POSTED ON Thursday, 06.4.2015 / 11:04 AM MT
By Chris Wescott - / Inside the Oilers

Kelowna Rockets winger Nick Merkley is projected to be a first-round pick in the upcoming 2015 NHL Draft. Should the Oilers chose not to move their 16th-overall pick, Merkley could still be on the board at that time.

Merkley, although small in size, is big in talent. The 5-foot-11, 191-pound forward is NHL Central Scouting’s 23rd-ranked North American skater after a season in which he recorded 90 points (20-70-90) in 72 games. He added 27 points (5-22-27) in 19 WHL playoff games and three goals and two assists at the Memorial Cup.

His teammate and Oilers prospect Leon Draisaitl got a taste of what kind of player Merkley can be as the two worked well together.

“He’s a great kid,” said Draisaitl. “He works really hard. He loves the game and what he’s done this year speaks for itself. He’s a great playmaker. He sees the ice really well. Whoever picks him is going to be really happy getting him, that’s for sure.”

What if that “whoever” was the Oilers?

“Yeah, for sure. Why not? It would be cool to see him in the same organization. But wherever he goes he’ll be fine and they’re going to get a great player,” said Draisaitl.

POSTED ON Tuesday, 06.2.2015 / 3:24 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - / Inside the Oilers

The 2015 NHL Scouting Combine takes place this week in Buffalo, NY and is just the next step in the off-season schedule. For Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli and the front office staff, it’s showtime as they come together as a unit for the first time since he took over in April.

Chiarelli was on Oilers Now with Bob Stauffer on Tuesday and talked about his philosophy heading into his first combine and draft with this staff. He has met with the amateur scouts and is in the process of meeting with all the staff.

“I wanted to make sure that they dug a little deeper or maybe dug in a different place,” said Chiarelli of the mindset heading into this off-season. “When they’re talking about specific players, just make sure that when they were digging they were highlighting the harder areas of the game; where they exist in this player. It’s more of just re-adjusting a focus and letting them know what our philosophy is. It’s about maybe directing traffic a little bit in the course of a meeting.”

Chiarelli addressed potentially an emphasis on adding more size, but there is more to the draft plan.

“The size thing is something that’s important and that may be another kind of vetting process that we go through with later on, before the draft,” said Chiarelli. “Right now, we’re interviewing a lot of these kids at the combine and they know that I place a certain level of emphasis on size, a certain level of emphasis on grit, and we don’t dismiss skill.

"They know these are areas that they have to check off when they’re interviewing these kids. It’s more about the beginning steps of imparting my philosophy. It’s really just a higher level of due diligence and just all of us, collectively, rolling up our sleeves and pecking away at it. A lot of it right now is evaluation. It’s interviewing, it’s assessing, but it’s also all the personalities involved getting to know each other too.”

POSTED ON Tuesday, 06.2.2015 / 3:24 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - / Inside the Oilers

Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli has a lot of ammo to work with at the 2015 NHL Draft. The Oilers have 10 picks, including seven in the first four rounds.

With two first-round picks, two seconds, two thirds and a fourth, there are assets there that can be moved for immediate help or players who are further along in their development.

Chiarelli addressed that opportunity on Oilers Now with Bob Stauffer on Tuesday.

“I certainly would look at moving any of those picks for something that would help us right now but also that could grow with our organization,” said Chiarelli. “You’re usually talking, relatively speaking, a younger player. I’m not ruling out anything. That’s a lot of picks and it’s good to have a lot of picks and develop players, but we also want to hit the ground running too with some more game-ready players. The discussions are picking up and they’ll continue to be on-going until the draft and they might subside a little bit and then pick up again in and around the free agent date.”

POSTED ON Monday, 06.1.2015 / 10:50 AM MT
By Chris Wescott - / Inside the Oilers

The Bakersfield Condors have signed centre Alexis Loiseau to an American Hockey League contract.

Loiseau, 21, captained Rimouski to the 2015 QMJHL Championship. He tied for fifth in league scoring during the season with 96 points, including 35 goals, in 68 games.

In the QMJHL playoffs, Loiseau was a reliable source of offence for Rimouski, recording 26 points (9-17-26) in 20 games. He finished third in the league playoff scoring race. He also finished on a point-per-game pace at the 2015 Memorial Cup. In five games, he scored two goals and added three assists. He was awarded the George Parsons Trophy as the tournament’s Most Sportsmanlike Player.

Loiseau joins goalie Ty Rimmer and left wingers Braden Christoffer and Connor Rankin as players Bakersfield has recently signed to AHL contracts for the 2015-16 season.

POSTED ON Sunday, 05.31.2015 / 11:09 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - / Inside the Oilers

Anthony Cirelli scored both of Oshawa’s goals, leading the Generals to a 2-1 overtime victory over the Kelowna Rockets in the 2015 MasterCard Memorial Cup Final.

Tomas Soustal put Kelowna up 1-0 with 4:52 left in the opening frame, assisted by Madison Bowey and Cole Linaker. Soustal received the puck at the side of the net after a fortuitous bounce off the boards and buried the opportunity.

Armed with the lead and a power play to start the second period, the Rockets came out firing after the intermission. Kelowna dominated the start of the second, with Oilers prospect Leon Draisaitl having his fair share of chances. However, Oshawa goaltender Ken Appleby made a handful of top-end saves to keep the Generals in it.

Appleby finished the game with 37 saves.

With Appleby standing on his head, Oshawa was able to draw even with Kelowna at 13:50 of the middle frame. Cirelli picked the corner above the glove of Jackson Whistle for the equalizer. Dakota Mermis and Josh Brown earned assists on the goal.

With 10:05 left in the third period, Whistle made a huge save on Michael McCarron to keep the game tied. McCarron had the puck right out in front but couldn’t score on the diving netminder.

Nick Merkley had a breakaway with just over five minutes remaining but couldn’t get a good shot off to give Kelowna the lead.

In the game’s final minutes, Hunter Smith batted the puck in out of mid air to give Oshawa the 2-1 lead. However, after review, it was waved off due to a high stick.

The duelling goaltenders kept the puck out for the remainder of regulation forcing overtime.

Cirelli scored just 1:28 into overtime, from right on the doorstep, to lead Oshawa to a 2-1 victory and the 2015 MasterCard Memorial Cup championship.

Draisaitl finished the game winning 13 of his 29 faceoffs and registering six shots on goal. The 19-year-old centre recorded four goals and three assists during the tournament. He was awarded the Stafford Smythe Trophy as the Memorial Cup MVP. He also earned the Ed Chynoweth Trophy as the Memorial Cup's leading scorer.

POSTED ON Friday, 05.29.2015 / 10:51 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - / Inside the Oilers

Everyone knew the Kelowna Rockets had offensive firepower coming into the tournament and they flexed those muscles with a 9-3 win over Quebec on Friday, punching their ticket to the 2015 Memorial Cup Final against the Oshawa Generals on Sunday.

Adam Erne put Quebec up 1-0 at 3:11 of the opening period, but that was pretty much the high point of the game for them as Kelowna responded in a big way.

Chance Braid tied the game at 9:51 after some solid work in the offensive zone. He buried a pass from Tomas Soustal behind Quebec goaltender Zachary Fucale.

Oilers prospect Leon Draisaitl scored just 17 seconds into the second period, on the power play. The Rockets came up the ice with speed and Draisaitl took the puck to the net, firing a shot past Fucale.

Justin Kirkland took a nice pass from Draisaitl and worked the puck around the sprawling goaltender, potting another power play goal at 3:23 of the second.

The Rockets took a 4-1 lead with Kirkland’s second goal of the game at 4:06 of the middle frame.

Draisaitl nearly put Kelowna up by four just moments later with a shorthanded breakaway that was stopped by Fucale.

The Rockets did get that lead, however, when Josh Morissey fired a shot from the point and it found twine at 16:46. That score capped a four-goal period for Kelowna.

Late in the second, after a series of plays in which the home crowd felt the Remparts deserved a power play, fans in attendance littered the ice with various debris. No infractions were called against the crowd or Remparts.

If Quebec wanted any hope at getting back into the game they needed to start the third period fast and they did just that. Anthony Duclair scored just 21 seconds into the final frame.

Unfortunately for the Remparts, Kelowna responded with a little, “everything you can do I can do better.”

Tyson Baillie sauced a nice pass right on the tape of Rourke Chartier and he scored at 2:17 of the third for the 6-2 lead.

Cole Linaker’s backhander found its way past Fucale for the 7-2 lead at 2:54 of the third.

Quebec’s Dmytro Timashov scored on the power play with a little over 13 minutes remaining in the game to cut the lead back down to four. But, once again, the Rockets simply overpowered them.

Baillie pounced on a kick save by Fucale, on the power play, putting Kelowna up 8-3 at 13:26 of the third. Draisaitl recorded the second assist.

Draisaitl finished the game 15 of 25 on faceoffs with a goal, two assists and six shots on goal.

Chartier fired a shot through the glove side of Fucale at 14:48 of the final frame for the Rockets ninth goal.

With the Quebec loss, Oilers 2013 second-round pick Marc-Olivier Roy’s junior season comes to an end. Roy recorded five points (1-4-5) during the Memorial Cup tournament.

Draisaitl and the Rockets will attempt to defeat Oshawa for the Memorial Cup on Sunday, at 7 p.m. EDT, 5 p.m. MDT.

POSTED ON Friday, 05.29.2015 / 9:06 AM MT
By Chris Wescott - / Inside the Oilers

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.

POSTED ON Wednesday, 05.27.2015 / 1:30 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - / Inside the Oilers

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.

Read the full press release.

POSTED ON Wednesday, 05.27.2015 / 7:00 AM MT
By Chris Wescott - / Inside the Oilers

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.”

POSTED ON Tuesday, 05.26.2015 / 8:41 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - / Inside the Oilers

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.