Some of the top draft prospects gathered at Scanlon Ice Rink in Philadelphia this morning for the Top Prospects Clinic. They skated with local youth hockey players and participated in drills with the children.
“It’s awesome,” Prince Albert centre Leon Draisaitl said. “Seeing those kids enjoy themselves and play hockey. That’s the best thing in the world. They love being out there. They obviously have a passion for it and that’s the ultimate and that’s awesome.”
Now that the pre-draft process is winding down and the days have turned to hours in anticipation of tomorrow night’s draft, the prospects’ nerves are building. Being able to lace up the skates and leave it all off the ice was a welcomed break for the players.
“A lot of the focus is on tomorrow and obviously that’s still up in the air for all of us right now,” Oshawa Generals forward Michael Dal Colle said. “But being able to skate with these kids has been a great experience and what they’ve got going on here is awesome.”
“It was awesome,” Kingston’s Sam Bennett said. “Anytime I can lace on the skates it’s going to be a good day. I’ve had so much fun out here with these kids and I think it’s great for these kids to get out here. I’m having fun, I can see the smiles on these kids and it looks like they’re have a great time.”
Draisaitl added, “It’s always nice to be on the ice. There is no better feeling than being on the ice. The nerves are coming and I’m already a little bit nervous to be honest but it’s not too bad. I think tomorrow will be pretty nerve-racking for sure.”
When Sam Bennett failed to complete a pull up at the NHL Scouting Combine, he didn’t know that it would be a huge deal. NHL Central Scouting’s top-ranked North American skater then had to read about it and watch reports on it on television in the following days.
What helped Bennett deal with the media and fan scrutiny was a phone call from an established NHL player. Ottawa Senators centre Jason Spezza sought out Bennett’s number and delivered some career advice.
“Jason Spezza gave me a call right after he saw it,” Bennett said. “He said he saw the articles in the paper and he was like, wow I’ve got to call this kid. He got my number, he gave me a call and I had a really good talk with him. He just talked about how you’re going to go through bad publicity throughout your entire hockey career. He’s been through it and he just really helped me deal with that and it was a great learning experience.”
It doesn’t appear as though Bennett’s lack of a pull up at the Combine will affect his draft stock. He is expected to be a top-four pick.
Top draft prospect Sam Bennett took a visit to Edmonton not too long ago to visit with the Oilers organization. They had dinner and Bennett was given a tour of the rink and the offices.
“Edmonton is cool,” Bennett said. “I went there and saw the Oilers offices and then I went to Rexall Place and saw the dressing room, saw the rink and I had a great time in Edmonton. I met a bunch of great people. The management there is awesome so it was very cool to go there and meet those guys.”
With all of the pre-draft speculation and rumours swirling around, Aaron Ekblad’s head must be spinning. But the top-rated defenceman has developed a great way of dealing with all of the talk.
“With how much rumours that have been going around about what Florida is going to do, what is everyone going to do, it’s easy to get caught up in it but it’s a lot easier to take a step back and not worry about it,” Ekblad said. “It’s out of your control. You just have to wait and rely on how well you’ve shown yourself this year. That’s kind of where I’m at. I’m excited and I’m anxious about it but I don’t want to worry about it too much.”
The Oilers are sitting at third overall in the first round of the draft. It is not expected that Ekblad will be around when they make their selection. But they’ve done their homework on the superb prospect and after meeting with the organization, Ekblad is sold that the Oilers would be a fit.
“I love the rink that they have right now, I love that there is going to be a new one, the dressing room and some of the players that they have. It’s all great,” he said. “They have a great organization, a great owner and a great coaching staff. I met just about every one of the Oilers staff members, even away from the rink. If I end up there then that’s awesome and I’d make the best of it. I think I’d fit in to their defensive core pretty well. Whatever happens happens and I’m excited to go anywhere and I’m ready to play anywhere.”
The Edmonton Oilers currently hold the third overall pick in the draft. Sr. Vice President of Hockey Operations Scott Howson told Oilers Now’s Bob Stauffer on Wednesday that the team is comfortable remaining in that spot, but wouldn’t rule out movement.
“I think we’re pretty comfortable with where we’re at,” Howson said. “Obviously you never close the door on anything. Getting up to the one position would be beneficial but our needs are really defence and centre is just as important as defence. We were just talking today about how hard it is to get centres now. Once they become established in the NHL they don’t become available. We’re comfortable with where we’re at. I think this is a good draft, we’re in a good spot and no matter what happens on Friday we are going to get a good player.”
The Edmonton Oilers acquired the rights to defenceman Nikita Nikitin from the Columbus Blue Jackets. The acquisition gives them a “quality NHL defenceman” in the words of Oilers Sr. Vice President of Hockey Operations Scott Howson.
Howson told Oilers Colour Analyst Bob Stauffer on Wednesday that the team won’t stop with Nikitin. They want to help bridge the gap as the Oilers have several very talented youngsters on the blue line that could use some more time to develop. Now that Nikitin is in the mix, Howson says the team will look to add one more.
“We figured we had four legitimate NHL defencemen going into camp in Andrew Ference, Justin Schultz, Jeff Petry and Martin Marincin,” Howson said. “Martin still has a little bit to prove because he only did it for half a season and we’ve seen lots of players have initial success and take a fall back. There’s no doubt he’s going to be an NHL player, whether he’s ready to continue what he accomplished last year remains to be seen and we’ll see that in camp. We’re going to try to get another NHL defenceman. Nikita gives us five, if you include Marincin, and we’ll try to get another one, that’s six. Then if the kids are ready, that’s the great thing about the NHL. If a young player is ready to play and he shows he is ready to play then teams make room for him. That’s just the way the league works.”
As for what the Oilers are looking for in their next addition, Howson says they’re looking at all of the options.
“I think we’re open to anything. We want a good player and Nikita is a good player. We’re targeting three or four other good players. Some are more defensive oriented, some are sort of all around guys so there is no specific criteria they have to meet, we just want a good NHL player.”
Not many people would know Nikita Nikitin better than Oilers Sr. Vice President of Hockey Operations Scott Howson. He was the general manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets when they acquired Niktin in a trade with the St. Louis Blues in 2011. Now the two will be reunited as the Oilers have traded for Nikitin’s rights.
When Nikitin first got to Columbus, he played a big role on the team. But with the Blue Jackets defence getting better and better his role was reduced.
“We needed some size and he came in and played really well, the time I was in Columbus,” Howson told Oilers Colour Analyst Bob Stauffer. “He can play the right side, he’s a big body and he’s got a great shot. His play has fallen off a little bit. I think his role fell off a little bit in Columbus because they have a pretty strong defence.
“His role was certainly reduced. We just saw this as an opportunity to add a quality NHL defenceman to our group.”
Now Nikitin will be given an opportunity to move back up a depth chart, this time in Edmonton.
“I see him playing in a top-four role,” Howson said. “He’ll play a little bit of power play, probably second unit. He’s got a great shot and he’ll kill penalties. He can play really anywhere in your 1-6 spots. We’ll probably use him in 1-4, or he’ll be given that opportunity initially. There’s no concern on my part but he still has to do it.”
- Oilers TV Panel talks about the trade and this week's draft
- Bob Stauffer interviews Howson on Oilers Now
The Edmonton Oilers have acquired the rights to defenceman Nikita Nikitin from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for a 5th round selection in the 2014 NHL Draft.
Nikitin, 28, has spent four seasons in the NHL with the St. Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets. His best point production came in the 2011-12 season, when he posted 32 (7-25-32) in 54 games with Columbus after being acquired in a trade from St. Louis.
His is a 6-foot-4, 223 pounder from Omsk, Russia and was the 136th overall pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
Former Oilers Assistant Coach Steve Smith has agreed to terms with the Carolina Hurricanes to join the organization in the same capacity. Smith had served as assistant coach for the Oilers for the past four seasons.
He joins former Oilers Assistant General Manager Ricky Olczyk, who was hired by the Canes this month.
41 players have been invited to Canada’s national junior team summer development camp and two Oilers prospects are among the chosen ones. The two are Darnell Nurse, the seventh overall pick last year, and forward Greg Chase (7th round, 188th overall last year).
Nurse is coming off a season with his best point production as the defenceman scored 50 (13-37-50) in 64 games with Sault Ste. Marie in the OHL. Nurse made his pro hockey debut with the Oklahoma City Barons at the end of the regular season.
Chase posted 85 points (35-50-85) with the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL this season. He too joined Nurse with the Barons and scored a goal in his first professional game.
Nurse had 50pts in 64GP w/ Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) while Chase had 85pts in 70GP w/ Calgary (WHL) this past season. pic.twitter.com/PmZQvanqxo— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) June 23, 2014
Some top NHL Draft prospects are on the camp roster as well. The expected number one overall pick Aaron Ekblad is joined by fellow top defencemen Haydn Fleury, Roland McKeown and Travis Sanheim.
Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhart, Michael Dal Colle, Robby Fabbri, Brendan Perlini, Brayden Point, Nick Ritchie and Jake Virtanen round out the list of forwards who made the camp roster who are potential first round picks this year.
Edmonton Oil Kings forward Curtis Lazar is also invited to the camp.