Oilers hopefuls gather at U of A
Troy Bodie takes part in the VO2max test.
Trevor Solomon gets his portrait taken.
A look at the wall of past Oiler fitness achievements.
Edmonton Oilers Rookie Camp is now open for business but with a decidedly different feel from a year ago.
In September 2005, hockey had been on the shelf for more than a year because of the lockout and the Oilers opened with an extended Rookie Camp that included 38 participants.
This time around, camp has been scaled down to only 22 players and has also been shortened to two days with the third day reserved for the annual clash with the U of A Golden Bears on Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m.
A year ago, there was a definite buzz in the air when Rookie Camp opened due to the long layoff but this seasons kick off comes only 11 weeks after the Oilers 2006 playoff run came to an end.
Its certainly been a longer summer for most of the Rookie Camp attendees but for players like Rob Schremp - who skated on the teams practice squad in the Finals after his London Knights were bounced - and Memorial Cup participants Bryan Young and Stephane Goulet, the off-season has passed by very quickly.
Camp this season also provides an interesting mix of prospects and hopefuls despite it being a smaller group.
Undrafted rookies like Riley Merkley are just looking to get noticed and hopefully secure a pro contract before returning to junior.
Merkley attended Minnesota Wild camp last season on a try-out and parlayed that into his most successful junior campaign yet. In only 59 games, Merkley netted a career-high 32 points for the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL. His strong season earned him an invite to Oilers camp this time around.
"Im looking to hopefully do some big things in camp," said Merkley. "Hopefully I can make an impact."
With it being his second pro camp, Merkley feels hes a step ahead of where he was last year.
"I feel more comfortable this time around," he said. "Although with a new organization there are new faces."
In addition to players trying out for a pro contract, there are others looking to turn a solid Rookie Camp into a successful Main Camp and crack the lineup.
Rob Schremp came within one cut of joining the Oilers last season and after being sent back to London (OHL), he proceeded to light the league on fire with 57 goals and 145 points in 57 games. He led the league in points and tied linemate David Bolland for the OHL lead in goals. In the postseason, he stepped it up even further and led the OHL with 47 points in 19 games.
This season, Schremp knows there are several spots up for grabs among the Oilers top 12 and since he is now a year stronger and a year quicker it may be his for the taking.
There is some competition for Schremp, particularly from Oilers 2000 first-round draft Alexei Mikhnov. Mikhnov is the oldest Rookie Camp participant at 24 years of age and also has the added advantage of having played in the top professional league in Russia for the past five seasons.
In 2005-06, Mikhnov enjoyed his best season in the Russian Superleague with 14 goals and 22 points in 40 games. He topped that off with four goals and six points in seven games at the 2006 World Championships. He ranked second on the team in goals and tied for third on the team in points on a club that included Russian phenom Alexander Ovechkin.
Jonas Almtorp is another Rookie Camp participant who may be a bit of a darkhorse. The 2002 seventh round pick is making his first trip overseas and at 22 years old he could challenge for a depth position. If he does not make the Oilers, Almtorp is likely to spend another year in Sweden.
At the defence position, the best camp hopeful in terms of actually cracking the Oilers lineup is Tom Gilbert. Gilbert scored the game-winning goal in the deciding game for his 2006 NCAA Champion Wisconsin Badgers. Acquired several years ago in exchange for Tommy Salo, Gilberts slick offensive style of play and sound defensive abilities should impress fans who decide to take in either of the sessions in Leduc.
In another category altogether is 2006 second-round pick Theo Peckham. Peckham racked up 236 PIM in 67 games with Owen Sound (OHL) last season and is attending his first pro camp.
"Im just going to try and play my game and not get too star struck out there," he said prior to fitness testing today.
The testing was done similar to last year although scaled down with fewer players to worry about. Last year, the players were put into groups of six or seven while this year it was more leisurely.
However, like last year and most recent years, the VO2 Max was a major part of the fitness testing. VO2 Max is the maximum volume (V) of oxygen (O2) in litres per minute a person can bring in while breathing air at sea level.
The player will ride the exercise cycle continuously for six to eight minutes while wearing a device on his head to monitor his oxygen intake. The device measures VO2 Max in both relative and absolute terms. Relative takes into account the player's body weight and is measured in milliliters per minute.
Now that the testing part is over, the players can now concentrate on their on-ice performance starting tomorrow morning at 9:30 a.m. at the Black Gold Arena in Leduc.
Log on to edmontonoilers.com tomorrow where we will cover the first on-ice day of Rookie Camp from Leduc.