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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#1 SirFozz
September 15 2010, 01:17PM
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AWESOME PICTURE!!!*

*!!!!

Now off to read the article.

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#2 SirFozz
September 15 2010, 01:19PM
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AWESOME ARTICLE!!!!

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#3 BUCK75
September 15 2010, 01:21PM
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Grrrrrreat, Hall playing center.

*cue rant from madjam of how Hall will be a great center iceman*

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#4 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
September 15 2010, 01:21PM
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The whole putting Teemu Hartikainen with better players kinda gets me. You'd think if he any sort of offensive talent that he wouldn't need to be with better players. It's not like he is playing against pros and is having a hard time adjusting.

After hearing the build up on Hartikainen the past year or so this is quite disappointing, but it is still early in his career.

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#5 Ender
September 15 2010, 01:23PM
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BUCK75 wrote:

Grrrrrreat, Hall playing center.

*cue rant from madjam of how Hall will be a great center iceman*

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

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#6 speeds
September 15 2010, 01:23PM
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Jason:

A couple Pitlick questions:

(1) How good would Pitlick have to be at camp before EDM might decide to send him to the AHL? Is there anything he can do in camp that see EDM keep him, as COL kept O'Reilly last season?

(2) Do they have the ability to move him freely between the AHL and WHL, or once he's down in Medicine Hat, that's where he is for the year?

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#7 freeze
September 15 2010, 01:25PM
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I really hope they take it to the Sharks tonight!! More optimism the better! Goildrops!

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#8 Crackenbury
September 15 2010, 01:26PM
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I agree with you about Souray. I have a feeling the common ground is going to end up being tied to his agent. Something doesn't smell right with the way things have gone the past week.

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#9 Ball Buster
September 15 2010, 01:35PM
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Unrelated:

twitter.com/shawinfo

#Shaw launches #SportsnetOne to Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton! HD225 & SD159. Other areas TBA. Free preview! Price TBA

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#10 ubermiguel
September 15 2010, 01:42PM
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When will the Souray Saga end? Now we're back to what I was thinking months ago: a heart-felt public apology from Souray would get him back in. Not the half-assed comments he made about professionalism the other day.

But if Tambo's made a great move by sticking to his guns by tellimg Souray to stay home, how is waffling going to make him look?

Glad to hear about Vande Velde, he was pretty lousy in game 1. Can never have too many capable centremen in the system.

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#11 Jamie B.
September 15 2010, 01:46PM
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Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach wrote:

The whole putting Teemu Hartikainen with better players kinda gets me. You'd think if he any sort of offensive talent that he wouldn't need to be with better players. It's not like he is playing against pros and is having a hard time adjusting.

After hearing the build up on Hartikainen the past year or so this is quite disappointing, but it is still early in his career.

In fairness to Teemu, he was on the fourth line last night (which surprised me, but he had played on Sunday too), so once all the penalties and power plays started he just wasn't being used.

I think it's more giving him ice time than needing better players.

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#12 Skidrow Gutterbum
September 15 2010, 01:48PM
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speeds wrote:

Jason:

A couple Pitlick questions:

(1) How good would Pitlick have to be at camp before EDM might decide to send him to the AHL? Is there anything he can do in camp that see EDM keep him, as COL kept O'Reilly last season?

(2) Do they have the ability to move him freely between the AHL and WHL, or once he's down in Medicine Hat, that's where he is for the year?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Pitlick would need to be 20 by Dec 31st of this year to qualify to play in the AHL this year. He will only be 19 then so no AHL option until next year.

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#13 Milli
September 15 2010, 01:49PM
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man I wish I had your job Gregor!!! By the way how did Meg make out lastnight?

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#14 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
September 15 2010, 01:58PM
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You know tomorrow is generally ice girl pick of the week. I wonder if Gregor would get us a special Penticton ice girl of the week pic?

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#17 Gilmore Tuttle
September 15 2010, 02:03PM
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Somebody tweeted that Sourpuss was on his way back to LA to visit his kids since he isn't wanted here. I guess it is a direct flight back if they give him a call.

Does Shelly tweet? If he does, has he said anything about the situation?

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#18 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
September 15 2010, 02:04PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

That won't start until first week in Oct...but I'll carry my camera just in case..

Is there any at the beach or too cold at this point? I was there a month ago and it was unreal.

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#19 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
September 15 2010, 02:06PM
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Gilmore Tuttle wrote:

Somebody tweeted that Sourpuss was on his way back to LA to visit his kids since he isn't wanted here. I guess it is a direct flight back if they give him a call.

Does Shelly tweet? If he does, has he said anything about the situation?

I don't really blame the guy, what was he suppose to do stay here? Might as well go where it isn't snowing and spend time with the family.

He isn't on twitter and I doubt that it would be a good idea to start now. One stupid drunk comment about the Oilers on twitter is the last thing he needs at this point.

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#20 OILERSORDEATH
September 15 2010, 02:07PM
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Another great read Jason, I'd probably go crazy if I wasnt able to read good stuff on the Oil here at work.

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#21 Gilmore Tuttle
September 15 2010, 02:09PM
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I don't blame him either, I saw it as a clear sign that the spat is as big as people are saying. With this weather, I might offer to come down and live in his pool house and work on his yard as an undocumented immigrant.

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#22 VK63
September 15 2010, 02:25PM
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If Sheldon Souray were a bull... ..

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#23 H.O.P.E (Hall.Omark.Paajarvi.Eberle)
September 15 2010, 02:37PM
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There is a lot of potential for the Oilers this upcomming season as you can see from our rookies and how they are playing; however, im still very interested to get a chance to see Omark play come training camp time. There is a lot of H.O.P.E (Hall.Omark.Paajarvi.Eberle) in Edmonton as to how our team will do in the next few seasons while they core of the team adjusts to playing together, or even in the NHL for that matter. I love all the names the rookie's have been given, from HEP to Ebjarall and beyond; however, let us not forget about Omark.

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#24 speeds
September 15 2010, 02:39PM
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Skidrow Gutterbum wrote:

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Pitlick would need to be 20 by Dec 31st of this year to qualify to play in the AHL this year. He will only be 19 then so no AHL option until next year.

He was drafted from the NCAA, so he is eligible to play in the AHL this season.

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#25 Racki
September 15 2010, 02:48PM
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Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach wrote:

The whole putting Teemu Hartikainen with better players kinda gets me. You'd think if he any sort of offensive talent that he wouldn't need to be with better players. It's not like he is playing against pros and is having a hard time adjusting.

After hearing the build up on Hartikainen the past year or so this is quite disappointing, but it is still early in his career.

I don't know.. I am excited about him playing, but I have no thoughts about him being a top six guy at all, actually. Just thinking he'll be a bottom six, checking line guy with some limited offensive upside. What I saw of him at the WJHC's was just that he's an aggressive, gritty player.

What I've seen of him at the YS is he's still gritty/aggressive but the questions around his skating seem to be true. He generated a couple of quality offensive chances though. But really my expectations with him are pretty low... quality bottom six if he gets better at skating.

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#26 speeds
September 15 2010, 02:49PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

They have told me zero chance he goes to the AHL. He didn't play much last year in NCAA and they want him to develop against kids/young men his own age and play more.

First of all he has to sign a contract, and I don't see that happening in camp, so no AHL until that happens. And you can't recall a player up and down freely from AHL to WHL. Similar rule to NHL and WHL. When you send a player back to junior he is there until his junior team's season is over. You can't call him up and send him back down. Same goes for AHL. I think there is a slight rule tweak if a player is 20, but I'm not certain. I will get exact answer about 20 year olds..

But Pitlick will be in the Hat all season long. He has looked good here, but he still needs to develop. Good question.

Thanks for the reply Jason.

The contract thing is a non-issue, IMO. It's not THAT uncommon for prospects to sign during camp, whether it's because the team wants to see them in NHL games of whether they are a year or two away. O'Reilly did just that last year.

http://avalanche.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=499264

Sounds like the following isn't in the cards, but I'm not sure it would be such a bad idea, if Pitlick continues to look (really) good in camp, to sign him, assign him to the AHL for 5-10 games and see how he looks. If he's ready for the AHL, great, keep him there, if not, you can always still send him to the WHL, but now he'd have an idea which areas he needs to improve to play at the pro level. In terms of physical development, it sounds like he'd be able to handle the AHL, so the "he's too small and at too big a risk of getting hurt in the AHL" argument is probably less valid for him than it might have been for, say, Eberle right after his draft (if Eberle were AHL eligible at that time).

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#27 Arby
September 15 2010, 02:51PM
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"Bryan Pitton will start in goal."

Oh-o. Who's the back up?

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#28 Craig1981
September 15 2010, 02:53PM
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Skidrow Gutterbum wrote:

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Pitlick would need to be 20 by Dec 31st of this year to qualify to play in the AHL this year. He will only be 19 then so no AHL option until next year.

speeds,

If a player has played in the the CHL there is an agreement between the CHL and AHL that that player is ineligible to play in the AHL well he is eligible to play in the CHL(not counting over age players) during his teams current season. This keeps the talent pool up in the CHL. But in a case like Pitlick's and Marincin's, since they have never played in the CHL, this agreement does not affect them. So they can play in the AHL anytime they want.

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#29 BUCK75
September 15 2010, 02:58PM
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@speeds

Valid points - but in a rebuild why rush a pick into the line-up when you don't need him? Let him score 100 points in Medicine Hat & develop. The guy has a solid chance at an NHL career, no need to hurry him.

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#30 VMR
September 15 2010, 03:02PM
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They would have to take back a hefty salary for any other team to accept a trade so I dont see what the difference is between eating half his salary while he plays for another team or keeping some washed up has been on their roster with a $2+ million salary. I dont think anyone pays full price for Souray this season or even next before the trade deadline, do we really want him here for 1.75 seasons when he doesnt want to be?

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#31 Marc
September 15 2010, 03:02PM
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Jason

My reading of the re-entry provision of the CBA is that it's the dollars remaining on the contract not the cap hit that are split between the two teams, so I think it would be a $2.25M hit for the next two years rather than a $2.7M hit.

Both you and Matty have said today that the Oilers want to avoid losing Souray on re-etry waivers. Is this something you've heard from the team?

It seems to me that it might actually be cheaper take the hit and then pick up a FA replacement D than too take back a bad ie. Ribeiro, Rosival type contract to get rid of him.

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#32 The Pestival
September 15 2010, 03:18PM
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I was at the game last night and me and the random next to me were both really impressed with Hartikainen in the 1st. Everytime he was on the ice he ended up with the puck and he a had a great, long battle for it right on the boards right in front of us. For some reason he disappeared after the 1st period, it seemed as if he wasn't getting as much ice time. I wasn't expecting to watch him at all but based on what I saw in the first 20 minutes I had my eye on him the whole game and I thought he was very energetic and didn't lose too many battles.

Noticeably invisible, other than on the draws, was Backlund, which was very suprising. I talked with some friends during the game and no one could believe how little he was doing.

And everyone in the crowd was pissed that the big 3 were sitting. Luckily, I'll be at the game tonight to see them.

Pat Quinn is huge. He sat by himself in the Oilers box most of the night. Other than a brief chat with Bucky I didn't see him interact with anyone. Not that that means anything.

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#33 Senator Theo
September 15 2010, 03:33PM
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@JG: "but they are curious to see how he’ll do in the middle."

I'm also curious about how I'd do in the middle, but it's just a matter of convincing my wife.

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#34 speeds
September 15 2010, 03:38PM
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BUCK75 wrote:

Valid points - but in a rebuild why rush a pick into the line-up when you don't need him? Let him score 100 points in Medicine Hat & develop. The guy has a solid chance at an NHL career, no need to hurry him.

It's a fair question, one you could (reasonably?) ask of Paajarvi and Hall as well.

I certainly don't have a problem with developing Pitlick slowly, but I'm not suggesting rushing him. If he's ready for the AHL, stick him there - it doesn't count as a year against his ELC. If he's not, send him to the WHL.

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#36 The Fish
September 15 2010, 03:57PM
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Senator Theo wrote:

@JG: "but they are curious to see how he’ll do in the middle."

I'm also curious about how I'd do in the middle, but it's just a matter of convincing my wife.

Brilliant.

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#37 Hemmertime
September 15 2010, 04:01PM
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Marc wrote:

Jason

My reading of the re-entry provision of the CBA is that it's the dollars remaining on the contract not the cap hit that are split between the two teams, so I think it would be a $2.25M hit for the next two years rather than a $2.7M hit.

Both you and Matty have said today that the Oilers want to avoid losing Souray on re-etry waivers. Is this something you've heard from the team?

It seems to me that it might actually be cheaper take the hit and then pick up a FA replacement D than too take back a bad ie. Ribeiro, Rosival type contract to get rid of him.

I wouldnt mind Riberio if it was next year. 5 mil cap and 0.96 PPG over the last 3 years and +12. Only 30 years old. He would line up first line C with Gags 2nd and Horc 3rd. If we have to take a "bad" contract (and I don't even think Ribs is that bad compared to others in the league, maybe 1 mil overpay) I'd be happy if its Ribeiros.

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#38 Shane
September 15 2010, 04:03PM
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Pitlick still needs to develop over a longer season, I'm not sure the exact numbers but don't they only play some 30ish games in NCAA whereas in the dub they play 60ish?? Give him atleast a season to light it up in the hat.

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#40 BUCK75
September 15 2010, 04:05PM
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@speeds

First overall picks don't go back to play junior, at least not in the last 7 years; Fleury went back to play junior. MPS has played against men for the past couple of seasons.

If Pitlick makes it so that they can't send him back I think that would be a huge surprise to everyone. Especially after playing only 1 season of NCAA with UM-Manakto. Ryan O'Reilly played 2 seasons of OHL hockey & he was a surprise.

Without watching these guys play, I can only assume that Pitlick, while looking really good he isn't in the same league as an Eberle, MPS or Hall.

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#41 RossCreekNation
September 15 2010, 04:21PM
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@speeds

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

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#42 shadi
September 15 2010, 04:26PM
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Skidrow Gutterbum wrote:

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Pitlick would need to be 20 by Dec 31st of this year to qualify to play in the AHL this year. He will only be 19 then so no AHL option until next year.

Correct, Pitlick can play in the A.H.L. next year. 11'-12' season. So can Hamilton and Martindale.

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#43 RossCreekNation
September 15 2010, 04:30PM
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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.

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#44 Steve
September 15 2010, 04:31PM
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shadi wrote:

Correct, Pitlick can play in the A.H.L. next year. 11'-12' season. So can Hamilton and Martindale.

See Speeds' comment above: Pitlick wasn't drafted out of the CHL, so that rule doesn't apply.

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#45 RossCreekNation
September 15 2010, 04:32PM
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shadi wrote:

Correct, Pitlick can play in the A.H.L. next year. 11'-12' season. So can Hamilton and Martindale.

As speeds has said, technically, Pitlick could play in the A *THIS* year because he was drafted out of the NCAA. Of course, as Gregor's already alluded to, the Oilers have no intention of sending him to the A.

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#46 shadi
September 15 2010, 04:36PM
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shadi wrote:

Correct, Pitlick can play in the A.H.L. next year. 11'-12' season. So can Hamilton and Martindale.

Sorry, he can play this year but they won't allow it, the other 2 are eligible next year.

John Carlson of the Caps played in the A.H.L at 19, he was a similar transfer exept he came from the ushl.

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#47 @NateInVegas
September 15 2010, 04:55PM
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Gilmore Tuttle wrote:

Somebody tweeted that Sourpuss was on his way back to LA to visit his kids since he isn't wanted here. I guess it is a direct flight back if they give him a call.

Does Shelly tweet? If he does, has he said anything about the situation?

Don't think Sheldon Tweets but @Jeremy_Roenick signed up last night & has 4200 followers in less than 24 hours...

Tebow isn't impressed @NateInEdmonton

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#48 Skidrow Gutterbum
September 15 2010, 05:00PM
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speeds wrote:

He was drafted from the NCAA, so he is eligible to play in the AHL this season.

Ahhh, ok. Didn't realize the NCAA vs CHL eligibility requirements, thanks for clarifying.

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#49 PabstBR55
September 15 2010, 05:20PM
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Chris Vande Velde: a guy who can win draws and has an aptitude for the defensive aspects of the game. On a team full of offensive-minded wingers, this is a rare and valuable set of skills.

He can also eat 50 hard-boiled eggs. Like Cool-Hand Luke.

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#50 commonfan13
September 15 2010, 05:49PM
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Oilers need to do something to make sure Pitlick is only used at C in Junior. The last thing we need is for him to be converted to a winger.

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