Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan surely has a timeframe in mind for when he wants to have camp decisions made and a roster formed. However, it’s going to take time. That in mind, sooner is still better.
“The quicker the better, for myself as a coach and for our staff,” said McLellan. “We’ve got a lot of new players here that we need to get to know and we’ve got to figure them out fairly quickly. We’ve got to look for chemistry and the fewer people in camp, the better. We also have a number of (pre-season) games to play. We’ve made a number of commitments to some young men that have made commitments to us to come here and we have to give them the opportunity. The sooner the better but, with that being said, fair.”
McLellan says fans and media will be able to make assumptions fairly quickly on line combinations and the direction the roster is going.
“We’ll have a break in camp very quick where it becomes somewhat evident of what our plans are, as far as divvying up teams between NHL and the AHL,” said McLellan. “That doesn’t mean we’ll be set in stone. There will be players that move from the B Group into the A Group, if you want to call it that, on a regular basis, on a daily basis, so we can see them interact. It will give us an opportunity to begin to put our game in place well before that last week of opening day.”
As for line combinations and defensive pairings, the organization has a rough template but it’s fluid.
“Obviously, we have lines and pairings that we’re going to start training camp with,” McLellan said. “We’ve tried to do as much homework as we can and look at chemistry issues and who plays well in situations but that will change rapidly. Everybody will arrive at camp and I’m counting on them to be prepared and be in good shape and ready to go but that doesn’t always happen. Players will earn more ice time and others will lose ice time as it goes along. And we’ll look for chemistry.”
This off-season, the Oilers new hockey operations boss, Peter Chiarelli, was hard at work adding to and re-shaping the team’s roster. On the blueline, he added NHL veterans Andrej Sekera and Eric Gryba. He also traded for talented young d-man Griffin Reinhart. He also added to the forward crop and traded for goaltender Cam Talbot.
Ben Scrivens commented on the additions not only on the blueline but also up front and in net, believing the competition will make the team better.
“The organization tried to get better every way that they could,” said Scrivens. “They didn’t leave many stones unturned about possibilities to improve the team. Bringing in more defencemen, guys with NHL experience, high draft picks, it’s going to create competition on the backend. Obviously, we’ve made acquisitions and trades and signings at every position. When you have a subpar season as a team, as a whole, one of the best ways to try and remedy that is to create competition for jobs coming into the next year. I think the organization did that at all three positions and I think that’s intentionally done to make us a better team.”
Sometimes, in order to move on, you’ve got to reset. For Oilers goaltender Ben Scrivens, this off-season was just as much about a mental reboot as it was getting physically ready for a new season.
“It was a good summer for me,” said Scrivens. “Mentally, it was probably the best thing for me to refresh. I’m coming in and I feel really good right now. My confidence is up. I’ve had a great summer off the ice and on the ice. It was just a matter of analyzing the season a little bit, both personally with what I did well and didn’t do well and seeing what I could change. Obviously, there were tough lessons that I learned last year. I’ve talked about it earlier, just trying to do too much, which comes when you care about the results. Sometimes, it leads you down the wrong path where now you’re worried about things that are out of your control. It was good to mentally re-focus and get back to a similar training plan I’ve had for the better part of my pro career.”
Scrivens finished last season with a .890 save percentage and 3.16 goals-against average in 57 games for the Oilers. He’s hoping to soon get back to his form from his time with the Los Angeles Kings in 2013-14, in which he posted a .931 save percentage and 1.97 GAA.
On the ice this summer, Scrivens went back to work as he does every off-season.
“A lot of goalie sessions when I could, skating well and skating as often as I could and obviously, a lot of time in the gym getting lean and getting stronger,” he said.
The Edmonton Oilers have reduced their training camp roster by seven today, assigning the following players:
Keven Bouchard (Baie-Comeau – QMJHL)
Rihards Bukarts (Brandon – WHL)
Kevin Davis (Everett – WHL)
Cole Linaker (Kelowna – WHL)
Jordan Papirny (Brandon – WHL)
Tyler Soy (Victoria – WHL)
Colton Waltz (Brandon – WHL)
The Oilers training camp roster now includes 59 players (6 goalies, 20 defencemen and 33 forwards).
Leon Draisaitl finished tied for the tournament lead in points (five) at the 2015 Young Stars Classic in Penticton, B.C. He followed up those three games with a four-point night (1-3-4) against the University of Alberta Golden Bears on Wednesday at Rexall Place.
The third-overall pick in 2014 shouldn’t be a surprising name to spot high up on the stat sheet. His high-end scoring and playmaking ability make him a top prospect in the Oilers system. This Rookie Camp allowed him to show the Oilers brass a glimpse of his offensive talents.
“I think it’s always important,” Draisaitl said of putting up points. “I think every player has his role. I would consider myself as an offensive guy so I expect myself to produce offensively and I think (Wednesday night) the whole team did a great job of that.”
Draisaitl will battle for a spot on the Oilers roster out of training camp, starting Friday. Oilers Rookies Head Coach Gerry Fleming might not be expecting the big, German centre to spend much time down in the American Hockey League with Bakersfield if he continues anything close to his scoring pace in pre-season.
“Leon had a good Rookie Camp here,” said Fleming. “He did the things that we expected him to do. Hopefully he can just take that and keep adding to what he has to do at the big camp to stay.”
Overall, Draisaitl seemed pleased with his performance with the prospects. Nine points in four games will probably put a smile on your face.
“It’s been pretty good I think so far,” said Draisaitl. “Obviously, the first couple games are always a little tough. It takes a little while for you to get your feet wet and get your legs under you. But so far, it’s been pretty good. I think the most important thing is it’s getting better from game to game.”
If Oilers Rookie Camp taught us anything it’s that the organization has great top-level prospects in Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse. It also taught us that the depth, particularly among AHL-bound players, packs a scoring punch.
Josh Winquist finished the 2015 Young Stars Classic with the tournament lead in points (five) and goals (four). He added another goal on Wednesday night against the University of Alberta Golden Bears. Perhaps Winquist can carry this momentum down to Bakersfield. He did have a 93-point season in the WHL back in 2013-14.
Fellow AHL contracted teammates Braden Christoffer and Alexis Loiseau also put up points for the Oilers Rookies. Christoffer scored three goals in as many games in Penticton and added an assist. Christoffer had two helpers against the Bears. Loiseau recorded two goals and two assists in two Young Stars games. He added a goal on Wednesday night.
Add turning-pro prospect Kyle Platzer amongst names to watch who had strong camps. Bakersfield Condors Head Coach Gerry Fleming, who also led the Oilers Rookies, says it makes him excited to see the players perform well and even surprise.
“It sure does,” said Fleming on Wednesday morning. “You’ve got to understand too that they’re going against junior (and college) guys and it will be a different set of competition when they get to the American Hockey League, with bigger and more-experienced guys. But for them to play the way they have in this (camp), I’d rather see that than them not perform to the way they’re supposed to. We expected it from them and they responded the way they should have.”
The Oilers Rookies are on the ice for morning skate at Rexall Place. Here is their projected lineup for tonight’s game against the University of Alberta Golden Bears based on this morning’s line combinations.
McDavid will centre Sanford and Slepyshev.— Reid Wilkins (@ReidWilkins) September 16, 2015
Roy and Soy are skating, but not expected to play.
Other lines: Bukarts-Loiseau-Linaker Rankin-Platzer-Chase Roy and Soy skating, not expected to play. Moroz injured.— Reid Wilkins (@ReidWilkins) September 16, 2015
- PRACTICE | Tuesday at Royal Glenora
- PRACTICE RAW | Connor McDavid
- PRACTICE RAW | Greg Chase
- PRACTICE RAW | Gerry Fleming
After getting banged up in Saturday’s Young Stars tournament game against Calgary, Greg Chase was a late scratch on Monday against Winnipeg. One game remains for the Oilers Rookies and that is tomorrow night against the University of Alberta Golden Bears. Chase, like many of the prospects, most looks forward to this game.
“I think for us, the last couple of years I’ve played, it’s definitely been the hardest game that we’ve played out of the four rookie tournament games,” said Chase. “They’re the best team in the country for however many years and they’re a fun team to play against. It’s always a fun environment. They’re a well-structured team, it’s a good test for us every year and it’s always a fun one to be a part of.”
A good sign for Chase to play tomorrow is that he skated and participated fully today as the team practiced at Royal Glenora.
Chase wouldn’t commit to a yes-or-no answer when asked if he’d play tomorrow.
“We’ll just reevaluate in the morning,” said Chase. “I felt good out there and we’ll see what they want to do.”
- IN FOCUS | Oilers vs. Jets Pre-Game
- RAW | Peter Chiarelli
- RAW | Connor McDavid
- RAW | Gerry Fleming
- RAW | Ethan Bear
- THE PANEL | Presented by Sport Chek