After practice, Oilers centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins used the word “aggressive” to describe the team’s recent play, citing their system play as a reason.
“I think we’re a little bit more aggressive with our system play right now and I think that helps us out,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “We’re a fast team and we get to use that speed, using a really aggressive forecheck and having our D pinch down. I think earlier in the year, if we were pinching then our F3 wasn’t as good as it is now. That’s something that we’ve really touched on as the season as gone on and it’s something we’re getting better at.”
Oilers Interim Coach Todd Nelson confirmed that he recently made a few tweaks to the team’s forecheck, which allows more chances to create plays and turnovers in the offensive zone.
“We tweaked our forecheck, both in the neutral zone and the offensive zone so it’s more aggressive than maybe what they’ve played in the past,” Nelson said. “If we do it effectively, it does create turnovers and we can attack on the rush or keep the puck alive in the offensive zone. Once again, the system only works if the guys have bought in and are playing hard and working hard with it. That’s something we’re striving for, but it is more aggressive.”
Nelson admitted that it can take time for players to buy into changes to systems, but this group has done a decent job of assimilating.
“Yeah it does, but our guys have been pretty good with it,” Nelson said. “When we implemented it, when we did drills, I think they did it effectively. I think they’re seeing results from that in trying to keep the play alive in the offensive zone.”
If you watched practice today, you would have seen the players constantly moving their feet. Each drill was quick and had a purpose, with very little downtime between. You can also see examples of drills specifically designed to reinforce the game plan.
That is something Oilers players have been commenting on the past few weeks.
“We really want to get the speed of practice up, keep the tempo moving and not stay out there as long. Get in there, do our business and get out,” Mark Fayne said.
A few days ago, the Oilers held a brief scrimmage in which the losing team had to skate extra. A quicker paced practice is something Interim Coach Todd Nelson really emphasizes.
“That’s the concept to practice at a high rate of speed but also have drills that translate to our system in a game,” Nelson said. “I thought practice was really good today. I thought our execution and our tempo was good and that’s what we’re striving for here to develop that tempo as a habit so it translates to the game.”
That concept is something the players have bought into.
“We’ve taken more pride in our practices as of late,” Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. “We know that we can be a little bit sloppy out there at times and I think your work ethic in games starts with practice and what you do starts in practice. There are a lot of things we wanted to work on and that’s one of them.”
Forward Connor Jones has been selected to the 2015 ECHL All-Star Team.
Currently with the Oklahoma City Barons, Jones has three points (2-1-3) in seven AHL games.
In the ECHL, Jones is the Bakersfield Condors leading scorer with 26 points (10-16-26) in 27 games this season. He registered seven multi-point games with the Condors, and scored two overtime goals this season.
Jones is the Condors 19th selection to the ECHL All-Star Classic.
Jones is the twin brother of Kellen Jones, who was selected in the seventh round of the 2010 draft by the Oilers.
The Oilers have taken the ice for Thursday’s practice at Rexall Place.
The line combinations are as follows, based on jersey colours:
Gazdic, Hendricks & Klinkhammer
Boyd Gordon is absent at the start of practice
The Kelowna Rockets have acquired Oilers prospect Leon Draisaitl from the Prince Albert Raiders, in exchange for Swiss import Kris Schmidli, defenceman Dalton Yorke and a 2015 WHL bantam draft pick.
Draisaitl, 19, appeared in 37 games this season for the Oilers, recording nine points (2-7-9) and four penalty minutes.
Kelowna is currently the top team in the WHL, with a record of 31-6-3-0 and 65 standing points.
Read Press Release | Brad Hunt's comments
Lander, currently with the Oilers, has appeared in 29 games this season with the Barons. His 22 assists lead the team, while he has recorded 31 total points (9-22-31). His 31 points is tied for the team lead and is eighth in the AHL.
Hunt has played in 20 games for the Barons this season and is fifth in the league for defencemen with 22 points (7-15-22). He has played 11 games with the Oilers this season.
The 2015 AHL All Star Classic is January 25-26, in Utica, NY.
Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish attended the 2015 World Junior Championship and saw firsthand the impressive performance of one of his own prospects. Canada defenceman Darnell Nurse was named his team’s player of the game following the gold medal showdown with Russia.
Nurse, selected seventh overall by the Oilers in 2013, was on the ice for exactly zero even-strength goals against the entire tournament. He played aggressive, physical hockey and showed off impressive speed and ability to win puck battles. MacTavish says Nurse showed why he’ll be exactly what the Oilers need when he’s ready.
“Pretty hard not to be very excited about the prospects,” MacTavish said of Nurse. “When he’s ready to come in and provide that same type of performance level, he’s exactly what we need. A year changes a lot. You see it in (Coyotes 2013 first-round pick) Max Domi, who didn’t make the team last year and was the player of the tournament. You see the same for Darnell, who didn’t make the team last year but was arguably the best defenceman in the tournament.
MacTavish says the plan all along was to be patient with Nurse, affording him an opportunity to represent Canada at World Juniors and experience what he did this year.
“When we drafted Darnell, I felt like there was a couple of criteria we wanted met before he was ready to play here,” MacTavish said. “I wanted him to be over 200 pounds and I wanted him to have a World Junior experience, much like he just had. The criteria have been met, I think that his development is pretty exciting for all Oilers fans.”
On his biggest stage yet, Connor McDavid was impressive. The projected first-overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft helped Canada capture gold at the World Junior Championship, and displayed his skills throughout the tournament. McDavid finished the run, tied for Canada’s lead in scoring, with 11 points (3-8-11) in 7 games.
Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish attended the tournament and gave his thoughts on McDavid.
“He’s a generational player for sure,” MacTavish said. “He’s going to be, along with (USA’s Jack) Eichel, I’ll say he’s going to probably be the most dynamic player that we’ve seen and he’ll be the most productive in my mind. Pretty impressive skill set.”
It was announced today that the Kelowna Rockets acquired Leon Draisaitl’s rights from the Prince Albert Raiders. The trade gives the Oilers prospect an opportunity to go to a winning team, as Kelowna is the top team in the WHL with a record of 31-6-3-0 and 65 standing points.
“Obviously, I had an amazing time here,” Draisaitl said. “I’ve learned so many things that I couldn’t even list on one list. I’m really thankful that I’ve been given the opportunity to play in the NHL as a young kid. At the same time, now going to an organization that’s winning right now and that’s hopefully going to have a deep run is really exciting for me.”
Draisaitl played 37 games for the Oilers this season, recording nine points (2-7-9). The 19-year-old returns to juniors, where he has posted 163 points (59-104-163) in 128 career games.
“I had a real specific destination in mind for Leon and I talked to (Prince Albert General Manager) Bruno Campese many times throughout the year, saying it would be very unlikely he’d be assigned back to P.A,” Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish said. “At one of those conversations, I said to Bruno that I had this specific situation I thought would be ideal for Leon and if that situation was satisfied then there’d be a likelihood that we’d send him back.”
MacTavish continued, “For obvious reasons, Kelowna was the destination for Leon and I think this is going to be extremely important for his development. I don’t view his 40 games here as time wasted at all. I think it’s time well spent for him but everybody can understand what our rationale was for sending him back to Kelowna for him to have this experience. As much as the situation that we’re in necessitates impatience at times, we know that patience for these young players is the only way to go in terms for what’s best for their development.”