ROOKIE THOUGHTS AND GAME THREE PREVIEW

Jason Gregor
September 15 2010 01:08PM

Even in Penticton you could sense it was a Battle of Alberta last night, even though most of the players on the ice will likely never suit up in the NHL for the Flames or Oilers, the rookies for both clubs played like it mattered to them.
 
 
 
It was a much more physical game than Sunday’s no-hitter v. the Canucks and a few spirited scraps midway though the middle frame really energized the crowd. Cameron Abney, who’ll play for the Oil Kings this season, had a great tilt with 6’6” giant Chris Breen. Both guys threw some long range, heavy shots, but Abney landed two solid rights late in the 45-second tilt to earn the decision as Breen left the ice leaking from his forehead. On the ensuing faceoff Jordan Bendfeld and Flames rookie Ryley Grantham dropped their lids and went toe-to-toe. Grantham threw a few more punches, and cut open Bendfeld on the back of the head, however, Bendfeld landed the best punch.
 
Alex Plante had a pair (empty netter), Mike Thomas, Chris Vande Velde and Tyler Pitlick scored for the Oilers. The Oilers had three PP goals, the Flames had two and they combined for 72 shots on goal.
 
I decided to focus specifically on six Oiler rookies last night, and here's what I noticed.
 
RYAN MARTINDALE: On Sunday he was the least effective player on the ice, but after a pep talk with Stu MacGregor Monday morning, Martindale responded with a solid game. He won faceoffs, battled hard for loose pucks and chipped in with two assists. He won crucial defensive draws and displayed the ability MacGregor thought he had. On Monday MacGregor told him, “If you want to play in the NHL you need to win battles. If you can’t compete as hard as the opposing player you won’t make it.” Martindale vowed he’d be better last night and he was.
 
MARTIN MARINCIN: The lanky 2010, 2nd round pick was steady but not spectacular. He plays his defensive positioning incredibly well for a young kid. He gets his stick and big body in the passing lanes consistently. He needs to fill out and that should come with time. He uses his reach very well, and that will be a great asset as he matures. He is not flashy, but when he has the puck he looks to make a play first, rather than just dump it out. He made some great plays in traffic, and rarely looked timid with the puck. He got tired in the 3rd period, which is understandable considering he was playing against men. I'll be curious to see who he handles the older Sharks tonight. It will be a good test for him.
 
PHILIPPE CORNET: The 20-year-old was a non-factor for the 2nd straight game. He didn’t make any glaring mistakes, but he rarely was involved in the play. The game was a scramble at times, and that didn’t jive with his style of play, but he needed to do something to get noticed or make an impact in the game and that didn’t happen. Considering he opened some eyes at main camp last year, and is one of the older Oilers in the tourney, he has been a disappointment. Unless he steps up his game at main camp, I could see him going back to junior rather than the AHL.
 
CURTIS HAMILTON: He isn’t a flashy player, but his play along the boards, in traffic and his willingness to be involved physically is exactly why the Oilers drafted him. They think he’ll be a physical, 3rd line type player and after the game Kevin Lowe was very pleased with how he played. Hamilton has decent hands and offensive instincts and like most young players, his first step needs to improve. If he can stay healthy, I expect he is two or three years away from seriously competing for a roster spot with the Oilers.
 
BRANDON DAVIDSON: He really struggled early and didn’t look like he was in the game, but rather than try to do too much he simplified his game. After the rough start he got himself into the game by making the safe play in his own zone, and just continually dumped it out. In the 3rd period he started to make a few passes rather than just hammer it off the glass. He is a stay-at-home D-man, and even though he didn’t make a lot of plays early, he didn’t turn it over inside his blueline, which shows he can be trusted in his own zone. He battled hard in the corners, and while he isn’t a physical player he is not afraid to take a hit to make a play. He’s been steady in his two games thus far.
 
TYLER PITLICK: After playing with Magnus Paajarvi on Sunday, he had Drew Czerwonka and Kristians Pelss as wingers and his game didn’t regress. He showed great foot-to-hands coordination on his goal, and once again was physically involved. He was decent on faceoffs, and he was pretty solid in his own zone. Pitlick has been impressive in both games, and I thought he was even better last night with less talented linemates. He is big, strong, skates well, competes hard and has good offensive and defensive instincts.
 
A few other notes from last night:
 
Chris Vande Velde was exceptional and along with Martindale they were the two best players on the ice. Vande Velde won draws, was very good on the PK and played a strong two-way game. On his goal, he won the draw cleanly back to Davidson, went straight to the net with his stick on the ice, grabbed the rebound and buried it in the back of the net. One year in the AHL and I bet he will push hard for a roster spot next season. He has great hockey sense.
 
Free agent Nolan Toigo earned bonus points when he went after Lance Bouma after a dangerous hit on Dominik Schlumpf late in the third period. Toigo and Bouma were teammates with the Vancouver Giants last year, but he defended the logo on the front of the jersey and Steve Tambellini was really impressed by that. Toigo will be a project, but he will go to the OKC camp and compete for a job in the AHL, but if he does get a contract he’ll probably start in the Stockton.
 
Teemu Hartikainen got lost in the shuffle last night, especially in the 3rd period. The Oilers want to put him with some better players tonoight and see what he can do. He plays with an edge, but they'd  like to see him in some more offensive situations to see how he fares.
 
Alex Plante has been the leader through two games. He has been physical, and he has been a presence in both games. He was going to sit tonight, but he has played very well and combined with Marincin being a little fatigued he’ll wear the “A” again tonight.
 
GAME THREE V. SHARKS          
 
The Oilers will wrap up the rookie tourney with a tough test v. a mature San Jose Sharks rookie squad. The Oiler scouts and management are very curious to see how their young players will fare against a much older and stronger Shark team.
 
Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Paajarvi will skate as a line tonight, with Hall playing the middle. Don’t expect Hall to play much centre at main camp, but they are curious to see how he’ll do in the middle.
 
The other change will see Pitlick play the right wing tonight. Pitlick will start the WHL season on the RW in Medicine Hat. He is excited about the move because then he will play with offensive guys and get more icetime. I suspect he will be a centre down the road but he’ll play the wing in the Hat to start the season.
 
The other lines for tonight look like this:
 
Livingston/Martindale/Pitlick
Thomas/Kytnar/Hartikainen
Abney/Schraber/Czerwonka
 
Schlumpf/Motin
Plante/Blain
Marinicin/Bendfeld
 
Bryan Pitton will start in goal.
 
FINAL WORD
 
The Sheldon Souray saga might not be completely over. I got the sense last night that there is a slight possibility he could still come to camp/preseason later this month. I think both sides are being a bit bull-headed right now, and if they can find a common ground you never know. It  won’t happen right away, but if Souray says the right things, and speaks with Steve Tambellini there is a slight chance he could find an opportunity to showcase himself and get traded. We’ll wait and see.
 
I still believe it is in the best of interest of both sides to get him in some preseason games. I don’t think the Oilers want to lose him on re-entry waivers for nothing and then be on the hook for $2.7 million for two seasons.

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#51 A
September 15 2010, 07:34PM
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Ender wrote:

Better they get it out of their system now and not start experimenting when it matters.

It won't matter for a minimum of three years. Relax.

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#52 Fingort
September 15 2010, 07:38PM
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Jason,

Thanks for al the updates, I would love to see the TMJ line play together tonight but your updates are the next best thing. You mentioned that management would like to see Hartikainen in a more offensive role and yet they stick him Kytnar and Thomas. I know Kytnar has at times been a ppg player in the dub and Thomas scored last night, but these guys aren't exactly offensive juggernauts. This is a prospect I'm interested in (big, skilled, has decent numbers in the Finnish league) and I'm wondering why he isn't at least centering the Pitlick line tonight.

From the rookie camp, who would you predict to surprise at the main camp?

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#53 Maggie the Monkey
September 15 2010, 07:43PM
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RossCreekNation wrote:

One Souray resolution that may make some sense...

... working out a deal with the Ducks to take Jason Blake in return. First, they'd save real dollars AND cap dollars, lessening the cost to the team. Secondly, because the Ducks are moving a bad contract for another one that is at least more useful to them, maybe they'd be willing to swap b-level (or c-level) prospects or picks, in favor of the Oil.

Then, you place Jason Blake on re-entry waivers and save 700k in cap space over Souray (although only 250k in actual dollars) per year. Its not a lot, but if you can get something else out of the Ducks, why not? If nothing else, Blake may be less of a distraction in OKC than Souray would.

I'd also then look to Vancouver for Kevin Bieksa to replace Souray... Chorney or a 3rd might be all it takes, imo.

Jason Blake is only welcome in Edmonton - even if it's just passing through on his way somewhere else - if he's willing to hand over the Masterson Trophy that should have gone to Pisani. The Oilers can then present it to him when Chicago comes to town in November.

As for Bieksa, it was suggested somewhere (maybe the Globe?) that he might be put on waivers so the Canucks can get below the cap. Edmonton would have the first crack at him if this were the case, and I hope that Tambellini would give some serious thought to picking him up.

ps: Are you trying to set a record for the most avatars in a month?

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#55 VK63
September 15 2010, 08:23PM
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Hey Oilers survey time again.... what 5 websites do you frequent most often? Wanyes place!!!!

What radio station do you listen to. Gregors place!

Would you be interested in watching an oiler tv game in 3d. huh?

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#56 Fingort
September 15 2010, 08:26PM
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Thanks for the reply, Jason. Hartikainen is listed as a C for his previous team in the FNL and, I believe, played C at the word juniors last winter. I've only seen him play 2 or 3 times and he wasn't overwhelming but his size and numbers are interesting. I don't think he'll do much at all in the main camp, but he's someone to keep an eye on.

Speaking of Finns, has Toni Rajala already started his military service? He would have been great to see at rookie camp.

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#57 Dominoiler
September 15 2010, 08:32PM
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Holy Smokes!!

San Jose's #77

Taylor Doherty 6-7 235 R 3/2/91 Cambridge, Ontario

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#58 Matt Henderson
September 15 2010, 09:15PM
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Pitton is proving why the Oilers needed to sign Gerber to a 2 way contract. Brutal.

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#59 Woodguy
September 15 2010, 09:19PM
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Really underwhelmed by Hall in the two games I've seen him play so far, and he hasn't played against men yet.

Hope he picks it up.

Gotta remember he's just a kid.

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#61 RossCreekNation
September 15 2010, 09:22PM
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@Maggie the Monkey

ps: Are you trying to set a record for the most avatars in a month?

Its only my 3rd one... you know I has to rep for 'Pac, for seven days (shot on the 7th, died on 13th :)

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#62 Petr's Jofa
September 15 2010, 09:25PM
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@Jason Gregor

Steve Smith just said Plante will not return.

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#64 Chris.
September 15 2010, 09:43PM
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What's happening? I really thought we were going to win every single game... then all the pre-season games... then take eight rookies into the regular season... and win the Stanley Cup.

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#65 Oilertown
September 15 2010, 10:10PM
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Lol Ricci hasn't gotten any prettier

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#66 Dan the Man
September 15 2010, 11:04PM
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@Jason Gregor

Not too sure if you've already heard but season 2 of Eastbound and Down starts on Sept 26th.

Since it was you that got me hooked on it I wanted to make sure you didn't miss it.

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#67 speeds
September 15 2010, 11:22PM
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RossCreekNation wrote:

The main problem with throwing Pitlick into the A, would be burning a year of pro eligibility. Let him tear the Dub up...

This is not a problem, Pitlick's ELC would "slide" if he plays in the AHL all season. A year would only tick from his contract if he plays more than 9 NHL games, he can play the entire year in the AHL without losing a season towards UFA, or one of his 3 ELC seasons.

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#68 RossCreekNation
September 15 2010, 11:55PM
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@speeds

You seem fairly smart, so I ask "why is that"? The 1st year of his ELC would kick in, as far as I know. Why would it slide?

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#69 White Copper and Blue 99
September 16 2010, 01:21AM
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You say in this article "Most will never play in the NHL for the Oil or Flames." I believe that at least a few will play for the Oil and the one who I think would be the biggest mistake to let slip is Cameron Abney. He's big,strong, and also CLEAN. How often do you see guys like that who want to quote "Whenever someone touches the puck I'm aiming to take his head off." The Oil need Abney. The NHL needs Abney.

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#70 speeds
September 16 2010, 08:42AM
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RossCreekNation wrote:

You seem fairly smart, so I ask "why is that"? The 1st year of his ELC would kick in, as far as I know. Why would it slide?

I'm not sure entirely sure why they decided to include that, but that's why the 10 game mark is so significant for players aged 18 and 19 - once they play more than 10 games, their contract irrevocably starts. Even if they are sent back to junior, it counts as a contract year. Further to that, years 2 and 3 run off in the subsequent two seasons whether the player plays in junior, the AHL, or the AHL. Sbisa is an example of this.

My guess would be that there were two reasons the 10 game rule was put in place. One, it allows teams a way to get a player under contract at any time in the two years before draft re-entry without the penalty of losing contract years when the player isn't NHL ready (at least, before age 20). IE. Why sign a guy at 18 and play him in junior for two seasons before he makes the NHL if the two junior years count as ELC years. It doesn't make a lot of sense to treat two players completely differently simply based on when they sign.

Player A: drafted 27th overall, signs an ELC at age 18 plays two years in junior. Signs ELC at 18.

Player B: drafted 26 overall, plays two years in junior, then NHL. Signs ELC at 20.

If the ELC didn't slide, Player A's contract ends at 21, but player B's doesn't end until 23.I think the league and union just wanted those players to be treated the same.

Two, to give teams a tryout period to assess 18 and 19 year old players.

Ladislav Smid is an example of a player who had his ELC slide. He played in the AHL at age 19 for ANA, yet when he was traded to EDM he played the next 3 seasons on his ELC.

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#71 RossCreekNation
September 16 2010, 09:03AM
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@speeds

I understand the whole 10 games & return to Jr. thing, but do not understand when a guy plays in the A. What is he making in year 1? His year 1 AHL salary, no? Or is it for free? Or a made up arbitrary number? He's getting paid, so wouldn't a 3 year deal still be a 3 year deal?

Just seems kind of weird to me. For instance, if Jordan Eberle played in the A this year, as far as I know, year 1 of his contract would be underway... so why wouldn't it be the same for Pitlick (IF he were to also play in the A, which we know Gregor has already shot down)?

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#72 speeds
September 16 2010, 09:45AM
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RossCreekNation wrote:

I understand the whole 10 games & return to Jr. thing, but do not understand when a guy plays in the A. What is he making in year 1? His year 1 AHL salary, no? Or is it for free? Or a made up arbitrary number? He's getting paid, so wouldn't a 3 year deal still be a 3 year deal?

Just seems kind of weird to me. For instance, if Jordan Eberle played in the A this year, as far as I know, year 1 of his contract would be underway... so why wouldn't it be the same for Pitlick (IF he were to also play in the A, which we know Gregor has already shot down)?

He makes the AHL salary he is scheduled to make in year 1 of his ELC, and if he plays less than 10 NHL games, it's as if year one starts again (except - I believe - you only get your signing bonus the first time).

Eberle is 20, so his contract kicks in either way, whether he plays 0, 10 or 70 NHL games. Paajarvi is 19, and his ELC would "slide" if he plays less than 10 NHL games this season. If EDM assigns both Eberle and Paajarvi to the AHL for the entire season, Paajarvi will still have 3 years left on his ELC starting next fall (and, because he'll be 20 for CBA purposes it would start in 2011/12 whether he's in the NHL o AHL, just like Eberle this year), Eberle will be down to two.

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#73 RossCreekNation
September 16 2010, 09:48AM
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@speeds

Thanks... was unaware of that 'stip'... figured yr 1 of pro was yr 1 of contract.

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#74 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
September 16 2010, 09:55AM
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speeds wrote:

He makes the AHL salary he is scheduled to make in year 1 of his ELC, and if he plays less than 10 NHL games, it's as if year one starts again (except - I believe - you only get your signing bonus the first time).

Eberle is 20, so his contract kicks in either way, whether he plays 0, 10 or 70 NHL games. Paajarvi is 19, and his ELC would "slide" if he plays less than 10 NHL games this season. If EDM assigns both Eberle and Paajarvi to the AHL for the entire season, Paajarvi will still have 3 years left on his ELC starting next fall (and, because he'll be 20 for CBA purposes it would start in 2011/12 whether he's in the NHL o AHL, just like Eberle this year), Eberle will be down to two.

ELC start while you are in the AHL. Both Eberle and Paajarvi will be in year one this year whether it's AHL or NHL.

Hmmm, maybe not.

Filatov would be the example of this whole slide rule.

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#75 speeds
September 16 2010, 10:07AM
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Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach wrote:

ELC start while you are in the AHL. Both Eberle and Paajarvi will be in year one this year whether it's AHL or NHL.

Hmmm, maybe not.

Filatov would be the example of this whole slide rule.

Ladislav Smid is a great example. He same over to NA at 19, played the entire year in the AHL with ANA's farm team. He was then traded for Pronger, and played 3 seasons in Edmonton on his ELC because his year in the AHL "slid", leaving 3 years on his ELC once he became an Oiler.

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#76 RossCreekNation
September 16 2010, 10:08AM
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@Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

I know speeds is usually up to snuff when it comes to CBA/cap issues, which is why I defer to his explanation. I was unaware of this scenario & didn't think that to be the case, but speeds seems to know more than Rick Olzyck, so like I said, I'll defer to him.

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#77 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
September 16 2010, 10:25AM
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@RossCreekNation

It's good to know, I'll also have to make a note on my desk that speeds knows stuff.

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