Caleb Jones couldn't help but be awestruck when he walked into the Oilers dressing room for the first time yesterday.
“I was walking into the locker room for the first time, getting my equipment fitted and I sat down in the stall and I looked around, thinking ‘it’s the Edmonton Oilers’ it’s one of the greatest organizations ever,” Jones exclaimed, adding that his experience so far at camp has been nothing but positive.
“It’s been great so far. It’s been an exciting Development Camp. Two days after the draft was a quick turnaround for me but I’m excited to be here and I’m learning a lot already from the organization.”
The brother of Nashville Predators defenceman Seth Jones added that being selected in the same draft as Connor McDavid is something he'll always hold onto.
“You’ve just got to show up and work hard every day,” Jones continued. “He’s a great player and he’s going to play in the league for years to come. It’s pretty cool being drafted (with him). You’ll always be remembered as being part of the Connor McDavid Draft Class with the Edmonton Oilers.”
Jones also added that he was looking forward to building camaraderie with McDavid and his other future NHL teammates.
“It’s a team. You really become a team here and it builds up to when you get to the big leagues. I see a lot of guys like Nurse who have been here for awhile and they’re good friends. I think over time you start to be around each other every day like that, you start to become friends and it gets a lot easier.”
Ethan Bear, selected in the fifth round, 124th overall, by the Oilers at the NHL Draft this past weekend in Florida, had some advice from Craig MacTavish shortly after accepting his jersey at the table.
“MacTavish said ‘one step at a time, just keep working’,” said Bear. “It’s important to work on things you can when you’re on the ice and when you’re off the ice get stronger.”
Hard work is a mantra for Bear, a right-shooting defenceman who had 38 points in 69 games this past season with the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds.
“Just work hard, when you’re on the ice, compete,” he said. “Try and earn your spot and keep working hard is the main thing. You might have to get out of your comfort zone and do things different on the ice but mainly for now it’s only Development Camp so I’m going to have some fun and make myself better.”
Hailing from Ochapowace, Saskatchewan -- near Regina -- Bear said that the reaction back at home was very positive.
“I think they’re pretty happy over there and so am I. A lot of my family congratulated me.”
Orientation Camp: Connor McDavid | Darnell Nurse | Leon Draisaitl
Stories & Analysis: The Panel on Free Agency & McDavid | In Focus: Free Agency Day
More Free Agency: Chiarelli | Mark Letestu Interview & Highlights | Letestu Interview on 630 CHED
For the first time, first-overall pick Connor McDavid stepped onto the ice at Rexall Place.
"Today was a lot of fun," said McDavid. "The fitness testing wasn't a whole lot of fun but really cool to throw on the Oilers gear, the gear that I want to play the rest of my life wearing. It was pretty cool to put it on. With all the history, it was a lot of fun."
It was a power skating lesson, which McDavid thought was very good for both himself and the other prospects.
"That circle stuff, one foot, a lot of edges. I thought it was really good," he said. "Skating is so important. You've always got to be working on it so it was good we got a chance to do that."
The centre was asked about how it feels to be in Edmonton and now be part of an NHL organization.
"It's going to take a little while for it to sink in. It still feels surreal. It's hard to picture being part of an NHL organization, never mind the Edmonton Oilers with such a storied background.
"I visited a couple weeks ago and I've only been here a little bit now. It's a great city. It seems really nice. I'm really enjoying it."
At the end of Wednesday's practice, Darnell Nurse selected Connor McDavid as the practice's first star. The 'first star' is a tradition which has carried on from Oklahoma City where the player previously selected first star chooses someone else at the end of practice with all players around the centre ice circle. The chosen one then has to take a lap around the ice.
With no prior first star, with Nurse's OKC experience, Fleming selected him as the one to pass the torch. Nurse, of course, selected McDavid.
"I'm not picking on him, I just let him do a lap," Nurse chuckled. "It was fun out there. It was something we did in OKC when Gerry (Fleming) was on the ice. He asked 'who will do first star?' and I said 'I'll do it for you' and we had a little fun."
McDavid said that he saw the selection coming from a mile away.
"Me and Nurse, we're good buddies. I saw it coming when they said they were doing that. It was a lot of fun," McDavid stated.
Nurse said he's excited to have McDavid as his teammate at the NHL level.
"Thank God I don't have to play against him anymore," he laughed. "He's a special player. Any time you get the opportunity to add a guy like that to your team, it makes the organization a lot better," Nurse noted. "We played against each other and battled against each other for a few years now and had the opportunity to play together at World Juniors. Not only is he a great player, he's a great guy. It's always good to joke around with him and have some fun."
The big defenceman said that the atmosphere around the team has been very positive in camp so far.
"It's really exciting. You can tell everyone is upbeat, looking forward to September and October. I'm looking forward to do what I can to make the team."
As for his own personal goals for next season? Nurse simply wants to make the team.
"My goal is definitely to come in here and earn a job. I just have to go out there and work as hard as I can. I can only control what I do."
"I've known him for about 24 hours now so there's not much I can say," Draisaitl remarked. "All I can say is he seems like a very nice, very humble guy and obviously everybody knows what he's capable of on the ice. He's a special guy and I think the whole organization should be very excited about him."
Draisaitl was also excited about some of the moves the Oilers have made in the past week, bringing in defencemen Eric Gryba, Andrej Sekera and Griffin Reinhart, goaltender Cam Talbot and forwards Lauri Korpikoski and Mark Letestu.
"It's pretty hard to miss those acquisitions and trades we've made. I think it's good. We're doing the right moves and now it's time to get ready for the season."
As for himself, the goal hasn't changed for Draisiatl as he looks to make the team next season. Being his second Orientation Camp, however, he is taking on a bigger role within the group.
"I have to try and take more leadership than I did last year. Obviously, it's my second year but at the same time I'm coming in with the same mindset as I did last year. I want to be here and I want to play on this team. It's going to be the same mindset as last year."
AUDIO: Griffin Reinhart Interview
Edmonton Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced the club has traded the 16th and 33rd overall picks in the 2015 NHL Draft to the New York Islanders, in exchange for defenceman Griffin Reinhart.
Very excited to be a part of oil country once again!— Griffin Reinhart (@GriffinReinhart) June 27, 2015
Reinhart was taken 4th overall in the 2012 NHL Entry by the Islanders. He has played eight NHL games, all during the 2014-15 season, registering one assist, six penalty minutes and a +1 rating.
The 6’4’’, 217-pound blueliner made his NHL debut on October 10, 2014 in Carolina.
Reinhart is the former captain of the Edmonton Oil Kings, where he played 209 games and recorded 30 goals and 81 assists for 111 points. He had 164 penalty minutes and a +83 rating.
He captained the Oil Kings to a 2014 Memorial Cup Championship.
In 57 playoff games with the Oil Kings, Reinhart recorded nine goals and 19 assists, 56 penalty minutes and a plus-minus of +27.
Griffin is the son of former Calgary Flames defenceman Paul Reinhart and the brother of Flames centre Max and Buffalo Sabres centre Sam Reinhart.
WATCH DIRECTLY IN YOUTUBE
Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli addressed s the media on Friday morning at 8:00 a.m. MDT. If you missed it, you can watch the full archive above.
NHL teams today were able to announce their home openers in advance of Thursday morning's full schedule release. For the Oilers, they'll be playing an opponent not usually reserved for openers, and they'll be doing it for both their home opener and season opener.
The team's season opener will be on the road against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday, October 8. Then the following Thursday (October 15), the Oilers will kick off their final season at Rexall Place against the same St. Louis Blues.
Todd McLellan was asked what his plans were as he takes the reigns as the new head coach of the Edmonton Oilers.
“It’s going to go up. That’s what the plan is,” said McLellan. “It’s to take it up. It’s to take the organization and begin to climb the mountain. We have to chart our path to begin with. We have to determine what we want to be and how we want to look. We have to find the players within the organization right now — not going outside but in the organization — and put them in the right spots. With all of that, there’s pain. There’s nights we’re not going to be pleased. But there’s four teams that are playing right now that just experienced it, too. They have painful nights. They just have fewer of them. And that’s what we’re trying to do. Take those painful nights and diminish them throughout the years to the point where we can be at the top of the mountain.”
McLellan has high hopes for the franchise, but did want to temper expectations for next season.
“To come in and say hey we’re winning a Stanley Cup next year, that’s not the case. There’s some auxiliary pieces — and what I mean by auxiliary is not on the ice surface — that have been added. Bob’s obviously been named to oversee everything, Peter, myself. It’s been an exciting time for all of us.”
He was quick to point out that he knows that he will ultimately be judged on whether or not the organization can get on the winning track.
“The product on the ice — the wins and losses — still drive the organization. That’s how it is in any team. And we have to make sure that that product and those players are driving it upwards.
“There will be hills and valleys but over time it has to keep going upwards.”
Todd McLellan was asked about his playoff record with the Sharks, but McLellan was quick to point out that the Oilers were looking to get better in many aspects, not just postseason.
“We’re not going to talk about playoffs here. We’re going to talk about foundation. We’re going to talk about creating an identity and building towards it. The playoff part of it exists after you accomplish those regular season things and we’ve got work to do there first of all,” McLellan began.
He added that he felt that the Sharks got a bad rap when people referred to their playoff failures, noting that often the team that eliminated them went on to win the championship.
“As far as San Jose goes, we had a lot of successes in the playoffs in my opinion. We ended up losing to some very good teams. Chicago, Los Angeles, teams that went on to win the Stanley Cup. And sometimes you get beat by a better team. It’s as simple as that.
“Maybe you’re not at the top of your game. Maybe you’re short in some areas. Whether it’s skill, strength, toughness. It’s what the playoffs are about. You play, you find out what went right, what went wrong as an organization. Then you evaluate it and try to go out and fix it the next year.
“We were close. We had really good teams. They still have a tremendous team there. They’ve got some tremendous athletes in that locker room. They’ll be a force to be reckoned with. But it was just time for the players and the coach to refresh, I guess is the best word.”