Oilers centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins doesn't expect to go early in the Fantasy Draft tonight as All-Star festivities kick off. The 21-year-old pivot said that didn't matter, however.
“Just being here is for sure a big honour. The fantasy draft is just a fun part of the event. No matter where you get picked, I don’t think anybody’s going to be mad about it,” he said. “I think I’ll go pretty low tonight. I’ll be one of the last guys picked, I think. And if I am, I wouldn’t mind going last and getting the car. We’ll see. It’s all going to be a lot of fun and we’ll see how that goes.”
The last player chosen in the Fantasy Draft wins a car. Nugent-Hopkins said he hasn't really thought about who might get the vehicle if he wins it.
“It’ll probably go back home to one of my family members. We’ll see. They’ll have to fight for it.”
Having just got in last night, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins hasn't had a lot of time to mingle with his fellow all-stars but he's definitely looking forward to. When asked who he was looking most forward to meeting, he was quick to answer.
“Jonathan Toews," he said. "I’ve watched him for a long time now. The only other time I got to meet him is when I was in Bantam, we played in the Western Championships and it was in Winnipeg. He actually dropped the puck to start the final game.
“I’ve been playing against him for a few years. He’s definitely a guy that I’ve looked up to in the past.”
Bob Green talked about being named as the team's Director of Player Personnel on Tuesday morning.
“It means a lot. It’s exciting. It’s a huge challenge. That’s what makes it so rewarding. I’m just excited to get going and move forward,” said Green.
As part of his duties, he'll be overseeing not only everything on the amateur side of things with scouting, but also pro scouting. Green talked about having a lot on his plate.
“It’s a lot. I’ll spend lot of time with the amateur draft. A lot more than I’ve had in the past. And with pro scouting as well. It’s a bigger umbrella for me. It covers a big area in the organization,” Green continued. “It’s great to have a strong voice and that’s what makes it so exciting.”
The former Oil Kings GM was also asked about working with Stu MacGregor, head amateur scout, and Morey Gare, head pro scout.
“It should be good. I’ll concentrate more on the amateur draft for sure. I’ve known Stu for a long time and we’ve worked well together. With Morey, things are going to keep moving on the same as they have in the past, concentrating a lot on preparing for the trade deadline, unrestricted free agency and those things. Continue to evaluate other teams’ players and prospects as well. Nothing’s really going to change a whole lot there.”
He did add that there will be -- and already are -- changes implemented in terms of how the team scouts amateur players in the hopes of getting more results in the later rounds.
“We’ve made some subtle changes in how we’re going about things with the amateur guys, keeping guys in their own territory. It’s something we started a little bit this year, having the guys concentrate more on their areas. We’re going to keep them in their areas for the rest of the year, hoping that’ll give us a lot more information on some of the later picks and kids that are slower to develop, late bloomers and that type of thing.”
The 2015 NHL Draft has been speculated by many to be the deepest since the 2003 Draft mined the likes of Shea Weber, Jeff Carter, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Anze Kopitar among many others.
Oilers GM Craig MacTavish talked about the importance of the draft for the club.
“It’s an extremely important draft. The primary focal point of our organization right now is in preparation for this upcoming draft. We now have Pittsburgh’s first-round pick. We have two first round picks. We’re going to get an early pick in the second round so that’s going to be a pick that we’ve got to utilize very well. And then we’ve got two third-round draft choices. It’s essential that we do very well at this year’s draft.”
In addition to being deep, at the high-end the talent is extremely highly touted with Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel.
“They’re both generational players. I’ve seen Jack play at BU. I’ve seen Connor McDavid play before, going into this tournament. Both players really accounted for themselves well against older, tougher competition. And that’s really a good measure.”
MacTavish was recently at the World Junior Hockey Championships when both 17-year-olds McDavid and Eichel were among their respective teams' best players in a tournament normally dominated by 19 year olds.
“It’ll probably be the last time we have an opportunity to see both those players competing on the same ice surface. Both players, any team would be ecstatic to get. There were many, many good players that were in that tournament as well. Lawson Crouse is another guy for Canada that did very well. Noah Hanifin’s gotten a lot of notoriety at Boston College. Pavel Zacha, Czech-born player who plays for Sarnia, Mitch Marner in London. There are a lot of high-end players in the draft.
“From what I’ve been told by Stu MacGregor and Bob Green it’s a very deep draft.”
Today, Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish confirmed the rumours swirling around that Bob Green has been promoted to the position of Director of Player Personnel for the club.
“These are things that normally are done internally but there’s been quite a bit of information that Bob Green has taken over as Director of Player Personnel for the Edmonton Oilers. He’s going to oversee all aspects of our scouting department,” MacTavish began.
“This is really a confirmation of some of the rumours that have been out there. When I go to the rink and run into scouts of other teams who are asking me about this, I felt it was time to reveal some of this information. Other than that, it’s really our policy and my policy to keep these changes as internal as we can. But this is an effort to really fortify the horse power of our amateur and pro scouting staff.”
Green has an impressive resume which includes building an Edmonton Oil Kings squad that made the WHL Finals three years in a row with two Memorial Cup appearances and one Memorial Cup victory.
“He’s been working in our organization now for a few years with the Oil Kings highly successfully, getting a lot of attention for building a Memorial Cup team. Then he took a full-time job with the Edmonton Oilers last year and has been on the job for just over a year now. We’ve been really impressed by the detail of his work. He knows how to build a team and is on side with our preference to get bigger, stronger and faster athletes.”
Heading into a very important draft for the Oilers with two first rounders, a high second-round pick and two third rounders in the deepest draft since 2003, MacTavish felt it was important to have someone in this role who works well within the group.
“He’s shown he can work with this group and do an excellent job. Those qualities were obvious to me and the rest of the management in the organization. Bob’s going to do a really good job for us in this capacity.”
The Oklahoma City Barons have skyrocketed up the standings to first place in the entire AHL. They have 58 points in 40 games, with a record of 27-9-2-2.
“I think there’s got to be a lot of credit given to Gerry Fleming and Tony (Borgford) and Kelly Buchberger too as well,” said Oilers GM Craig MacTavish. “It speaks to the tradition and culture here which was really been started through Bill Scott, who now works for us, and Todd Nelson. It’s a very close-knit group of players. We’ve got a really good mix of veterans who help set the bar for the youth. And we’ve got a good mix of youth. Bogdan Yakimov last night was exceptional. JJ Khaira, Mitch Moroz is down here. That’s to really complement a really good, young D-core.”
MacTavish added that he feels the future is in teams having a mobile blueline and the Oilers are very well prepared for that with the young, mobile defence in Oklahoma City.
“Defencemen that can move the puck, move their feet, get the puck up ice. Dillon Simpson, Jordan Oesterle, David Musil, Gernat, Brandon Davidson who we’ve seen and Marty Marincin who everybody knows. There’s a lot of guys on the back-end who have potentially bright futures in the NHL.”
Having better calibre of players at the NHL level has helped improve player development.
“We’ve been talking about adding more competitive people and more size to our lineup. I’m seeing the evolution of a lot of that. It takes time to draft these players, bring them in and develop them, develop them the right way. I feel like our organization up top is strong enough, deep enough and growing up top so we have the time to put these guys and leave them down here at the American League level where development best occurs. We’re seeing that firsthand.”
For the first time, the Oilers held their annual mid-season amateur scout meetings in Oklahoma City. Oilers GM Craig MacTavish talked about the decision to hold the meetings here.
“I think it works out really well with our minor league team down here,” he said. “Obviously, that’s the main impetus behind getting everyone down here. And the amateur scouts very seldom get to see American Hockey League play. It’s another brand of hockey and it’s good information for them and a good meeting place for us all.”
It worked out perfectly that the Barons had three games in three days to help frame the meetings.
Oilers prospect Richard Bachman has been named the AHL's Player of the Week. From the AHL's Press Release:
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. ... The American Hockey League announced today that Oklahoma City Barons goaltender Richard Bachman has been selected as the CCM/AHL Player of the Week for the period ending Jan. 11, 2015.
Bachman made three appearances in net last week and stopped 60 of 61 shots, registering a 2-0-0 record with a 0.40 goals-against average, a .984 save percentage and two shutouts to help the Barons take over the top spot in the overall AHL standings.
Bachman stopped six of seven shots in 29 minutes of relief work on Tuesday vs. Texas, then drew the start on Saturday night and made 28 saves to backstop Oklahoma City to a 2-0 win at Rochester. Bachman followed that up with another shutout, turning aside all 26 Hamilton shots in a 3-0 Barons victory and helping the club set a franchise record with its sixth consecutive road win.
Bachman is 11-3-3 in 18 games for Oklahoma City this season, with a 2.20 goals-against average, a .925 save percentage and three shutouts. The sixth-year pro from Salt Lake City, Utah, has a career record of 81-52-15 in 154 AHL appearances for Oklahoma City and Texas, registering a 2.56 GAA, a .916 save percentage and 14 shutouts. Originally drafted by Dallas in 2006 and signed by Edmonton as a free agent in 2013, Bachman has gone 14-12-2 with one shutout in 35 career outings in the National Hockey League with the Stars and Oilers.
In recognition of his achievement, Bachman will be presented with an etched crystal award prior to an upcoming Barons home game.
Oilers centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was named on Saturday to the NHL All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio. For Nugent-Hopkins, it will be his first NHL All-Star Game and he will be the Oilers lone representative.
“I think it’s an outstanding honour," said Oilers interim head coach Todd Nelson. "This year he’s elevated his game and he’s been playing some very consistent hockey. We’re very happy for him. It’s a great honour for him to go there.”
Nelson also coached Nugent-Hopkins in the American Hockey League with the Oklahoma City Barons during the lockout in 2012-13. He added that he is very happy with Nugent-Hopkins' overall game.
“Right now he’s playing both ends of the ice very well. He’s playing in all situations and he’s very dependable. It doesn’t matter if he has a couple goals or doesn’t, he’s contributing to the hockey team’s success.”
Nugent-Hopkins was excited for the honour.
“It’s definitely pretty exciting. I got the news, cool to hear about it. I think it’ll be a lot of fun,” he said, adding it will be quite the experience to play with the League's best.
“It’ll be a little bit different. I got a chance to play with a lot of great players when I went to the World Championships so I know some of them from that but a lot of these guys have been to the all-star game many times.
“Any time you get a chance to talk to guys like that it’s really cool to see how guys approach it from different teams, especially the top guys around the league. It’ll be cool to talk to them.”
The Oilers centre added that he was looking forward to just having fun and playing in what is normally a high-scoring affair.
“You watch it every year and it’s just a fun game. A lot of guys having fun, moving the puck around and trying to run up the score as much as possible.”
Thankfully, Nugent-Hopkins didn't have any plans made during the all-star break that he would now have to cancel.
“I didn’t have anything completely planned yet. I was thinking of going somewhere close.”
Oilers winger Benoit Pouliot had an excellent return, scoring a goal with three shots after missing 18 games with a broken foot.
“He definitely made an impact tonight,” said Oilers interim head coach Todd Nelson. “He played a simple game for us, capitalized on the goal obviously. It was a tough spot for him coming back. Here it’s hard to breathe a bit but the thing is, he went short shifts. He said he felt good and I thought he was very solid for our hockey team tonight.”
Pouliot talked about how the team had a very positive attitude upon his return to the room.
“The guys, even though we’re struggling right now, they’re still positive. We’re trying to build off that and keep going,” he said. “It’s good to be back. I’m so happy to be back.”
With the thin air in Denver, Pouliot made sure to not over-exert himself.
“I lost my voice in the second and kept it short out there,” he said. “I think I was making 20-second shifts. It was tough to get the breathing and get the legs going. I thought our line had a lot of poise and playmaking in their zone. It brought me a lot of confidence back.”