media on Tuesday and confirmed that he serves in an advisory role with the Oilers organization.
“Advisor or consultant," Messier said. "I am available for anything that they need me to do or talk about. For example, just coming in today and lending some of my experiences as a captain with the coaches here and the organization. Any kind of way that I can help with the players, with the coaches and with decisions. I just told (Kevin Lowe) and (Craig MacTavish) that I would be available 24/7 for whatever they needed me to do. I am looking forward to taking this into the next generation of these kids and turning it around.”
Messier says he is there to help the management with anything they need. He understands the frustration considering where the team’s performance has fallen in the last several years. But Messier feels the right management is in place and now is the time to stay the course.
“It takes a lot of courage. It’s been a tough few years here. It takes a lot of heart, it takes a lot of courage and it takes a lot of belief to grind your way through it in the lean years here. In my opinion, and of course I would probably get lots of arguments, that they have the right people in place,” he said.
“It’s been a long few years for the management, it’s been a long time for the fans but you don’t turn your back when things get tough. You stick with it. And you’ve got to have the heart and have the courage to stare it down, not flinch, believe in yourself and believe that you are doing the right things. Eventually, that current will turn. I believe we are going to see that.”
During a hot stove conversation and media availability, Mark Messier discussed the 1984 Stanley Cup Championship season and some of his memories from that great era of Oilers hockey.
Messier was asked who the biggest character in the locker room and, in a dressing room packed with varying personalities, it was none other than Wayne Gretzky.
“I don’t think there was a more fun guy to hang around than Wayne,” Messier said. “He was a walking encyclopaedia of stats.”
Messier says that one of the things that made the Oilers such a great team was the multitude of characters in the locker room, from the leaders to the jokesters.
Mark Messier spoke with the Edmonton media on Tuesday and talked about some of his memories of the Oilers 1984 Stanley Cup winning season. One of the things Messier talked about was the Battle of Alberta and how the rivalry with the Calgary Flames unfolded during that era.
Messier went as far as to say the Flames were a big reason for the Oilers success as they challenged them to become the team they could be, and eventually became.
“Any great fighter, any great boxer had someone who made him better,” Messier said.
“I think Calgary forced us to be better. I don’t think we would have become the team that we did without them.”
Messier says the Flames put together a team that could challenge the Oilers and they did. Messier knew about the rivalry between the two cities but it hit a different level at that time.
“Without them, I don’t think the Edmonton Oilers would have been who they (became).”
As a young hockey player in the city of Edmonton, the legendary Mark Messier has nothing but fond memories. As part of a winning organization, Messier had the chance to share the celebration with the people and the fans.
“I think the beauty of it was that we were able to share it with the community,” Messier said at a hot stove media availability in advance of the 1984 Stanley Cup Championship Reunion. “Even without the social media aspect we were out in the community… We were entrenched in the community. We weren’t afraid to go out in the community. In fact, we relished it.”
The players on the Oilers teams of the 80’s were very much involved with the city and their relationship with the fans became more of a friendship.
“That relationship with the fans became really close,” he said.
“That relationship became one of the things that was so compelling to the players and the fans.”
Messier said the players enjoyed blending into the community and the only regret is that there weren’t more seats in the arena to allow more of the city an opportunity to enjoy the games.
But because of the players’ relationship with the fans, even the people who couldn’t attend the games, “still felt a connection to the team because of our overall emersion into the community.”
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As the Oilers prospect pool develops, the more pressure the up-and-coming players will bring to the roster. As the young guns begin pushing the veterans and competing for spots, the organizational parity should make everyone perform better.
Perron’s message to the young prospects in town ahead of training camp is for them to bring that pressure and push the veterans to show management they’re close, if not ready, for the NHL.
“I think for them personally, if you’re going to want to make the team then you are going to have to make an impression,” Perron said. “It’s not going to be just tiptoeing around. You have to come in and really make a big impression and work the veterans respectfully but work them really hard. You’re trying to show the management that either you are ready or you’re going to be ready very soon. It’s a good strength for an organization to have when a lot of young guys are pushing.”
David Perron tied for the team lead in goals last season (28), on his way to a personal best 57 points (28-29-57). Just as with any player in the NHL, Perron is hoping to build off those numbers heading into a fresh season.
The veteran winger believes that team success will lead to better numbers for everybody.
“Stats-wise, you always want to get better but I think the more wins this team is going to get the more points everyone is going to get. That’s going to mean we score more goals as a team and that’s the only thing you need to worry about. More wins will mean more points for everyone,” he said.
More and more Oilers players are filtering back to the city as training camp approaches. On the ice today, about 30 players and prospects gathered at Millennium Place in Sherwood Park for an informal skate.
Among them was David Perron, who is pleased to see so many teammates arriving in Edmonton. He hopes the early arrivals help the team get ready for training camp and pre-season which are quickly approaching.
“We’ve been done playing since April and it’s something we’re trying to change,” Perron said. “With more and more teams, their veteran guys are showing up earlier and earlier so as soon as camp starts they are ready to go. Three days after camp starts I think we have an exhibition game so it’s something where we have to be as ready as possible. When I asked the trainers a couple of days ago about how many guys were in town they said roughly 30. I thought he was kidding at first but it’s a nice showing of veteran guys and prospects. We’ll see who is going to be able to make the team.”