INSIDE THE OILERS
POSTED ON Monday, 05.25.2015 / 2:09 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

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.”

|
|
|
POSTED ON Sunday, 05.24.2015 / 2:01 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

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.”

|
|
|
POSTED ON Sunday, 05.24.2015 / 1:56 PM MT

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.

|
|
|
POSTED ON Friday, 05.22.2015 / 8:32 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

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.

|
|
|
POSTED ON Friday, 05.22.2015 / 1:37 PM MT
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.

|
|
|
POSTED ON Thursday, 05.21.2015 / 11:27 AM MT
By Ryan Frankson - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

Edmonton Oilers 2015 Rookie Camp will once again include a trip to Penticton, B.C. for the annual Young Stars Classic, hosted by the Vancouver Canucks.

The Canucks announced today the details and schedule for the 2015 event, which will run September 11-14 at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton. The Oilers Rookies will play three games against fellow rookie squads from the Canucks, Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets.

While the Oilers Rookie Camp schedule and roster are still to be determined, players typically congregate in Edmonton two days prior for medicals and fitness testing before flying to Penticton for the Young Stars Classic. The Oilers Rookies posted a 2-1 record at last year’s Young Stars Classic, with first-round draft picks Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse in the lineup.

All 2015 Young Stars Classic games will be streamed live on edmontonoilers.com.

Young Stars Classic
Penticton, B.C – September 11-14, 2015

GAME TEAMS DATE TIME
Game 1 Calgary vs. Winnipeg Sept. 11 5:00pm
Game 2 Vancouver vs. Edmonton Sept. 11 8:30pm
Game 3 Calgary vs. Edmonton Sept. 12 8:30pm
Game 4 Vancouver vs. Winnipeg Sept. 13 3:00pm
Game 5 Edmonton vs. Winnipeg Sept. 14 12:30pm
Game 6 Vancouver vs. Calgary Sept. 14 4:30pm

*Game dates, times and opponents subject to change

**All times converted to Mountain Daylight Time (MDT)

CLICK HERE to view full release.

For information and details on VIP packages and other ticket options, visit canucks.com/youngstars and SOEC.ca. Tickets are available online at www.valleyfirsttix.com, by phone at 1-877-763-2849, in person at the Valley First Box Office at the SOEC or Wine Country Visitor Centre.

|
|
|
POSTED ON Wednesday, 05.20.2015 / 11:03 PM MT
By George Darkow - Oklahoma City Barons / Inside the Oilers

UTICA, N.Y. — The Oklahoma City Barons fell 1-0 to the Utica Comets Wednesday night at the Utica Memorial Auditorium in the seventh and final game of the Western Conference Semifinals series, ending Oklahoma City’s 2015 Calder Cup Playoffs run.

The game’s lone goal was scored in the third period, when Alexandre Grenier pushed the rebound of a Travis Ehrhardt shot past Barons goaltender Richard Bachman at 7:11 of the frame.

Bachman finished the game with 39 saves, while Utica goalie Jacob Markstrom stopped all 35 shots he faced. Bachman finishes the postseason in a tie with Providence’s Malcom Subban for the highest save percentage of the playoffs at .953. Subban played in two games before Providence was eliminated.

Despite holding the second-highest power play percentage in this year’s playoffs, Oklahoma City was held scoreless on three power play chances.

With the win, Utica moves on to the Western Conference Finals round, where they will face the Grand Rapids Griffins in a best-of-seven series for the opportunity to represent the Western Conference in the Calder Cup Finals.

Oklahoma City’s playoff run ended with a 6-4 record after a three-game sweep of San Antonio in the quarterfinal round and a 3-4 record against Utica in the semis.

|
|
|
POSTED ON Tuesday, 05.19.2015 / 4:55 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

There is no doubt that Todd McLellan brings experience and name recognition to the Oilers organization. The long-time coach has worked his way up through the hockey ranks, with stops in the SJHL, WHL, IHL and AHL on his way to the NHL as an assistant and head coach.

His winning record (311-163-66) as the bench boss in San Jose the past seven seasons is also a plus. But Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli spoke more specifically about McLellan, following the hiring announcement. McLellan becomes the 14th coach in Oilers franchise history.

“Todd brings with him a wealth of experience, a level of energy and intellect I haven’t seen in a long time,” Chiarelli said. “He’s been a coach for a number of years, most recently a couple of days ago where he won the gold medal with Team Canada over in Prague. I had a chance to meet with him over there and talk at length on a number of different levels. I’m very impressed with him, meeting him face to face. I had been very impressed with his teams over the years in the NHL with Detroit and with San Jose.”

When Chiarelli came to Edmonton, he spoke about wanting the Oilers to play harder. That doesn’t necessarily mean getting bigger or more physical, and Chiarelli feels McLellan gets that.

“We talked a couple of weeks ago at my press conference about different ways of playing hard, rather than switching out a whole team’s roster. Both those teams in Detroit and San Jose, you look at them and how they play, the personnel, and they know how to play hard. Todd is one of the main reasons for that, instilling a level of confidence, energy and discipline into these players,” said Chiarelli.

Chiarelli says McLellan was the top target for the Oilers.

“His level of energy and his level of thinking really impressed me,” said Chiarelli. “If you look at him behind the bench, he’s active. I think he’s a terrific bench manager. A lot of reasons. My time in Boston, we didn’t play the Sharks a lot, but whenever we played them they were hard games, they were games where adjustments would be made all the time. They were heavy on the puck and he really looked like he enjoyed coaching. A number of those reasons helped me make my decision in choosing Todd.”

|
|
|
POSTED ON Tuesday, 05.19.2015 / 4:53 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

The Oilers have had five head coaches since the start of the 2009-10 season. Stability is something the Edmonton organization would like to have with Todd McLellan, who was announced as the 14th head coach in franchise history on Tuesday.

McLellan most recently coached seven seasons in San Jose, posting a record of 311-163-66 in 540 games. Six of those seven seasons, McLellan and the Sharks made the playoffs. His record indicates that he could be a more long-term fixture for the Oilers.

Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli talked about stability at that position and all that goes into developing a long-term relationship.

“By no means, is there a perfect amount of time for a coach. I think from a consistent messaging viewpoint, that’s important,” said Chiarelli. “In delivering your message and from a coaching perspective, he’s the main messenger and I think to have it over time, with more or less the same group, you’ll see it reaps tremendous rewards. Having said all that, there’s a lot of stuff in between. Not just having a stable coach for a certain number of years. You have to work well together, you have to have a plan and it has to be laid out and executed. Todd’s one of the top coaches in the league and we’re fortunate to have him here.”

Prior to San Jose, McLellan coached the Swift Current Broncos in the WHL, the IHL’s Cleveland Lumberjacks and the Houston Aeros in the AHL. He was also an assistant in Detroit for three seasons.

“Todd brings with him a wealth of experience, a level of energy and intellect I haven’t seen in a long time,” said Chiarelli.

|
|
|
POSTED ON Tuesday, 05.19.2015 / 4:51 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

The search was a relatively short timeline from start to finish. The Oilers season ended on April 11, and on the 20th Todd McLellan and the San Jose Sharks mutually parted ways after seven seasons. Now, one month later, McLellan has found his new home in Edmonton.

Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli didn’t waste any time in meeting with McLellan following the season. Chiarelli knew the free agent coach would be sought after for multiple vacancies around the league. So Chiarelli, trying to get a head start on the competition, got on a plane and travelled to the Czech Republic to meet with McLellan, who was coaching Team Canada at the IIHF Men’s Hockey World Championship.

“It happened fairly quickly, as far as trying to set something up,” said Chiarelli. “We wanted to get ahead of it with Todd. I went over to Prague and we spent three or four hours on a number of different things. I had a fairly exhaustive checklist to go through with him and he had a lot of questions for me. We felt it was a better time in the tournament, earlier on. The competition, the pace, the daily schedule grind wasn’t quite up to speed yet. It was a good time to do it. I knew there would be a lot of teams that would want to talk to Todd so I wanted to be kind of first in to let him digest it and get to know me and what we’re about here and what we’re trying to do here. Timing and opportunity was good and the fact that he had the time was good too. He’s the guy we wanted and wanted to get on to in a hurry.”

The 2015 Worlds ended on Sunday, with McLellan and Canada taking home gold and finishing 10-0 in the tournament. Barely off the plane from Prague, McLellan was announced as the 14th coach in Oilers franchise history, concluding the short hiring process.

|
|
|
INSIDE THE OILERS BLOG