This is Tyler Bunz. He is among 29 hopefuls in Penticton for the 2010 edition of Oilers rookie camp. To say that this year’s group has star power is an understatement.
Back in the olden days (when the Hockey News ruled the hockey news) fans would wait patiently for new names that impressed at training camps. The local radio would cover the big news (trades, waiver draft, etc) but each training camp has an ebb and flow. Some of the players who were thought to have a chance faded early and others with no draft pedigree or a resume with the fanbase would emerge as real talents. The Hockey News, the local papers and Rod on the radio were the only real sources for such information.
Fans today are so fortunate it makes a person giddy. They have a pre-camp devoted to the kids, and they cover it like a blanket. Rookies go through testing the first day and several players are interviewed. News items leak from this source, things like Taylor Hall gaining 9 pounds which made the rounds yesterday. Tomorrow evening, the Oilers rookies are in action against the Canucks young stars in Penticton. Game time is 5pm our time and it’ll be streamed online via the Oilers website. I hope they archive this camp somewhere, it might be fun to view it again in 5 or 10 years.
Here’s a quick look at the 29 young men who’ll wear the copper and blue at this year’s rookie camp:
- #1 Tyler Bunz: Medicine Hat (WHL): St Albert Gazette has a nice item on the local boy with a big chance. Scout Mike Remmerde said before the draft "looks to me like he bulked up quite a bit this season, and I wonder if that’s hurt his quickness a bit. Seemed much quicker last season, but still has pretty quick legs and gets around the crease smoothly. There’s a good mix of technicals and raw athleticism here, and I don’t see any real serious flaws." The Oilers have so many "goalies of the future" it is easy to lose count, but no one has won anything yet.
- #30 Olivier Roy: Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL): By mid-December 2009 Roy was not having a good season. His SP and GAA (.896 and 3.01) ranked him 12th among 18 starters about 2 weeks before Christmas. The young man turned it around in a big way, finishing at .908 and 2.62 in the goalie boxcars. He ended up in the top 5 among starters in SP (or so I believe, the QMJHL is merging with the WHL and OHL into a "CHL" site but the Quebec side is wonky right now). Roy would be a player to watch based on his resume (which includes a WJ invite).
- #39 Johan Motin Springfield Falcons (AHL): Motin is an interesting player based on a wealth of pro experience (SEL and AHL) at a young age and someone we should keep in mind for the future. His coach last season (Rob Daum) had this to say: "He is used to playing against men. But the pace of the game, the smaller rink are all adjustments that he has had to make. You’ve seen nights where he’s done a good job and you’ve seen other nights where he’s struggled…Overall, I think he’s done a good job. I think he still has a long way to go as far as his play is concerned, but he’s making progress every day." Motin played 1 NHL game a year ago.
- #48 Alex Plante Springfield Falcons (AHL): His arrows are pointing in a positive direction and based on some anecdotal evidence and logic we can assume Plante moved up the depth chart in 2009-10. Rob Daum: "Defense is the toughest position to learn, and even though Alex has had his ups and downs he is progressing nicely. He has a high competitive level and he loves to compete. Even though he’s a young guy in a man’s league he hasn’t taken a backward step." Plante played 4 NHL games–and didn’t look out of place–a year ago. He should be a player we pay very close attention to throughout the pre-season, as injury impacted (actually ended) his season in 09-10.
- #50 Bryan Pitton, Stockton Thunder (ECHL): Now two seasons into his pro career, Pitton has played 54 games in the ECHL and 8 in the AHL since signing a contract with the Oilers. The organization felt a need to add a veteran (Martin Gerber) before training camp, which I think means the club doesn’t see him as an AHL starter at this time. His SP in that league (.857) would seem to verify it, although it was in only 8 games.
- #51 Philippe Cornet, Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL): This could be an interesting player to watch. His QMJHL stats show he ran in place last season, but Cornet has skill and might find some chem with one of the impact prospects. Redline report mentioned on draft day "from a kid that we’ve had concerns about being on the smallish side and a bit of a perimeter player, (he showed) us some of the intestinal fortitude we’ve been looking for from Cornet since he was drafted second overall at the 2006 QMJHL draft." Cornet could end up back in junior, with Stockton or Okla City and I’m not certain which option is more likely. He has a lot riding on training camp.
- #52 Curtis Hamilton, Saskatoon Blades (WHL): The key item for this player is health. He has size and some skill and is described as a dependable 2-way player. That’s something this Oilers organization needs in spades, so Hamilton could fast track if he stays healthy and performs well.
- #53 Cameron Abney, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL): He seems to be on track for his future role (intimidation). The numbers that matter are 6.04, 192 and lots of PIMs. He does seem to be progressing as an actual player too, as his stats (68gp, 6-7-13) doubled year over year.
- #54 Chris Vande Velde, North Dakota (NCAA): This player is quite unique in the organization: a big man who can win faceoffs and brings enough grit to handle himself in traffic. He had a 54.1% FO winning percentage last season and since his scouting report is so unique this plater could fast track. I’m really looking forward to seeing him at training camp.
- #55 Jordan Bendfeld, Stockton (ECHL). Had a crazy bunch of stats in Stockton this season–he was -12 in the regular season and +10 in the playoffs. That Stockton club caught fire in the post-season. He’s tough and could play more in the AHL this year (10 with Springfield, 52 with Stockton last season). Bendfeld would have to be considered the end of the pro depth chart (defense) but has pro experience.
- #56 Teemu Hartikainen, KalPA (SM-Liiga). Love the Finns. Hartikainen is somewhat similar to Vande Velde in that the club lacks size at the skill positions and it could mean a quick trip up the depth chart. Had 183 shots in 53 games in Finland, so there may be something there. Has improved his foot speed over the last two seasons and brings a nice range of skills according to the scouting report. We should watch him closely this fall.
- #58 Jeff Petry, Michigan State (NCAA). Oilers management can check off all of the boxes with this player. He has size, skill, toughness and can play big minutes. Petry can move the puck and has a nice wingspan. We don’t know how long it’ll take him to adjust to pro hockey and we don’t know how much offense Dan Petry’s boy will bring once he gets to the NHL (it depends a great deal on PP time). This player is close to ready and has proven he can play a complete game at the college level. I hope he has an impressive fall and follows it up with a strong season in Oklahoma City. There’s no need to rush Petry but it is important that he turns into a player. Oilers don’t have a lot of 5-tool defensemen in the system. Update: Joanne Ireland has Petry hurt already at rookie camp. Craptastic.
- #59 Mike Thomas, Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL). Big winger had a solid year in junior and is looking for work in pro hockey. With the Oilers current emphasis on enforcers, grit and mean-spiritedness, I can see him getting employment in Stockton. His resume is similar to Abney’s although this player is older and more mature.
- #60 Brandon Davidson, Regina Pats (WHL). The more I read about this player the more I like him. He arrived in organized hockey late and he does have some issues (knee, foot speed) but this player would appear to be a potential draft sleeper. Davidson was +15 last season with the Pats, and incredibly he was the only regular in the black among their blue. We don’t know what kind of opponent he was facing, but it would be extremely hard to drill down and find information damning enough to turn that +15 into a less than "oh my goodness" number. Oilers may have something here.
- #61 Jeremie Blain, Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL). Offensive defenseman with size. He was 4th on his team in scoring and Stu (Magnificent Bastard) MacGregor said "good size, very strong, competes hard and plays with an edge. A guy we really liked, Billy Dandy really pushed him hard. When I saw him play, the kid played on a terrible team but played hard every shift. We feel we gto some more size there and we got some grit."
- #63 Kristians Pelss, Rija (Belarus Jr). We STILL don’t know that much about him. Stu again: "We saw him at the U-18 World Championships when we were in Belarus. He played extremely well, he has some talent. He’s not a big body, but he is a guy we feel has real offensive talent." Guy Flaming did some work and found out his name is pronounced Pelsh.
- #64 Milan Kytnar, Vancouver Giants (WHL). His scouting report called him a solid two-way player with good puck skills. His results in the WHL suggest he may not get far enough above the Mendoza line to make it as a pro hockey player. Played in the WHL last season as a 20-year old and didn’t get above a point per game. He’s going to have to be an amazing PK/checker to make it.
- #66 Ryan Martindale, Ottawa 67’s (OHL). Redline doesn’t like him at all. Woodlief: Effective with the puck in open ice – uses long quick reach, quick hands, and slick puckhandling skills. Lacking strength and drive in his legs, and not quick off the mark. Does have a nice shot release and can be effective when he shows some interest. But is easily pushed off the puck by smaller d-men. Soft and doesn’t compete. Loses all the little battles and in not wild about contact. That’s pretty damning, and it certainly flies in the face of MBS draft strategy since he took over the big chair. Something to watch for, he clearly has size and skill. Do you want to know how much Redline nicked him for indifference? Bob McKenzie and his scouts had Martindale at 58th overall; Redline had him at #100. That’s a gap.
- #68 Tyler Pitlick, Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL). On the other hand, I’ve seldom seen a scouting report from Redline that has more positives than the one for this fellow. Woodlief again: Began season playing the wing on a scoring line, but spent the last quarter of the year shouldering more responsibility centering Mankato’s third line. Accelerates briskly out of cross-over and blows by defenders. Has an NHL calibre shot right now. Flashed the ability to power through defenders. Can gain separation in corners with sharp twists and can turn on a dime. Patient playmaker. Long-limbed with farmboy like strength. Excited to see him play.
- #69 James Livingston, Plymouth Whalers (OHL). Fascinating invite. Livingston was a pretty high draft pick (70th overall) in 2008 but the Blues chose not to sign him. He didn’t get picked in 2010 and is clearly trying to catch on at the pro level with this invite. I wouldn’t bet against him, Livingston seems to have some positives (size, grit, some skill) in areas the Oilers have needs. Could be a match.
- #70 Martin Marincin, Prince George Cougars (WHL). This kid could be a solid NHL player.Guy Flaming filed this report from the Oil Kings tournament in St. Albert earlier this month: Marincin has lots of room to fill out his 6’4 frame as he checked in at 187 lbs but unlike some of his counterparts, he didn’t look like a guy getting used to his size. Marincin was comfortable, wasn’t perfect but didn’t make a lot of big mistakes and he was physical in an efficient way as opposed to a big demolishing guy. I’m told he has a booming shot but I didn’t see it this weekend. One scout told Guy that Marincin would be a better player than Oil King 1st rounder Mark Pysyk and called him a "scout’s dream." Interesting player to watch.
- #71 Drew Czerwonka, Kootenay Ice (WHL). He’s another Coke machine for the Oilers, big guy who can mix it up and rattle the walls. Lacks the skill many wingers will display this week, but brings the size and toughness management has been adding in the last two drafts. Man there are a ton of dub kids in copper and blue.
- #72 Dominik Schlumpf, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL). Slender 19-year old defenseman who played for the Swiss at the World Juniors. TC invite isn’t an offensive threat (61gp, 1-11-12 in the Q) and his size (5.11, 157) conjures up images of Carroll Sembera. Great name, though.
- #73 Nolan Toigo, Vancouver Giants (WHL). Tough WHL defender, I’ve seen the word "sturdy" used to describe him. Hmmm. I think his fight card might have a lot to do with the invite.
- #74 Chase Schaber, Kamloops Blazers (WHL). 19-year old TC invite is a player the Oilers should be interested in. He has some skill (68gp, 18-31-49 a year ago) and he apparently likes to fight. A name to keep in mind, as I believe he’ll be draft eligible in 2011.
- #75 Dallas Ehrhardt, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL). This is a huge kid and someone who could easily get drafted next summer. Ehrhardt is 18-years old and hasn’t played much in the WHL, but did hang in there against Dylan McIlrath as a rookie. He might be a "preview of coming attractions" TC invite, the Oilers have been spending picks on his player type for the last couple of years.
- #78 Jordan Eberle, Regina Pats (WHL). Played on a poor junior team and still dominated the scoresheet, Eberle has a lot of things going his way. He’s 20, the club has given him a window of opportunity and he has played with and against NHL players. A fine talent.
- #82 Magnus Pääjärvi, Timra (SEL). I think he’s coming in with very little pressure compared to Hall and Eberle. This kid has been developing well in a far off land and arrives with some swagger. We don’t know all kinds of things about him (will he fade after taking a hit? will he pursue the puck in high traffic areas?) but what we do know suggests a fairly complete player with terrific offensive potential. A beauty.
- #84 Taylor Hall, Windsor Spitfires (OHL). I don’t recall the last time this city had this kind of buzz about a player and a team. Hall has that certain something–and look-a-like Chipper Jones had the same thing–that already seems to have steamrolled the city of Edmonton and area. He hasn’t played in an NHL game yet and the entire tenor of the city seems to have changed. Buzz? More like a roar. Also, I don’t buy the idea that Hall will fold under the pressure; he seems to have improved torque in those big moments (although I’ll stop short of calling it "clutch") in a way we haven’t seen here since the days of Messier. I defy anyone in the city limits to attempt resisting the sense of anticipation–not just for this season but for all the seasons down the line. The Edmonton Oilers may not win a Stanley in the 10’s, but they’re sure as hell not going to get their asses kicked like they have since G7 SCF. Feels like a brand new day.