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POSTED ON Wednesday, 09.07.2014 / 4:20 PM
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

It is no secret that Leon Draisaitl is on a mission to make the Edmonton Oilers roster after the club selected him third overall last month in the NHL Draft. He’ll compete for a spot just like any other Oilers player or prospect and he understands this summer will be key to helping his chances.

“I think everyone wants to make the team,” Draisaitl said on Oilers Now on Wednesday. “When you get drafted I don’t think there is a single player who does not want to make the team. I think it’s a learning process for an 18-year-old kid. We obviously have a lot of work in front of us. I think I can talk for everyone one of the players who just got drafted or went to the camp. I think I have a lot of work to do but that’s what the summer is there for and all I am going to do is what I can control. That’s just work as hard as I can and then try to find a spot on the team.”

This past week at Orientation Camp in Jasper was Draisaitl’s first opportunity to wear the Oilers colours on the ice since being drafted. Draisaitl says that while the camp was more about meeting his fellow prospects and his future coaches and management, he did try and make an impression on the ice.

“There is a lot of work ahead for me. I obviously wanted to do as good as possible. It was the first time being on the ice for me after two months. You’re obviously a little bit rusty the first couple of ice sessions but I think it was okay.”

Heading into the rest of the summer it will be all about adding strength for Draisaitl. If he can do that and build up his defensive game a little, he will put himself in a great position to make the roster.

“I think for me personally it comes down to strength, especially my lower-body strength, and just my game away from the puck. That’s the two biggest things I need to improve over the summer and it’s a great time to do that.”

Draisaitl will spend the summer in Edmonton getting to know the area and training before camp.

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POSTED ON Monday, 07.07.2014 / 11:17 PM
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

After locking up Jeff Petry for another year, the Edmonton Oilers will look to secure the services of another defenceman for the immediate future. Justin Schultz is still awaiting a new deal and Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish says those talks are still on-going.

“I think that both sides fully expect to get a deal. We want to treat Justin very, very fairly. He’s working his way through the system and I guess at this point that’s probably the friction point. When you even compare him to guys on our team, where he fits in is not going to be entirely reflective of our value of him. It’s more a reflection of the system and where he is in the system. We fully expect to get a deal done.”

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POSTED ON Monday, 07.07.2014 / 11:16 PM
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers have made some changes to their normal Development Camp. It is now an Orientation Camp for the team’s prospects and the focus has shifted from lessons in hockey to team building. For the first time trying this new setup, Oilers General Craig MacTavish was pleased with the results.

“I’m really happy with how it’s gone,” MacTavish said. Getting it outside of Edmonton really gives me a better chance to interact with the players and prospects. It’s really beneficial, it gives us more time with the players. I think we’ve taken a little bit of a different focus this year than we have in years past. There’s a very healthy percentage of team building and we want to make sure these players coming through this process know what our expectation is for them, they know what we’re looking for, they know what our expectation is for the Edmonton Oilers players. We want good people, good hard-working people that care about each other and are really going to go to war for one another.”

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POSTED ON Monday, 07.07.2014 / 11:13 PM
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers announced on Monday that they had agreed to terms with defenceman Jeff Petry on a one-year contract. The two sides had discussed a longer termed deal but elected for the one-year instead.

It gives Petry an opportunity to have a bounce-back season and prove his place on the Oilers before they hit the negotiation room again next summer.

“We looked at longer termed deal for him but we just couldn’t agree on that longer termed deal,” Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish said. “It’s a bit of a risky deal for us because we’re exposed on the asset. We very much view Jeff as a high-end asset for us. At the same time, we’ve got to see what the level is for Jeff and Jeff’s anticipating a high level and he’s got the ability to hit it out of the park and we hope that’s the case. We’re right back at the negotiation table next year negotiating a long-term deal with Jeff based on a tremendous season and a big upgrade on what we’ve seen over the last few years, which has been pretty good.”

The deal is reportedly just over $3 million and MacTavish says it’s a fair agreement for both sides.

“We did offer him a longer term deal. Somebody that didn’t have confidence in their ability would have probably taken it. I think it’s a good deal for both parties, I really do. It’s the perfect compromise. I’m of the mindset that you can’t have a bunch of defencemen making $4 million. You want some making seven and some making one. The guys that are making four, you can’t shell out your roster and I think you can allocate your dollars for defence better than having a whole bunch of people at the same price point.”

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POSTED ON Monday, 07.07.2014 / 11:12 PM
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers are hoping Darnell Nurse becomes everything they hoped he could be when they selected him seventh overall in last year’s draft. Nurse had a solid Orientation Camp where his added size and strength paired with his work ethic and compete to make him a noticeable player on the ice.

“I felt pretty good out there,” Nurse said. “I was a lot stronger compared to last year. It was good to go out there, compete and win a lot more battles than I think I did last year.”

In one year, Nurse has managed to grow enough as a player to the point where he appears ready to give the Edmonton coaching staff a difficult roster decision come training camp.

“The big thing for me is I have another year of experience. I’ve went through a lot of different situations playing against top lines all year long. I’ve really pushed myself outside of my comfort zone on the ice and I’ve tried to make myself a complete player. Obviously there is still room to grow but I felt pretty good out there and I’m looking forward to continue my growth.”

Now that Orientation Camp is over, Nurse is zeroed in on his next challenge - making the Oilers roster.

“I can’t wait. I’m looking forward to getting back in the gym and pushing myself even harder. I’ll come in in the best shape possible when September rolls around.”

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POSTED ON Monday, 07.07.2014 / 5:53 PM
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers
Photo by Ryan Hrycun/Oilers TV

The Edmonton Oilers prospects are in Jasper for Orientation Camp and their stay in the mountains has been full of not just on-ice sessions and off-ice workouts but camping and biking around the area.

The biking is all thanks to Jasper’s own Freewheel Cycle.

“Freewheel has been going on for about 30 years, which is pretty long for the bike industry,” lifetime Oilers fan and owner of the bike shop Chris Peel said. “Not many stores last that long. We’ve been going strong, mostly focusing on mountain bikes but we have everything from town cruisers to street bikes and high-end mountain bikes.”

When the prospects rolled through town, Freewheel rented out their entire fleet to the players to use this week. Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins, an avid cyclist, led some trail rides and the players used the bikes to get from their lodgings to town for practice.

Peel says there were some fit issues with some of the players as they are a much larger clientele than the usual bike enthusiasts.

“They definitely took our biggest bikes,” Peel said. “The few issues on the bikes were these guys are so strong that they were breaking chains and stuff because they’re built pretty solid. There were a few broken chains but not too bad considering that most of them don’t ride bikes other than inside and doing fitness testing and things like that.”

Photo by Ryan Hrycun/Oilers TV

Freewheel is no stranger to the Oilers, having helped them out with bike rentals in the past. In 2010, the Oilers came to Jasper for training camp.

“That was exciting,” Peel said. “The difference now is it’s neat to have these young guys. It’s neat to meet these guys and put faces to the names. I’m a hockey fan and we have some hockey fans in the shop here.”

Peel has ridden bikes with Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish before and was very happy to meet Eakins. During Orientation Camp, Peel has been able to get a behind-the-scenes look at how the team operates on the player development side. He also took the players for morning bike rides at 7 a.m. All of the bike riding this week, along with the workouts has these prospects exhausted as we reach the end of camp.

“I think they were a little tired, a little more than they thought they would. We know these guys are getting hammered while they’re here. We tried to take it as easy as we could. We understand it’s not easy to do all of those workouts. It’s early starts too. We started our morning bike ride at seven in the morning so these boys are working pretty hard.”

The experience this week was great for everyone from coaches to management to players. The prospects really had an opportunity to bond and the bike riding was just a part of it all.

MacTavish even bought himself a new bike this week. As you can see, the relationship between the Oilers and Freewheel Cycle was prosperous for both sides.

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POSTED ON Monday, 07.07.2014 / 5:31 PM
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers announced today that they agreed to terms with defenceman Jeff Petry on a one-year deal.

Petry was on Oilers Now with Bob Stauffer this afternoon to talk about the contract.

“It’s nice to have gotten a deal done and be back,” Petry said. “With the way things went last year and the signings that the team has made over the last couple of weeks it’s something that I’m definitely excited to get back for. I think we should be good moving forward.”

Petry has played his entire NHL career with the Oilers, registering 59 points (13-46-59) and 107 penalty minutes in 236 games. He was chosen by the Oilers in the second round (45th overall) of the 2006 NHL Draft.

Petry says after negotiation, the one-year deal was the right term for both sides for the time being.

“We went back and forth on both sides and both sides agreed that this is the best thing for both sides.”

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POSTED ON Sunday, 06.07.2014 / 6:14 PM
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers prospects have had their own beds to come home to at night during their stay in Jasper at Orientation Camp. But tonight that will change as the young prospects are headed into the woods with Oilers Captain Andrew Ference for a night of camping in the elements.

Ference’s friend and U.S. Army Ranger Lucas Carr will accompany the group of players into the wilderness and they will be tested mentally and physically.

“Working under conditions that are irrelevant in a regular civilian setting by taking away sleep and food,” Carr said. “By taking away the sleep and the food you are adding in the duress off extreme conditions with unfortunate results that will hopefully transpire onto the ice when some of the players get the food, they get the sleep and they have the talent at the point when there is 20 seconds in the game and they are down by one goal, to score that one goal. By having this in their background, right in their back pocket, they are going to look at a situation like that and they are going to say, “this is easy. Let’s just be ourselves.”

Carr continued, “You do make the best plays when you are in a situation like that, when you are not thinking about doing everything, when you are not thinking what you should have done. Be yourself, stay composed, do the little things that are going to get the job done, do the little things that are going to score the goal, do the little things that are going to pass the mental aptitude and tests, use your intestinal fortitude to carry on to the next objective and win the game.”

Ference was asked by Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish to come in and speak with the prospects but having been through development camps of his own, the captain wanted to make more of an impression on the young players.

“I wasn’t too keen on just having a chat and talking with the kids. I’ve gone through stuff like that before. I figured it would be more effective to do something real and fun and just different. So tonight we are taking the guys on a little adventure with our friends.”

The prospects will be given the essentials, including rations of food and water, and they will be in the company of trained professionals like Carr.

“It’s basically just being thrown to the lions in a general sense,” Carr said. “You haven’t been in a situation like that, now is a great opportunity for you to show a leadership capability that you can use throughout your career in the NHL. Or if it’s just going into civilian world with a regular job and using that saying, “Wow, I did this when I was at Edmonton Oilers Prospect Camp. I can use what I learned here at some point in my life and be evaluated on how I was a leader then.”

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POSTED ON Friday, 04.07.2014 / 5:50 PM
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

JASPER, AB - It’s the right attitude to have for any young prospect heading into training camp. Mitch Moroz is not satisfied with playing his first professional season in the American Hockey League. He would of course prefer to impress the Edmonton Oilers enough to get a shot at the NHL.

“Hopefully in a few weeks starting up with summer training and being able to give myself the best opportunity going into camp and make them have a hard decision,” Moroz said. “Everybody expects you in your first year to go down to Oklahoma but if I can kind of force their hand a bit and make them sweat it a bit then that’s my goal. You want to give yourself the best chance possible.”

With his eyes set on making the Oilers take a hard look at him, the team’s second round selection (32nd overall) in 2012 is devoted to being in shape and improving certain areas of his game.

“You want to come in in your best shape as you can,” he said. “I want to work on my quickness. That’s probably my biggest area of improvement over this summer, getting quicker, a little leaner and just being able to compete against men now. If I can do that and play my game the way I finished off the year and throughout the last season, I know it’s a big jump but some guys have done it and I’m confident in myself. I don’t see why not me.”

Moroz, 20, had the best season of his WHL career. With the Edmonton Oil Kings, Moroz scored 63 points (35-28-63) in 70 regular season games. The Alberta native also registered 156 penalty minutes. He chipped in 19 points (6-13-19) in 21 playoff games as the Oil Kings won the league’s championship title. He helped Edmonton win the Memorial Cup on top of a WHL Championship.

Now his sights are set on the Oilers and he’s been watching closely to what kind of openings there might be. The Oilers could use more big forwards who can chip in offensively. Which is something Moroz can do. He fits that power forward build that may eventually find him a spot on the roster.

“I think the last few years that has kind of been brought up and tossed around,” Moroz said. “Now it is kind of time to turn that corner and make the most of the opportunity. The spot for a big power forward is there so I don’t want to let that slip away. You want to come in and try to play that role.”

If Moroz does not make the Oilers roster out of training camp, he is expected to possibly be an impact player in Oklahoma City with the Barons.

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POSTED ON Thursday, 03.07.2014 / 7:04 PM
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

RAW: Dallas Eakins | Camp Day 2 - Dallas Eakins

JASPER, AB - The Edmonton Oilers added a few pieces to their improving roster in free agency. The Oilers bolstered their blue line with the additions of Nikita Nikitin and Mark Fayne. They gained some size and skill in the forward group with their trade for Teddy Purcell and their signing of Benoit Pouliot in free agency. In the draft, they selected big, skilled centre Leon Draisaitl third overall.

Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins is excited about the new additions and how they improve the team.

“We think it has been a good few days getting the free agents in the boat It was important,” Eakins said. “We’ve added size, we’ve added depth and we’ve added some people who can make plays. Those are all things that we need in our lineup, especially in our division.”

Adding good puck possession focused and competitive players was also an important acquisition for the team. Pouliot fits that build of the fast, skilled, highly-competitive player that the Oilers needed to add.

“They are important. We want to continue to up the compete level and Benoit is certainly going to do that. I go back to the fact that we need people who make plays, possess the puck and score goals. We don’t want to be a team who relies on basically four players to put up our points. There has been that perception of our team being an offensive one. It’s the wrong perception and we’re going to try to change that by adding guys like Teddy Purcell and Pouliot.”

The defensive side of things has also improved. Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish said after day one of free agency that if you look at the team’s defence now, it looks like an NHL defence. Eakins agreed that that area of their roster has been improved.

“You start putting your lineup on the board and these are established NHL players that give you some comfort. There’s not an unknown so much with them. I think in the summer, almost the whole league is excited by the guys they drafted, they’re excited by the guys they got in free agency and you have that optimism again. For us, especially on our back end, I thought our biggest problem last year was breaking the puck out. That led to us spending a lot of time in our own zone. With the additions of those players and then with all of our other guys getting another year of experience, it’s a step in the right direction.”

Overall, there has been much roster turnover for the Oilers and Eakins says that’s a credit to MacTavish’s dedication to turning the fortunes of the franchise around.

“MacT has been busy. He’s extremely passionate about getting us going in the right direction. It seems like every time I call him he is in the office working the phone or scouting a player. It has been non-stop for him. I think that’s why you see such a change over.”

The excitement of retuning to the bench for his second season as an NHL head coach has Eakins chomping at the bit, regardless of last season’s disappointments.

“You want to get back in there and get back in the fight. It’s amazing to go through a season like that, from the coaching staff to the players, and that last game is over and it’s been such a long year and you can’t wait to get home and get a break from it. Then suddenly, a week to 10 days go by and it’s like my wife said, “you’re ready to go back to the rink now,” and I am.”

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INSIDE THE OILERS