As the Edmonton Oilers Rookies wrapped up what became a very difficult Vancouver Canucks Young Stars tournament a good news/bad news scenario presented itself for players as they get ready to take on the Alberta Golden Bears Tuesday night at Clare Drake Arena (7:00 PM, 630 CHED/ edmontonoilers.com).
The good news for the players is that they get another opportunity to impress Oilers management and coaches; the bad news is that the Golden Bears are an experienced veteran-laden squad with high end skill.
As we all know the Oilers went 0-3 in Penticton as the team lost 5-2 to Calgary, 7-2 to Winnipeg and 5-2 to Vancouver.
Despite, the record there were some bright spots, especially on the back end where the majority of the Oilers top prospects can be found.
Darnell Nurse, the 7th-overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, elevated and took charge for the Oilers every time he was on the ice in a 5-2 loss against Vancouver on Sunday. Though still raw, Nurse’s athleticism, skating and puck-handling ability came to the forefront and illustrated why he has the potential to be a top-2 NHL defenceman.
After looking like a guy who hadn’t played a game in 11 months in the Oilers 5-2 loss to Flames Rookies on Thursday night, Oscar Klefbom had a strong final two periods against Winnipeg on Saturday. Klefbom, the 19th-overall pick in 2011, might lack top-end offensive instincts but he looks like the type of guy who could spend a decade-plus as a top four NHL “D”.
The “chaotic” nature of a thrown-together rookie squad also works against a steady defenceman like a Klefbom.
The Oilers Rookies, though, were short of skill up front with the combinations of Jujhar Khaira and Andrew Miller and then Marco Roy and Kyle Platzer providing the only consistent threats on 5v5 situations.
The Oilers Rookies younger, bigger, less-skilled squad up front will be contrasted by an older Golden Bears team with several legitimate scorers out of the WHL.
The Bears have four forwards who had at least one 70+ point season in the WHL and three forwards who had at least one 30-goal season in the WHL as well.
The Oilers Rookies will not have a forward playing Tuesday night who has had a 30-goal or 70-point season in Major Junior.
The Bears also have scoring depth with 10 50+ point scorers out of the WHL, and 10 forwards who have registered at least one 20+ goal season in the WHL.
The Oilers will have four 50+ point scorers and five 20+ goal scorers from the CHL in their line-up.
Former Oiler Ian Herbers is in his second year as Head Coach with the Golden Bears and trying to build upon a solid 2012-13 campaign.
The Bears won the 2012-13 Canada West title but were upset by Waterloo 2-1 in their opening game at the University Cup last March. Alberta outshot Waterloo 43-13 yielding just TWO shots against at even strength in the loss in a game in which the Golden Bears hit four posts.
Herbers has his top two offensive lines and all three of his defensive pairings back from last year’s team.
The lone freshman added up front for Alberta is Jamie Crooks who scored 70 goals over the last two seasons for Victoria in the WHL.
Kurtis Mucha, who shined in 2009 in Oilers camp and was offered an opportunity down in Springfield of the AHL, is Alberta’s number one goalie. Mucha was a First-Team All-Canadian last season.
Bottom line, the Oilers Rookies need to make sure they don’t take the Bears lightly are it could be a long night.
OILERS ROOKIES HISTORY VS. BEARS
The two teams met every fall starting in 1988 thru to 2009. I have seen 20 of the 22 games played (the Bears hold a 12-10 series lead) here is look at some of the games along the way.
1989-Bears win 7-6 in Bill Moores first season as Head Coach of Alberta’s program. Adam Morrison a 50-goal scorer with Victoria in the WHL snipes a hat-trick for the Golden Bears.
1990-Oilers Rookies win 6-4. Shjon Podein scores twice for the Oilers Rookies.
1992-Oilers Rookies win 7-5. Former Golden Bear, Ian Herbers sets up two goals for the Oilers Rookies against a Golden Bears team he captained to the University Cup Championship the previous March.
1994-Oilers Rookies win an 11-4 blow-out. David Oliver scored four goals. Oilers first-round picks Ryan Smyth (6th overall) and Jason Bonsignore (4th overall) did not score goals, but they were all over the scoresheet. Smyth had an assist and 12 PIMs and Bonsignore had 34 penalty minutes.
1997-Oilers Rookies win 7-2. Michel Riesen the Oilers first-round pick in 1997, scores a goal.
2000-Oilers Rookies win 5-2. Mike Comrie puts on a show and picks up a goal and two assists and Shawn Horcoff scored. As a freshman Jeff Zorn scores twice for Alberta. Zorn would go on to be named a four-time All-Canadian. Zorn is now a Doctor.
2001-Bears win 7-2 and in the process start a five-year run in the head-to-head series. Former Hartford draft choice, Kevin Marsh, scores an electrifying goal on an end to end rush walking around hulking defenceman Alexei Semenov in the process.
2002-Bears win 4-0. Alberta defenceman and Medical Student, Blair St. Martin scored twice and then pummeled minor league tough guy Shawn “Let’s Go” Legault in a one-sided scrap. St. Martin was no shrinking violet in the WHL. He road shotgun with Rocky Thompson in Medicine Hat and had 366 PIM’s in 1997-98. St. Martin is now a Doctor in Edmonton.
2004-Bears win 8-2. With the lock-out looming, Alberta lights up Oilers’ goaltending prospects Jeff Deslauriers and 2004 first-round pick Devan Dunbyk. Oilers had a pretty good, albeit young team. With 2003 first-round pick Marc-Antoine Pouliot, 2004 first rounder’ Rob Schremp, Kyle Brodziak, JF Jacques and Zach Storini in the line-up.
2006-Oilers Rookies win 6-3. After winning back-to-back National titles in 2004 and 2005 the Golden Bears have only eight returning player in the line-up. Dubnyk makes 27 saves for the win.
2008-Oilers Rookies win 3-2. Jordan Eberle drafted 22nd overall that June, picks up an assist in the win.
2009-Golden Bears wins 4-3. Alberta rallies from 3-1 deficit to take a 12-10 lead in the head-to-head series.
Bob Stauffer is Radio Analyst of the Oilers Broadcasts on the Oilers Radio Network and Host of “Oilers Now” Monday thru Friday Noon to 2:00PM on 630 CHED. You can follow him on twitter at @Bob_Stauffer
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