OKC Barons Training Camp Day One
The Oklahoma City Barons officially ushered in the 2012-13 season Sunday morning with a three-hour practice session at the Cox Convention Center. Several new faces were mixed in among the 34 players, including 19 players that skated with last season’s team. Among the new faces were Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Justin Schultz.
Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins were paired together in the day’s first one-hour breakout session. Eberle lined up alongside former World Junior teammate Philippe Cornet and Oiler teammate Anton Lander, while Nugent-Hopkins skated between Kristians Pelss and Antti Tyrvainen. Schultz participated in the day’s second one hour-session that featured veteran defenseman Alex Plante.
After an hour of system work, including defensive zone coverage and breakouts, the trio met with the Oklahoma City media for the first time to share their thoughts on the upcoming season and the opening session of training camp.
“We had a good tempo,” Eberle said. “Our execution was pretty good for the first day. Guys are usually trying to find their hands and are a little off on shots, but I thought we had a good start. I’m pretty familiar with my linemates, so we have a good mix.”
With one year in the NHL under his belt, Nugent-Hopkins is taking in the opportunity to grow his game with potential future teammates. The rookie of the year finalist from a year ago finds himself in a new situation.
“It’s just the first practice, so we haven’t been able to build chemistry yet, but as the week goes on, I’m sure that’ll come,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “I really just want to meet everyone and bond with the group. I’m working on building some chemistry with my linemates and teammates and just getting back into the groove of things.”
Coming in to camp as the Oilers biggest off-season acquisition, Schultz sees the chance to play in Oklahoma City as a great spot to make the transition from college to professional hockey.
“It’s exciting. It’s my first professional year,” Schultz said. “I’m excited to play with the team here, and we’re going to have a lot of fun. There’s a lot of veterans here that have been around the game for awhile, and I want to work on improving my game on the ice.”
Barons head coach Todd Nelson got right down to business Sunday morning, putting the team through drills and with all players present for camp, got to work on fundamentals and system work. Even with all the changes to his roster, Nelson sees the benefit in having the Edmonton trio in Oklahoma City right now.
“They’re all three highly skilled guys, impact players,” Nelson said. “When they’re here, it raises the level of play for everyone else which helps our hockey team. Right now, they’re out there working hard and having fun and that’s the main thing.”
And while Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins and Schultz are excited to finally hit the ice for the upcoming season, the three hope to contribute and continue the success experienced by the Barons last season.
“Oklahoma City had a pretty good team last year,” Eberle said. “They made the conference finals, and I think something we’re lacking in Edmonton is a winning attitude. This opportunity gives myself, Ryan and Justin a chance to come here and add to that.
“Playing here is a great opportunity. This is the best option right now with all the guys coming down from different teams. It’s the best league in North America, and to get an opportunity to play here is pretty exciting.”
Training camp continues Monday and runs through Saturday. Oklahoma City faces the Houston Aeros in a pair of preseason games, Friday and Saturday, Oct. 5-6, at 6 p.m. MT in Oklahoma City.