Almost everyone you talked to in Oklahoma City, players and staff, agreed — David Musil was one of the team’s most improved players.
Coming off his first professional season in 2013-14, in which he played 61 games for the AHL’s Barons and three games with Bakersfield in the ECHL, Musil was ready to take the next step in his development. He clearly took that step this season, playing the entire year in the AHL, except for his first four NHL games up with Edmonton.
In speaking with Musil it is clear that he gained an entirely new level of confidence this season as he became a reliable fixture on the Barons blueline. Getting called up to Edmonton was the most memorable part of this past season for the defenceman.
“Getting called up to Edmonton and playing my first NHL game was something unbelievable,” he said.
Musil, the Oilers 31st overall pick in 2011, says he felt comfortable during his limited NHL action. The game didn’t seem too big for him. He made his debut on April 4, against Calgary. Musil stayed with the big club the rest of the season, recording his first NHL assist, against Los Angeles, in his second game on April 7. That was his first NHL victory, and he logged 19:47 of ice time.
Musil played 22 minutes in just his third NHL game, a 3-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks on April 9. He finished his NHL season with an assist against Vancouver.
The 22-year-old defenceman returned to the OKC Barons to aid them in their playoff run. He played just one game in the first series, helping close out San Antonio in a 2-1 overtime win. Musil was +2 that game with two shots on goal.
After playing the first three games of their second-round series against Utica, Musil left the lineup in favour of Oilers 2013 first-round pick Darnell Nurse. Musil returned to the lineup for games six and seven. The Barons fell to Utica 1-0 in game seven, ending Musil’s season.
“It was a fun year,” he said. “I think we had a great group of guys. It’s disappointing losing, but it was a great time with all the guys. Just doing what we did in the playoffs, even though we didn’t go as far as we wanted to, I think it was still a pretty amazing time.”
Musil says the next step for him is return home and train while he prepares for a big camp in Edmonton at the end of this summer. So what does Musil feel like he has to focus on to put another foot forward in his career?
“Just my whole game,” he said. “I know the stuff I need to work on. There are always things I need to get better at. I know what I need to work on and I’ll try to do that as much as I can.”
The 6-foot-4, 207-pound blueliner hopes to compete for a spot on the Oilers in 2015-16. Whether that comes to fruition is to be decided. But one thing is for sure — Musil is oozing with confidence after a strong season in the minors.
The Oilers have agreed to terms with winger Anton Slepyshev on a three-year entry level contract.
Slepyshev, 21, was taken in the third round (88th overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft.
He has played the past three seasons with Ufa Salavat of the KHL. The 6-foot-2, 194-pound winger had his best production this season, as he scored 15 goals and recorded 25 points in 58 games.
Slepyshev led Ufa in scoring at the Spengler Cup this year, with two goals and three assists in five games.
As the Oklahoma City Barons final season comes to an end, with the Oilers moving their AHL franchise to Bakersfield this upcoming season, one of their longest-tenured players closes out his best season as a pro.
Curtis Hamilton, selected 48th overall by the Oilers in 2010, has played in OKC since the 2011-12 season. Those formative years spent as a young prospect down on the farm are filled with memories.
“I came here when I was 20 years old I think at the end of my last year in junior and I kind of got to know the city,” said Hamilton. “It’s crazy thinking back that it has almost been five years since then. I spent all that time here and it’s been an awesome city. I’ve made a lot of memories here and it’s something I’ll never forget.”
The one thing that sticks out the most to Hamilton during his four seasons with the Barons is the quality of teams he played on.
“We had a lot of playoff games here. We had a couple overtime games I remember watching, playing in or winning. We always had a lot of good teams here and great teammates here so I have a lot of fond memories of those games,” Hamilton said.
This year’s playoff run ended in the Western Conference Semifinal with a 1-0 game-seven loss to the Utica Comets. But what happened before that finale was special to Hamilton.
In game one against the Comets, Hamilton scored the game-winning goal in the fourth overtime period. Playing in a game like that is perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Scoring the winner? That’s even more memorable.
It capped off Hamilton’s best season as a professional, in which he recorded career highs in goals (12), assists (20) and points (32). He also earned his first NHL call-up, playing for the Oilers on April 9, against San Jose.
“This year as a whole (was memorable),” said Hamilton. “I got to go over to Switzerland and play in the Spengler Cup, which was awesome. Playing my first NHL game was a dream come true. Getting that fourth overtime goal was just the icing on the cake. I had a great year and I’m very proud of it.”
Hamilton now turns his focus to building off this season with a good summer of training.
“There are a whole bunch of things (I want to work on),” he said. “Obviously, conditioning and weight training, skating and what not. You go through kind of everything. You go through all the hoops to get ready for the next season. But right now I will probably take a week or two just to relax, let everything heal up and get ready for the summer.”
The Oshawa Generals managed to hold onto the lead they earned in the second period, taking down the Kelowna Rockets 2-1 in Tuesday’s much-anticipated Memorial Cup matchup.
After a scoreless first period, the OHL champion Generals would draw first blood.
Dakota Mermis fed Cole Cassels at the side of the net and he buried it at 4:15 of the second period. Michael Dal Colle recorded the second assist.
Tobias Lindberg gave Oshawa a 2-0 lead at 17:16 of the middle frame. Coming down the ice on a 2-on-1 rush, Lindberg executed a beautiful toe-drag and buried his shot behind Kelowna goaltender Jackson Whistle. Sam Harding and Anthony Cirelli both added assists on the goal.
Before that score was finished being announced over the sound system in the building, the Rockets responded. Tyson Baillie found Gage Quinney skating toward the net and chipped the puck up the middle. Quinney settled the bouncing puck and finished to cut the Oshawa lead to 2-1. Madison Bowey added an assist.
The Rockets, still trailing by one, were given a huge opportunity to tie the game late in the third. A kneeing call to Mermis gave Kelowna a power play, and a delay of game penalty made it 5-on-3 for a full minute.
Despite some chances by the Rockets on that man advantage, Oshawa goaltender Ken Appleby was outstanding and Baillie missed a wide-open net.
Rockets centre and Oilers prospect Leon Draisaitl finished with three shots on goal. He was 16 of 29 in the faceoff dot.
Oshawa finishes the round robin with a perfect 3-0 record and advances directly to the Memorial Cup final on Sunday.
If Quebec beats Rimouski in the round-robin finale tomorrow, Kelowna and Quebec will square off in Friday’s semifinal. However, if Rimouski earns its first win of the tournament, there will be a three-way tie at 1-2 and a tie-breaker game on Thursday will have to be played to determine Friday’s semifinal matchup.
The Kelowna Rockets rebounded from their opening loss at the Memorial Cup in a big way, downing Rimouski 7-3 on Monday. Oilers prospect Leon Draisaitl finished +3 with two goals and an assist in the win.
Nick Merkley opened scoring just 52 seconds into the game, setting the tone for the rest of the night. Draisaitl recorded an assist on the goal.
Madison Bowey’s shot from the point banked in off the post at 6:16 of the first for a 2-0 Kelowna lead.
Gage Quinney made it 3-0 at 14:27, getting his shot through traffic in front of the net.
Rimouski made a comeback bid at the end of the first, scoring at 15:14 and 18:14 to make it 3-2.
However, Kelowna bounced back in the second with three unanswered goals. Quinney potted a power-play tally at 1:52 of the middle frame. Merkley followed that up at 10:42.
Draisaitl, the Oilers third-overall pick in 2014, scored during 4-on-4 play at 13:18 of that same period. He patiently waited in the slot as the puck moved down low, jumping up at the right moment to bury a pass by Dillon Dube for the 6-2 lead.
Frederik Gauthier tallied a power play goal at 13:36 of the third to pull Rimouski to within three.
Draisaitl potted his second goal of the night, shorthanded, at 14:16 of the final frame on a magnificent solo effort down the right side, making it 7-3 and leading Kelowna to their first victory of the tournament.
The Rockets conclude round-robin play vs. Oshawa Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. EDT.
After three years at Western Michigan University, Jordan Oesterle chose Edmonton as the next stop in his hockey career. The college free agent defenceman signed with the Oilers on March 31, 2014.
Although he played four games for the Oklahoma City Barons last season, even scoring his first professional goal and adding one playoff game under his belt as well, this year was his first full professional season. And it was a good one.
“I’m happy with the way my first year went,” said Oesterle. “I’ve got a lot of good things to build on, and going into the summer I’ve got a lot to work on to get to the next step that I want to be at.”
Making the jump from the college game to the pros was an adjustment at first. The biggest thing was the amount of time devoted to hockey now that the schoolwork is complete.
“The amount of practices. You’re not practicing as much at school, and the amount of games,” he said.
But once you get to those games, the competition is much more fierce as well.
“In the games, the strength of the players and the skill level of all the players. All the players are top-league guys and you just have to be ready every night,” the defenceman said.
Oesterle played 65 games for the Barons this season. His 25 points (8-17-25) were good for second on the team in defensive scoring behind established AHL blueliner, Brad Hunt.
His first call-up to the NHL will likely be the most memorable thing he’ll take from this season. Oesterle made his NHL debut on February 28, against St. Louis. He recorded his first NHL point with an assist against Los Angeles in his second game on March 3.
Although Oesterle says he is happy with how his first season played out, he knows his development is just beginning.
“It’s definitely been a good first year and something I’ll build on,” he said. “I won’t be satisfied with the way the season has gone. I’ve liked the progression I’ve made through the year and I’ll just take that into the summer… with confidence and do what I need to do to hopefully make the team out of camp.”
With his eyes set on competing for an Oilers roster spot, the 22-year-old Dearborn Heights, Michigan native will attempt to beef up in the off-season. Oesterle is just 6-foot-0 and 182 pounds. He possesses excellent skating ability already, but wants to ramp up his physical gains during the summer.
“Going into every summer, the biggest thing for me is to get stronger,” said Oesterle. “Being a smaller guy, I need to work on that every summer more than my on-ice stuff. I think I’m going to do a little extra this summer and try and work on all areas of my game.”
Jujhar Khaira had just finished his first professional season, which ended in a 1-0 game seven loss to the Utica Comets in the Calder Cup Playoffs. He couldn’t help but mention his teammates when summing up the season that was.
“With the group of guys we had this year, I’ve been on a few teams in different leagues, and I’ve never been on a team with a group of guys like this," Khaira said after the game. "Everybody was close, there were no groups or anything.”
As a 20-year-old making the jump to the professional game, having a group like he did in Oklahoma City helped Khaira grow as a player and as a young man.
“I thought it went really well,” Khaira said of his first pro year. “I thought I learned a lot this year just with information coming from the older guys and the coaches and watching video and all that. It was a disappointing loss (in the playoffs) but overall I had a lot of fun and a pretty good season.”
Playing with the Barons and those in that locker room was his favourite part of the 2014-15 season.
“I just liked being around the guys,” said Khaira. “I think any time you’re around the guys, it’s always a blast. I can’t really pinpoint one part of the season, but the whole season was a lot of fun.”
Khaira finished his first pro season with four goals and six assists in 51 games, adding 62 penalty minutes. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound centre came up big in the playoffs.
After missing time due to an elbow injury, Khaira returned to the lineup for game three against the San Antonio Rampage. Up 2-0 in the best-of-five series, Khaira would help the Barons advance.
The Oilers 2012 third-round pick scored a goal at 5:01 of overtime to clinch the series. Even with scoring that big goal, the time spent with his teammates after the win sticks out even more in his mind.
“I think just beating those guys,” said Khaira. “All year, it was just a war against them and it was just nice to beat them and move on. Just the feeling after with the guys, I’ll remember that a lot more than scoring.”
Khaira scored two goals in game four of their second round series against Utica. His performance helped the Barons win 7-4 and tie the series at 2-2.
Heading into his second professional season, Khaira has a few areas of his game he looks to focus on this summer.
“I’m always going to be working on my skating, just protecting the puck, my stick handling in small areas, making plays at full speed,” he said. “I’m going to try and do a lot of that this summer.”
The third annual Dirty Birds Charity Hockey Tournament raised a total of $94,167 for the Neurosurgery Kids Fund at the Stollery Children’s Hospital.
The “12 hours of hockey” tournament took place on Saturday, at Argyl Arena in Edmonton. Oilers TV Reporter and Host Tom Gazzola and edmontonoilers.com Head Writer Chris Wescott participated, playing on Team Brain. Oilers In-Game host and 630 CHED’s Ryan Jespersen was also on Team Brain.
"It truly is an honour to be a part of this tournament,” said Gazzola. “To see how much this group has raised for the NeuroKids Fund in just three years is spectacular."
Gazzola went first overall in the “media draft,” which took place at the silent auction on Friday night.
“This was my second year involved with the tournament and I already cannot wait for next year,” said Wescott. “Meeting the kids, the people involved and seeing the money raised for a great cause is really special.”
Other media personalities involved in the tournament and fund raising efforts were CBC’s Min Dhariwal and TSN 1260’s Dustin Nielson.
Over its three years of existence, the event has raised $263,000.
A shorthanded goal at 2:08 of the third period gave the Quebec Remparts 3-1 lead. Although it got tight at the end, they eventually beat Leon Draisaitl and the Kelowna Rockets, 4-3 in the opening game of the 2015 Memorial Cup.
Nikolas Brouillard opened scoring at 5:18 of the first for Quebec.
Matt Murphy gave the Remparts a 2-0 lead with a point shot that snuck past Jackson Whistle at 13:22 of the second. Oilers 2013 second-round pick Marc-Olivier Roy got the second assist on the goal.
Kelowna drew within one at 17:56 of the middle frame as Cole Linaker dished the puck in front of the net and Nick Merkley put it away, shorthanded.
The Remparts responded with a shorthanded goal of their own. Anthony Duclair had a breakaway and the rebound from his shot was buried by Ryan Graves.
Kelowna again responded, scoring on the power play at 12:43 of the third.
An empty-bet goal by Quebec’s Adam Erne gave the host team a 4-2 lead.
Draisaitl, the Oilers fourth-overall pick in 2014, scored backdoor with 36 seconds remaining in the game to draw within one, but Kelowna could not find the equalizer.
The Remparts face Oshawa on Sunday and the Rockets play Rimouski on Monday.
|Tom Gazzola passes the puck in last year's tournament. Photo provided.|
Oilers TV Reporter and Host Tom Gazzola and edmontonoilers.com Head Writer Chris Wescott are among a handful of local media personalities participating in the third annual Dirty Birds Charity Hockey Tournament this weekend.
The tournament is a two-day event, including a silent auction this Friday. The tournament takes place on Saturday, helping raise awareness and funds for the Neurosurgery Kids Fund at the Stollery Children’s Hospital. In its first two years, the event raised over $200,000.
Both Gazzola and Wescott participated last year. This will be Gazzola’s third tournament. A member of the Oilers coaching staff, Video Coordinator Myles Fee, will also be playing in his first tournament.
In 2013, the goal was to raise $15,000. The tournament ended up raising $68,000, which was matched by CN Miracle for a total of around $140,000. Last year, the tournament raised $100,212, on its own, without being matched.
“The Dirty Bird Hockey Tournament means so much to my family and every family impacted by paediatric neurosurgery at the Stollery,” said Melissa Da Silva of the Neurosurgery Kids Fund. “This tournament is a true testament to how generous and compassionate people can be. A group of people who came together to create something extraordinary to help our children and families. We give our deepest heartfelt gratitude to everyone who organizes, donates and participates. The smiles at camp this year will be because of you!
|Chris Wescott skates to the bench in last year's tournament. Photo provided.
This event began when a local men’s hockey team decided to play for more than just fun, choosing to support a great cause.
“This tournament is more than hockey. It's about the friendship the Dirtybirds have created with the kids and families of the Neurosurgery Kids Fund,” said Chris Branco, captain of the Dirty Birds and one of the founding members of the event. Branco, and his wife Julie, created the charity tournament.
“Where this tournament is today is truly amazing. Never once did I think that in two years, over $200,000 would be donated,” Branco said. “The support from the community, family, friends and of course my wife Julie, who has put in countless hours, is what makes this a successful event.”
In addition to the Oilers staffers participating, Dustin Nielson (TSN 1260), Ryan Jespersen (630 CHED) and Min Dhariwal (CBC) will suit up for the cause.
Friday night’s silent auction will take place at Average Joes Sports Bar in Sherwood Park (390 Baseline Road), at 7 p.m. Auction items include a Wayne Gretzky stick, a Jordan Eberle stick and jersey, a Taylor Hall jersey and a Connor McDavid Erie Otters and World Junior Championship jersey, all signed.
Tickets are $20 at the door.
The tournament will take place on Saturday, beginning at 8 a.m. at Argyl Arena (9933 63 Avenue Northwest, Edmonton).
This year, prior to the auction or tournament, over $67,000 has been raised.