Connor McDavid came to the Edmonton Oilers with big outside expectations, and even bigger internal ones. The rookie first-overall pick posted 48 points in an injury-shortened 45-game season. He impressed his teammates, even the veteran ones, with how he carried himself through his first NHL season.
“Great person,” said Matt Hendricks. “You couldn’t ask any more of him in that regard, for sure, and I don’t know if you could ask any more of him as a player either. He came into our group this year, into a struggling group, as a young player with a lot of expectations and overwhelmed a lot of us. He’s a heck of a player and a heck of a player to be around and I’m real fortunate to be able to play and enjoy his rookie season with him.”
The players have consistently voiced their pleasure and surprise about his leadership in the room as well. Taylor Hall a week ago said although McDavid is the youngest player in the room, a lot of players look up to him. When asked if McDavid could be a captain some day, Hendricks had no hesitations.
“Absolutely. Absolutely, he could be.”
“That’s not a question for me, but you’ve seen players at his age wear the ‘C’ after their first year or so, but I have no doubt in my mind he’d excel at it,” Hendricks said.
The Oilers finished this season 29th in the NHL, and of course that means plenty of room for improvement for the club that has not made the playoffs since 2006. Patrick Maroon, who was acquired by the Oilers at the NHL Trade Deadline, knows a thing or two about playing meaningful hockey late into and following the regular season, coming from the Anaheim Ducks.
“It’s very frustrating,” Maroon said. “This is kind of weird for me because the past four years I’ve been in the playoffs and playing almost until June every year. Now, leading up to it, you’re kind of like ‘God, I wish I could play, go play that 28 games that you have a chance to win,’ There’s a lot of room for improvement with this team and for us to get there we’ve got to ask ourselves if we can play that 28 games right now against Anaheim, the LAs and all that. I don’t think we’re ready as a team, but I think we’re on the right path.”
Anaheim is among the best in the NHL this season, playoff bound for the fourth straight season. When asked what the biggest difference between Anaheim and Edmonton was, Maroon talked about youth and culture.
“We have a really young team here, so it’s a different culture,” said Maroon. “In Anaheim, we had a lot of older veterans, a lot of older guys so it’s obviously a lot different. That being said, there’s room for improvement everywhere, on the ice, off the ice and being leaders. The coaching staff does a great job of preparing all of us and making sure we’re ready and focused to go out there every game.”
“Obviously, there’s an opportunity here for me to grow as a player, grow as a leader,” said Maroon. “Playing with Connor too is an opportunity for me to succeed in this league and an opportunity to put up some good numbers.”
Putting up good numbers is something Maroon has done since being acquired from the Anaheim Ducks at the NHL Trade Deadline. Maroon has 13 points, including seven goals, in just 15 games for the Oil.
“He’s one of those unique players that can play physical and tough and have the size, but still complement high-end skill players, whether it’s finishing or making plays. That’s what’s really unique about him,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “He’s got a lot of experience from Anaheim, doing that with (Corey) Perry and (Ryan) Getzlaf. I think that he has the opportunity to have a really healthy, long career here with us. His summer is going to be extremely important. I think he’s beginning to realize this would be a real good landing spot for him long-term so that’s a great thing.”
For Maroon, he wants to keep his good situation going. He didn’t like the way things ended in Anaheim, in terms of his demotion down the lineup. His focus going into the summer is locking that spot down with hard work.
“If the opportunity is there and I’m on the left side with 97 then I’ve just got to run with it. I can’t look back,” said Maroon. “I’ve got to perform, I have to be ready and that’s just playing good and performing and putting the numbers up you’d like to put up. If you don’t do that then you’ll see yourself drop pretty far in the lineup. I don’t want that to happen again. It happened in Anaheim, and I don’t want that. I want to be a role player on this team moving forward. It’s a big summer for me. I can come here and prove to them I want it. You can always improve on things.”
“It didn’t work last year in Anaheim, so what is he going to change, what is he going to do different that he can keep that spot?That will be the challenge,” said McLellan. “I think he’s a great kid. He fits our team well. He’s got an energy, a passion and a smile all the time, he takes every moment to heart and wins and losses affect him emotionally. We need more of that around here.”
Some may have been surprised to see Darnell Nurse skating with the team Friday morning.
The Oilers defenceman took a puck to the throat in the Oilers win over Vancouver on Wednesday. He left the game and did not return, taken to the hospital as a precaution and to determine the extent of the damage. And yet, there he was taking his normal rotation with Adam Pardy as the Oilers skated in Leduc.
“He worked hard. He didn’t show any indication of suffering from anything,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “The doctors have, from what I understand, cleared him so if he’s ready to play, we’ll play him. He is a tough customer and I think that’s part of what makes him an attractive player. That’s a real good characteristic to have.”
Nurse’s throat was swollen after the incident and his voice was a little raspier than normal on Friday, but he looked ready to play when the Oilers wrap up the season on Saturday in Vancouver.
Nurse is just happy he wasn’t seriously injured, as taking a puck to the upper body, face and neck area is no laughing matter.
“It is scary because you feel like you could eat your Adam’s apple,” said Nurse. “You get hit in areas like that and it’s kind of scary. You just want to make sure you can breathe and, obviously, the medical staff we have with the team and the medical staff at the hospital helped me out a lot. I’m lucky. It could have been a lot worse than it was and I’m fortunate to come out just a little swollen with a couple of vocal cords messed up.”
The Oilers have hit the ice for their final practice of the 2015-16 season, at Leduc Recreation Centre.
Darnell Nurse, who left Wednesday night’s game after taking a puck to the throat, is on the ice with the team. Benoit Pouliot, who has been out with a shoulder injury since March 1, is on the ice as well.
As @TheChrisWescott mentioned Darnell Nurse is on the ice and Benoit Pouliot is out there as well. Suffered shoulder injury Feb. 28th— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) April 8, 2016
The bottom six rotated through the first drills, but the top six have been as follows:
Per Bob Stauffer, the bottom six is likely as follows:
Gazdic-Lander-Cracknell are also skating.
The Oilers are on the ice for their final practice at Rexall Place.
There aren't any changes to the participants.
Stay tuned for full coverage and interviews from the players and coach Todd McLellan.
Alumni 31-35 | Alumni 36-40 | Alumni 41-45 | Alumni 46-50 | Alumni 51-55 | WATCH: Farewell Rexall Place Series
The Oilers will host the Vancouver Canucks on April 6 for their final home game in Rexall Place, before moving downtown to Rogers Place in the fall. The post-game farewell ceremony will host more than 100 Oilers alumni in attendance. Each day leading up to that game we are announcing five alumni who are scheduled to attend. Here are today’s five, and this group contains a huge star.
- Join Gretzky and others at Churchill Square from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m. MDT on Wednesday!
- Full Farewell Rexall night alumni attendee list
Joey Moss is one of the most well-known and beloved figures in the Oilers organization and in the Edmonton community. Moss, born with Down Syndrome, has worked with the team as a dressing room assistant since the 1984-85 season. He has been with the Oilers for four of their five Stanley Cup championship seasons. He helps clean the dressing room, assists with laundry and handles the towels and water for games and practices, also helping with the distribution of equipment. He is active in the community, including his support of a fashion show supporting the Edmonton Down Syndrome Society and “Joey’s Home” which is an assisted-living home for individuals with developmental disabilities.
Garry Unger ranks second on the list of consecutive games played in NHL history. His iron-man streak lasted 914 games. The Calgary, AB native played parts of three seasons for the Oilers between the 1980-81 and 1982-83 seasons. Unger finished a lengthy and successful NHL career having played 1105 regular season games, scoring 413 goals and recording a total of 804 points. Unger also played in 51 playoff games in his NHL career.
Kirk Maltbywas drafted by the Oilers in the third round, 65th overall, of the 1992 NHL Draft. Although he’d begin his professional career with the Oilers organization, he’s best known for his long run with the Detroit Red Wings. He played over 1000 NHL games in his career, including 164 games for Edmonton, scoring 21 goals and 17 assists.
Jussi Markkanen was a fifth-round pick of the Oilers in 2001. The Finnish goalie played 100-plus games for the Oil, most notably during the 2006 Stanley Cup Final. Following a knee injury to Dwayne Roloson in Game 1 of the Final series vs. Carolina, Markkanen was thrust into action starting in Game 2. Backstopped by Markkanen, the Oilers came just one win shy of capturing their sixth Stanley Cup.
Todd McLellan was not happy following his team’s 5-0 loss to the Calgary Flames on Saturday night. The frustrating and “embarrassing” effort forced the staff to change tactics on Monday at practice. Instead of focusing on tweaking and teaching, the Oilers skated heavily and participated in high-intensity battle drills.
“Today is a disappointing day, in my opinion, because it was a day that we should have been using to advance our team game, polish things up in certain areas, and it turned into reestablishing a work ethic and holding players accountable for lack of work ethic in a game,” said McLellan. “The staff and the players, we get no enjoyment from that at all. That’s like sitting in front of my two boys at home and disciplining them for their inactions or poor choices. There isn’t a parent in the world who likes doing that, and that wasn’t a fun day. But we had to reestablish that there are some expectations when you put the equipment on to be honest at least.”
The Oilers opened practice with some hard laps around the ice, then participated in a drill where two players skate the length of the ice then shoot the puck. Then, the Oilers wrapped things up with a few battle drills including on where two players fight for the puck and then skate to centre ice, then turn and skate back.
“I was disappointed after reviewing the game again, and obviously the effort and the battle level, but even some of the game management situations,” said the head coach. “1:20 shifts, and then still trying to go on offence and complete disregard for back-checking. The day was spent trying to reestablish boundaries and what is acceptable and what isn’t.”
The Oilers have hit the ice at Rexall Place. Todd McLellan, who promised his team would work hard at practice following a 5-0 loss to Calgary on Saturday, has begun the skate with hard laps around the rink.
The up-tempo practice continued with full-length of the ice skating, followed by some battle drills. Stay tuned for full coverage from Rexall Place.
Forward lines for first drill are: