UPDATE from 3-on-3 Tournament…MPS impresses and changes his name.

COLOGNE, GERMANY - MAY 23: Ilya Kovalchuk of Russia looks dejected after losing the IIHF World Championship gold medal match between Russia and Czech Republic at Lanxess Arena on May 23, 2010 in Cologne, Germany. (Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images)

I return home from the greatest fishing trip of my life (more on that in a few days) and I see that the Hall-hype is in overdrive, the Oilers still don’t have a veteran 3rd liner, Ilya Kovalchuk is still an UFA and Lebron James might have the biggest sports ego of all-time.

I’ll be at Clareview this morning watching the 3-on-3 rookie tournament and I’ll be most interested in Hall, MPS and Teemu Hartikainen. I won’t put too much stock in how they play because dominating against rookies is much different than going up against NHL veterans, but I am curious to see them live.

I’ve seen Hall on TV and his game speaks for itself, but I just want to see the hype up close and personal. MPS is the big wild card for me. So many scouts have told me they think he is ready to make the jump to the NHL and that is speed is his best asset. Hartikainen is another guy that some think is a wild card to make the squad because of his style of play; which possesses more grit and sandpaper than any of the other young prospects.

I don’t see Hartikainen making the squad, but today is the first chance to see if the kid has the potential to make the NHL in the future.

This camp isn’t about finding out who can play in the NHL, rather it will show which young guys can’t.

Veteran still needed

The Oilers were interested in Rob Niedermayer, but he took Buffalo’s offer because the Oilers didn’t make him a direct offer. Normally teams will submit an offer to a guy and give him a short window to make up his mind. It came down to Buffalo making a secure offer and rather than wait for a “what-if” from the Oilers he took the sure thing. He had an offer on the board from another team but choose Buffalo.

Niedermayer would have been a good fit in Edmonton on a one-year deal. He’s won a Cup, is a great team guy and would have given them a solid 3rd line centre.

They still need to add that guy, and I haven’t got any info regarding Dominic Moore, but if I’m the Oilers I’d look at him. The only problem is he isn’t that big or physical, but he is reliable and might be the best option left, unless Steve Tambellini can add a centre via trade.

Kovalchuk still free

This is the longest a player of Ilya Kovalchuk’s status has remained on the market, but I wonder if this is good for hockey. Edmonton isn’t interested and wouldn’t have a chance if they were, but even fans here are curious to see where he will end up. The rumours and possible scenarios is keeping hockey in the conversation in places where normally they wouldn’t get a sniff. It’s not a hype-crazed machine or anything, but I think it is good to see a guy like him float around for longer than six hours on July 1st.

Let me be clear and say a little speculation is good, but thankfully NHL players aren’t like the NBA.

In what other sport would you have a guy who has won nothing hold a press conference to say where he is signing. The best part of my fishing trip was there wasn’t any TV, Internet or phone so I didn’t have to follow Lebron James’ ridiculous saga.

James is a great player and a phenomenal athlete, but after watching his press conference last night I hope to hell the Miami Heat never win a championship with him. This entire James, Dwayne Wade and third-wheel Chris Bosh saga made me sick. James has a one hour show to tell the world where he is playing, while simultaneously ripping out the heart of his home state. Classy move Mr. James, classy move.

The players and their player’s association would be crying COLLUSION if the owners ever did anything similar. The best part about this putrid scenario is that the NHL looks even better by having a solid salary cap. The soft cap of the NBA is a joke, and the JWB signing will hurt the league long-term. In 2009, 40% of the teams in the league lost money, and there has been speculation that as many as 20 teams lost money last year. I’d bet you can add Cleveland to the list of teams that will lose money next year.

MLB is a joke because normally it is the same 10 teams with a realistic shot to win. You get the odd upset but that’s it. The NBA will be the exact same. The Lakers and Heat will exceed the cap every year and they can afford it. I know the Knicks prove that overspending doesn’t guarantee a winning team, but any decent GM with a brain and an abundance of money will give his team a chance to win.

I’m a fan of the NBA, but yesterday’s ridiculous and ego-induced press conference has drastically lessened my interest. I will only watch hoping the Heat loses. And rooting for a team to lose is never as fun as rooting for an underdog or your favourite team. Being a spiteful observer isn’t as enjoyable as being a passionate fan.

And if James does win a championship or two, can you compare him to Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant? Teams were built around those guys. They didn’t have to set up summer meetings with other star players and agree to from a supposed terrific trifecta.

The NHL has a lot of warts, but today I’m glad Edmonton is an NHL city rather than an NBA city. Thankfully the NHL will never have to endure the same disgusting lunacy because of their hard salary cap.

**UPDATE AFTER 3 on 3**

MPS was the best player on the ice, followed by Jordan Eberle. It is hard to get a true evaluation of players in the format of 3-on-3 from the blueline in, but Magnus Paajarvi (he has dropped the Svensson) showed his experience and dominated at times. He was very good on the cycle and down low.

Eberle scored some nice goals, going by a D-man, cutting to the net and either roofing it upstairs, or going fivehole. Since being drafted Eberle has talked about improving his speed and he does look a bit faster, but he is much stronger than before and that is imperative if he is going to battle against NHL defenceman.

Jeff Petry is bigger than I expected and he also stood out. He will need some seasoning in the AHL and getting used to playing 80 games, but I think he has better upside than Taylor Chorney.

Martin Marincin really impressed me. He uses his stick incredibly well down low and his raw talent jumps out at you. Once he fills in a bit this kid might be a steal for the Oilers. He moves well for a big man and coming to the WHL should help him get used to the North American game.

Teemu Hartikainen didn’t do much for me, but this 3-on-3 concept isn’t the best format to judge guys. He skates okay, but at times he looked frustrated.

Anton Lander could easily play in the AHL and I think after one more year in Sweden he could make the jump to the Oilers. He is very poised and seems mature beyond his years. He thinks the game incredibly well, especially in his own zone. I really like his game. But it is his leadership that might be his best quality. When I asked Paajarvi about him he couldn’t stop raving about what a great guy he was. It almost seemed like Paajarvi looked up to him and they are the same age.

Cameron Abney has really improved his skating. He will never be a great skater or puckhandler, but he has made great strides. He is a 4th liner at best, but he has size and toughness and if he can improve his skating even more he might have a shot.

Tyler Pitlick has a great shot. He ripped a few one-timers past the goalies with ease. He is easily 6’2" and might be taller come next year. I’ll be making sure I will be at Rexall when the Medicine Hat Tigers play the Oil Kings this year.

Taylor Hall was solid. He had a few moments where you really noticed his skill and speed. After the skate he said he wants to improve his balance. He feels he needs to improve his leg strength and will spend the next two months improving in both those areas.

Paajarvi was the most impressive player and I’m looking forward to seeing how he matches up against NHL players come September.

  • Ender

    Personally, I’ve never understood why people enjoy watching the NBA anyways. Boring, shoot score rebound, shoot rebound score, over and over a hundred times. Also, if you are tall, you are automatically good. Brutal game. And then you have these egomaniac babies playing it, like Kobe, who pouts when they lose and says the team wasnt playing well, but when they win, it was all him. Honestly, no wonder hockey’s following is starting to increase in the States. The US makes fun of soccer babies, but the NBA “no contact” league is just as bad for big babies.

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        Ya, you got me. Sorry about that. I was showing my uninformed bias.
        Anyways, I always worry about these prospects who are “can’t miss” because of this or that. I seem to recall being a bit excited about MAP because he was big, soft hands, responsible, fast, seemed to be a good prospect. But it just didn’t add up, can’t figure it out. Now, I’m not saying MPS = MAP, but I’m just saying, lets be cautious and start some guys in OKC.

  • Ducey

    I don’t blame L.J. for moving on. I do blame him for the way he handled it.

    Just make your decision, thank the people of Cleveland on the way out and get on with it. Rubbing it in the faces of all the cities that he did not choose shows a severe lack of consideration and class.

    Its a black eye for him and the NBA.

  • Just for the record, I hope both Hemmer and Penner remain happy, affordable, and productive Oilers. With those two especially you’re just never sure where their head is at. Good young team in a snazzy new arena couldn’t hurt future contract negotiations however…

  • Ducey

    I just had a frightening thought.

    The recent offer sheet comes to the attention of the Oilers.

    After calling Katz for approval and watching videos of the 2006 Cup run, Lowe heads down to Tambi’s office, to convince him to make an offer sheet on some RFA D man and saying:

    “See. Its not so bad. I was way ahead of everyone on this offer sheet stuff”.

    • PerryK

      Guess which team has had more of its RFAs signed to offer sheets than any other team in the league.

      Hint: They play their home games in the Alberta capital.

      The Penner offer sheet may have been the most talked about, but it was FAR from the first.

  • Tom Renney on Eberle, courtesy of Joanne Ireland:

    “At the same time, we needed to do the right thing … It could have been a tough situation for a young player to be in. In retrospect, we made the right choice because he certainly looks ready now.”

    http://www.edmontonjournal.com/sports/Eberle+bigger+better/3250412/story.html#ixzz0tDaQ3w00

    He’s no lock to make the team but when the Head Coach describes him as “ready now”, it bodes well. I’m looking forward to seeing him in training camp with the Vets.

    • Probably the likelihood that the Oilers would match any offer as they have the cap space to match.

      Or if you are one of the lower end teams in the league and go crazy with the offer you may worry that the Oilers will take your draft picks…

      Either way I don’t think the Oilers really have to worry about an offer sheet on Gagner as they have it covered.

    • Now this is the kind of player we need….a grind it out, in your face, stand up for your teammate at the drop of a hat kind of guy…

      I’m on board with this one…To have a whole bunch of guys that can play this role is better than one.

      We’d have MacIntyre, Stortini, Asham, Vandermeer, Fraser, Peckham..

      I like it…..

        • Woogie

          Exactly and maybe just maybe some of the other teams players (ie: Regehr) might back off a bit knowing that the hammer is going to come down.

          This may lead to a healthier team and more room for our skill guys to operate.

          With Hemmer back in the fold and the additions of MPS, Eberle and Hall along with Gagner and Brule being another year wiser this team may not be as bad as everyone thinks.

          Yes it will depend on just how good those 3 new young guys are but things are looking up, IMO.

          • BBOil

            At the same time having so many of those guys allows them to be more aggressive and go challenge other teams guys like Regehr (as per your example), who are good players, but not inclined to back down from physical challenges.

            Allows our tough guys to be pro-active rather than reactive as they know their are other guys that can answer the bell if need be while their in the box. Especially if we can be taking the right guys to the box with us without taking stupid penalties.

          • PerryK

            Unless any of the above guys can play goal at an NHL level, we’re still going to be a bottom 10 team.
            Scoring is not the issue here as has been pointed out. If this team is to succeed again, we need a goalie who can stop the puck consistantly and guys who don’t run around like headless chickens in their own end.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      I want Asham, but what does kicking tires even mean? Gauging to see if he has interest in coming here or if he has the right attitude?

      • Probably. I would think he would be the type of guy who would be in high demand and frankly I’m surprised he isn’t already signed elsewhere.

        Unless he has interest in playing for a rebuilding team for 2-3 years, I can’t see him going from the SCF to a 30th place team. He would however be a great addition to the third line.

  • BBOil

    Gregor,

    Thanks for the update in the article about the rookie camp. You’ve been saying for months that MPS was gonna be good, and I went and focused on him. He was better than expected. I totally agree with your assessment. It was only one day I know but I really liked him.

    Great rundown on the other guys. I’m excited about Pitlick as well.

  • PerryK

    I find it kind of funny that so many people keep posting that MPS, or Eberle or any of the other prospects should spend some time in the minors. The only ones that need to spend time in the minors are those that don’t make the team. Lets wait and see how they do in training camp first. If they’re good enough to be on the team then they will be. No one “has” to spend time in the minors to be a good NHL player.

  • @ Jason Gregor

    Great to hear someone else likes MPS. What is with the Dominic Moore talk every off season ? Did you watch him play this year ? He is another soft forward we have lots of them. Why are we looking at the 3rd line when we need better dman or tending?

    What Lebron and his buddys did was ruin the NBA eastern conference. This may be the reason the Florida Panthers leave for Winnipeg, I can’t see the people in Miami jumping for hockey they have LEBRON.

    • PerryK

      If Dominic Moore keeps getting traded for 2nd round picks, Simon Gagne has get sniff from someone.

      LeBron isn’t alpha neither is Bosh. I’m a huge Nuggets fan and part of me wants Carmelo to team up with Kobe in a few years.

  • I was also at the rink today, opposite end as you, and i have a similar take.

    Hark was great. He skated well, good shot and great vision with amazing passes. His passes were hard on target, well timed, and soft when need be. Nicest pass of the day goes to him on a saucer pass that hung in the air and connected perfectly with MPS. For a guy who known as a weak skating goal scorer this boded very well. Third best player on the ice. Hall was fourth. On this day at least. Very strong showing.

    MPS was a beast. Smooth on his skates and very powerful. Good shot, great head for the game, nice passer and has another gear. Noticed especially by anyone covering him while he comes on a curl and accelerates out of the turn. He blows guys away at this level. Also, he attempted what would have been the nicest goal of the camp and a candidate for goal of the year. At full speed he streaked down the right wing, looked off, circled the net and still at a good clip he tried the puck sweep to lacrosse move to tuck it in the top corner. It slipped off his stick just prior to glory but the talent, presence of mind and ability to try this move at top speed in a game setting. WOW!!!!

    Eberle. WOW WOW WOW again. This guy has hands period. This guy has a shot period. He scores on drills nearly every time. He gets it away hard, quick and knows where to put it. HANDS are sick. Passes are great. Awareness is fantastic and his skating has come along way. It is also, a wow factor.

    Lander also impressed. Very good in all areas.

    Honorable mention to the potential of Maracine (good passes – needs a little skating help)
    Pitlick, good shot. Hamilton could surprise people and Petry (who skates well but needs to get stronger). Kipp was also extremely impressive. Skates well and has nice hands with a killer shot. I actually had to double take on two occasions that he is actually listed as a D.

  • I wouldn’t hate the idea of having all the kids play else where next year and dominate those various leagues. High pick next year with a bunch of one year stop gap contracts and all. That said, i feel most of the young guys are far too good to send away and it is unfair to them and the work they’ve put in to get thus far. Line options people. I’m a fan of pairs.

    Hall – Hemmer (toss Horc in this spot)
    Penner – Eberle (Brule as the center – he and penner we’re great)
    Gagner – MPS (I’d say cogs – but he hate LW, OR for fodder Omark or have MPS play LW as he sometime listed as such and have Cogs on the RW)

    Three scoring lines, passers with shooters, small with size

    Thoughts?

    • Blue Blooded

      I really like your duos here tk. Sounds about right to me. I figure Omark will be in OKC or traded at some point (no offense to him, we just have so friggin many small skilled guys at this point).

  • I hope all of you know that Jordan Eberle is a center….soo all your talks about a number 1 center might just be answered with him. you also have gagner. with all the changes, new faces, our stacked list of prospects, the kids will all grow together and shine together. and the chemistry will build each and every game there playing together. also you have lander who has the potential to become a good reliable center. so i dont think the oilers need to be going oit tryin to sign a top line center. no point right now expecially when there in rebuild mode.

  • weird nvmmm people. my baddd. he is rw stupid profiles online. every one of them has him as a center. now not seeing many of his whl games i wasnt sure. seein him at wjc i thought they had him wing cause of the depth of centers. sorry for the confusion everyone.