BLOGS
POSTED ON Monday, 04.20.2015 / 2:13 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

On Saturday, the Oilers were the winners of the NHL Draft Lottery and will pick first overall in the 2015 NHL Draft. With two “generational” talents at the top of draft boards, the Oilers are in prime position to make a turnaround.

“When this was drawn, I think every fan in this city, every Oilers fan in the country jumped through the roof and we’re so excited. I can tell you, I was sitting at home by myself and all I did was start to smile,” said Oilers Entertainment Group CEO Bob Nicholson.

The Oilers haven’t made any definitive announcements on who they will take with the first-overall pick. There are steps left to complete before the draft is held in Sunrise, FL in June.

“In regards to the draft, there are playoff series going on right now and they should be focused on that,” Nicholson said of the top prospects. “We certainly know where we’re going to be picking on draft day, but there’s a process here and we want to live with that process. Saturday was a huge part of the Oilers here in the future. But from where I’m sitting, we have a lot of other things we’re going to look at and we have to make sure we take our time and make sure we get this right.”

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POSTED ON Monday, 04.20.2015 / 2:11 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

On Monday, Oilers Entertainment Group announced that Bob Nicholson has been named Chief Executive Officer of OEG, effective immediately.

“Today I speak as the CEO of Oilers Entertainment Group and firstly, I want to thank to Daryl Katz,” said Nicholson. “Thanks for this honour. It’s a privilege and there’s a lot of responsibility that goes with this. I’m going to step to the plate and do the best job that I can do and I’m going to really trust my instincts.

Nicholson joined the organization as Vice-Chair of OEG in June of 2014. He will now expand his responsibilities and be much more hands on when it comes to every aspect of the organization, including hockey operations.

Nicholson, who retired as President & CEO of Hockey Canada in 2014, has a history of success overseeing the Canadian Men’s and Women’s National Teams. As OEG continues to formulate their plan of attack moving forward, Nicholson says there are some pillars he wants to build around.

“There are a few words I want to throw out right now: loyalty, trust, teamwork, and that’s not with just the players on the ice. We’re going to have that through our whole organization. As we start to define what this organization is going to be we’re going to build around those words,” he said.

Everyone in the organization will now work under Nicholson moving forward.

“Really, the last 10 months, I’ve been Vice Chair really looking over the whole organization,” said Nicholson. “Now everyone in the organization reports directly to myself so I’m going to be rolling up the sleeves and being much more hands on with every part of the organization.”

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POSTED ON Monday, 04.20.2015 / 12:14 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

The Oklahoma City Barons will play the San Antonio Rampage in the first round of the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup playoffs.

The series will be a best of five, with the first two games in Oklahoma City on Thursday, April 23 and Saturday, April 25. The rest of the series will be played in San Antonio.

Game 1: April 23, 2015 - 6 p.m. - San Antonio at Oklahoma City

Game 2: April 25, 2015 - 6 p.m. - San Antonio at Oklahoma City

Game 3: April 29, 2015 - 6 p.m. - Oklahoma City at San Antonio

Game 4*: May 1, 2015 - 6:30 p.m. - Oklahoma City at San Antonio

Game 5*: May 2, 2015 - 6:05 p.m. - Oklahoma City at San Antonio

* If Necessary all times listed as MDT

The Barons posted a 3-5-2-2 record against San Antonio this season. This will be the second time the Barons have played the Rampage in the post-season. OKC beat San Antonio in five games (4-1) in 2012.

All Barons games will be available, for a cost, at AHLlive.com.

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 04.15.2015 / 7:35 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

RCMP Const. David Wynn, 42, passed away in January following a gun shot wound suffered in St. Albert. Aux. Const. Derek Bond was also shot during the routine license plate check that led to the confrontation, but survived the attack.

This Saturday, Oilers alumni will faceoff against a team of Mounties in a game to support the families of Wynn and Bond at 7:15pm at Servus Place in St. Albert.

The alumni team will include Ryan Smyth, Jason Strudwick and Fernando Pisani. The goal is to help raise funds in support of the families.

On January 27, there was a moment of silence held ahead of the Oilers game at Rexall Place. Wynn’s three sons performed the ceremonial puck-drop to an emotional display of support by the fans in attendance.

Saturday’s game in St. Albert is free to attend; however, chuck-a-puck and cash donations will be collected on site.

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 04.14.2015 / 3:48 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

Seven Oilers players could represent their home countries at the 2015 IIHF World Championship in Czech Republic.

Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have been invited to join Team Canada.

Hall played 53 games this season for the Oilers, recording 38 points (14-24-38). Eberle led the Oilers in scoring with 63 points (24-39-63) in 81 games. He recorded 34 points in the final 35 games of the season.

Nugent-Hopkins established a new career high in goals with 24. He finished the season with 56 points (24-32-56) in 76 games. The centre will only play for Team Canada if and when he has recovered from a foot injury that caused him to miss the final four games of the regular season.

Nail Yakupov has been invited to Team Russia’s selection camp and will try out for a spot. The 21-year-old winger recorded a new career high in points with 33 (14-19-33) in 81 games. He had 21 points after the All-Star break.

Matt Hendricks will join Team USA. The 33-year-old was a locker room leader for the Oilers. He played 71 games this season, scoring eight goals and adding eight more assists with 76 penalty minutes. He also had 220 hits and 72 blocked shots.

Anton Lander and Oscar Klefbom have been invited to join Sweden. Lander is fresh off the best NHL season of his career. The centre recorded six goals and 14 assists for 20 points in 38 games. He had eight points in his previous 94 NHL games coming into this season. Klefbom developed nicely into the Oilers Defenceman of the Year, as voted upon by the Edmonton media. He finished the season with 20 points (2-18-20) in 60 games.

The World Championship is scheduled for May 1-17 in Prague and Ostrava, Czech Republic. San Jose Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan was named the bench boss for Team Canada for the tournament.

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POSTED ON Monday, 04.13.2015 / 7:52 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers
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POSTED ON Monday, 04.13.2015 / 7:51 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish fielded questions about the team’s coaching search at his season debrief press conference at Rexall Place on Monday. Todd Nelson, who led the team to a 17-22-7 record as interim coach, is certainly in the mix. However, MacTavish and the Oilers are determined to take their time with this decision, and that includes waiting for the dust to settle in the coming weeks and possible candidates to show themselves.

“Before I talk about that, I’d be crazy not to acknowledge the good job I feel that Todd did since he took over,” said MacTavish. “I don’t want to get into too much about specifics about what the next coach will look like, but I’ve been consistent in what I’ve said about coaching. I’ve got to let the emotion die down from the season. We’re going to give a fixed amount of time going forward to see what that landscape looks like and then we’re going to make a decision. It really is my experience that you’re better off buying some time before we get to that conclusion.”

MacTavish emphasized development as a key piece to the team getting better in the coming years. That just so happens to be a strength of Nelson’s coaching. Nelson worked down in the American Hockey League on the Oilers farm team in Oklahoma City from 2010 to this season. Strides were made in the games of Anton Lander, Jordan Eberle, Nail Yakupov and others under Nelson’s watch. That is something that is not lost on MacTavish, although the club will still take its time with the hiring process.

“It’s not a wide net, for sure, and I’m not saying we won’t catch Todd in that net ultimately,” MacTavish said of the net they’ll cast for a new coach. “There is no downside for me to take time to make this decision. I’ve had that dialogue with Todd, I’ve communicated very clearly to Todd that I’ve admired the job and respected the job that he’s done. I’ve seen it, much like you have, there has been an improvement in the on-ice performance. Todd gets the lion’s share of the credit for that. There has been personnel changes, that I think have helped as well that I wasn’t able to do with Dallas (Eakins) here. But Todd is a laid-back guy that his messaging has really resonated with this team. Having said all that, I still want to give myself some time to see exactly what the landscape is going forward.”

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POSTED ON Monday, 04.13.2015 / 7:49 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

The Oilers have two promising prospects coming up the pipeline next season who are that much closer to earning a roster spot. Darnell Nurse, who was taken seventh overall in 2013, is seen as the Oilers top defensive prospect. Leon Draisaitl is an offensively gifted centre, taken third overall in the 2014 draft.

Draisaitl, 19, played 37 games for the Oilers this season, recording nine points (2-7-9). He then finished the season with the Kelowna Rockets in the WHL and lit up the score sheet. He had 53 points, including 19 goals and 34 assists, in 32 games for the Rockets. He has nine points (2-7-9) in six playoff games.

Nurse, 20, was named Canada’s player of the game in the gold medal round of the 2015 World Junior Championships. He was also named Sault Ste. Marie’s MVP, despite playing only 36 games for the Greyhounds. He recorded 33 points (10-23-33) and 58 penalty minutes in 36 games this season in the OHL.

Each will be given the opportunity to earn their spot in training camp, which is why Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish wouldn’t commit to sending them to the AHL right away for more seasoning.

“They wouldn’t want to hear that in a press conference, and what I’ve said about them for the last quite some time is that they’re going to determine their own level,” said MacTavish. “I don’t want to put a ceiling on them that they have to go to the American Hockey League. But they’re going to determine that, and there’s nothing wrong with going to the American Hockey League. It’s a great developmental league, a great developmental tool, it enhances development, it speeds up development in a lot of ways. The challenge for both Darnell and Leon will be to come in here and prove that they’re ready, because it takes an exceptional athlete to make that transition right into the NHL. We need players that think the game well and have experience so that will be on both Darnell, who has a lot of experience, and Leon, who is going to get a lot of experience here in this CHL playoffs and hopefully into the Memorial Cup.”

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POSTED ON Monday, 04.13.2015 / 4:35 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

The strides Oscar Klefbom has made on the ice in just his second professional season here in North America have been documented throughout the last year. The 21-year-old defenceman increased the number of NHL games played from 17 in his rookie year to 60 this season, recording 20 points (2-18-20).

In the second half of the season, Klefbom was paired often with Justin Schultz as the top duo on the Oilers blueline. Klefbom, the 19th overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, has shown glimpses of what he could become for the organization and that has his general manager excited.

“When you talk about Oscar, I don’t think there is one facet of the game where you can put him in and hurt his development,” said Oilers GM Craig MacTavish. “There are guys that I see that are just going to be really good players and potentially star players. I see that in him. I don’t think there is one area, when you have meetings with players at the end of the year, there are normally four or five things you can point out that they’ve got to do better. You’ve got to improve on your fitness. But I’m at a bit of a loss for him, with the exception of experience.”

Klefbom figures to get more and more of that much-needed experience as he continues his career. But the experienced gained this season has the organization salivating at the future of their blueline.

“I think, offensively, he’s grown the last 20 or 25 games,” said MacTavish. “I don’t know what everybody in here feels, but I feel a whole lot of comfort when he is going back and defending and going to break the puck out. When I look at Oscar, all I think is we need a couple more of him. I think we’ve got one in the system and that will move the dial too as well.”

The other defenceman that MacTavish alluded to was most likely Darnell Nurse. The Oilers top defensive prospect, taken seventh overall in 2013, is currently in the second round of the OHL playoffs, captaining the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

MacTavish is comfortable with Klefbom and Schultz as an important pair heading into next season, but did explain the need to add to the roster on defence. The question is whether or not the price will be right and what will come available, in terms of top defencemen.

“I think we can be a competitive team, for sure, but we’ve got to make additions there,” the general manager said. “For me, it gets to how much we’re going to pay in terms of developing assets for proven assets that are declining assets, potentially declining assets. The minute that developing asset intersects with that declining asset, that’s when you regret it. That’s really the gist and the crux of our decision making now going through to next year, because make no mistake, we have the assets that we can go out and acquire more proven players. But these players are going to be, in all likelihood, declining players and is that going to be the best strategy for our hockey club?”

MacTavish thinks that, should one of those players become available, the Oilers have the assets to make something happen.

“Do I envision a scenario where a proven top one or top two defenceman becomes available? Potentially. I think there are going to be some very unhappy teams here in the next couple of weeks. There are going to be some teams that are up against a very tight salary cap and that’s going to create an environment where they could potentially be looking to off-load some high-end assets and we’d be in a position, because of some of the developing assets we have, that we’d be able to acquire them, and the money that we have.”

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POSTED ON Monday, 04.13.2015 / 3:07 PM MT
By Chris Wescott - edmontonoilers.com / Inside the Oilers

Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish opened the question-and-answer segment of his year-end press conference with comments on Nail Yakupov, who the organization agreed to terms with on a two-year contract extension this morning.

MacTavish was impressed with the turnaround that Yakupov had in his game from the first half of this season to the last half.

“I don’t know that I’ve seen any transformation like that in all my years in hockey,” said MacTavish. “He really did become a very valuable player down the stretch. Whatever ignites that, whether it’s a conversation, a linemate or a coach or a level of experience, it’s really hard to identify what ignites that but there’s no denying that Yak has turned a corner.”

Yakupov also spoke to the media, and was asked if he sees himself as part of the “core” group of Oilers youth.

“I’m just trying to do my best and trying to make my team happy and get some points every game and just trying to improving my game every day, every game, every practice and everywhere. Of course, I just want to be the best player and just want to work every day. That’s it,” said Yakupov.

MacTavish says Yakupov has shown the potential and growth that made him the first-overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft. That makes him an integral part of the organization moving forward.

“From what I talked about before, our growth is going to be internal growth and incremental growth and Yak in his development is a byproduct of that strategy and something that’s going to be continued,” said MacTavish. “We’ve talked about, there was a lot of discussion involving, Yak and about the potential to trade but, again, I’ve said and I’ve been consistent in what I’ve said that it’s not my preference, I don’t think it’s good strategy, to trade developing players. I think that’s been rewarded and Yak has been rewarded with a two-year contract.”

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