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.”
The Oilers have taken the ice at Rexall Place for Monday’s practice.
The line combinations are as follows:
The Oilers announced today that they had assigned centre Leon Draisaitl to the Canadian Hockey League.
“We wish Leon the best in going back to junior,” Oilers Interim Coach Todd Nelson said. “The short time I had to work with Leon was a pleasure. I thought his game improved over the time that he was here and it’s a good opportunity for him to hone his skills and be a better hockey player and a more confident guy.”
Draisaitl 19, played in 37 games this season for the Oilers, scoring nine points (2-7-9). Nelson spoke about the roster decision and gave his thoughts on what Draisaitl needs to work on back in junior.
“In the case of Leon, I thought his foot speed through the neutral zone got better and that’s one thing he has to continue to work on but also developing the confidence to find the back of the net,” Nelson said. “He has that ability, he’s a great passer, I’d like to see him shoot the puck more but that goes for everybody in that locker room, we want to shoot the puck more. It’s just a few things to touch on. We talked to him about that and that’s what he’s going to work on.”
The Oklahoma City Barons have won seven-straight games, making it the nine victories in their last 10. Their record of 23-7-2-2 and 50 standing points put them at first in the Western Conference and tied for first in the American Hockey League. As their former bench boss, Oilers Interim Coach Todd Nelson is pleased with their continued success but doesn’t believe they’ve even hit their peak.
“I guess they got rid of the cancer down there or something,” Nelson laughed. “They’re doing a great job down there. Gerry Fleming, I talked to him last night and I’ve watched a few of the games, and they’re playing excellent hockey. They’re doing things the right way and they’re playing with confidence. They’re getting good goaltending and they’re just playing very solid hockey. By no means do I think they’ve reached their peak. They’re just playing very confident and they’re playing a very good team game.”
Nail Yakupov has nine points (4-5-9) in 39 games this season. Oilers Interim Coach Todd Nelson talked about where Yakupov, 21, is at in his development right now and where the forward needs to show improvement in his game.
It involves shooting the puck more and having closer puck support.
“I think he’s working hard,” Nelson said. “He’s trying to execute the things we think he needs to work on. Once again, we want to get him in a position where he can shoot the puck but it comes down to playing with decent structure and also, in the offensive zone, once again we want to see more shots going to the net. I think we’re passing up shots as a team but Nail too wants to pass the puck when he has it. I’d rather see him shoot the puck at the net and be hungry for rebounds. One thing we’re trying to work on with him is just having closer support with guys in the corner with the one-on-one battle, to go there and help out. Right now, he’s kind of playing off a bit and waiting for that pass. I think with close puck support he’ll get the puck more. But I think from the time that I’ve been here he’s been trying these things and I think it’s improving. I think his game is improving and it’s still a work in progress.”
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.”