A win is a win, right Oiler fans? Last year the Canucks beat up by the OIlers for fun, so while a win in a rookie-only tournament won’t remain in the record books, it did remind fans of the Copper and Blue what it feels like to celebrate a win. The Oiler rookies won 4-1, and the least talked about member of the TMJ trio opened a few eyes and mouths.
Magnus Paajarvi led the way with a pair of goals, and was dangerous all night. Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall started slow, but combined on a nice two-on-one that Eberle buried in the back of the net. But the best player on the ice wasn’t from TMJ, it was soon-to-be Medicine Hat Tiger, Tyler Pitlick.
Pitlick, the 31st pick in the 2010 draft, showed why he was projected to be a first rounder in June. Pitlick was strong on the puck, used his size to control the puck and the play and was rewarded with an empty net goal along with an assist. Pitlick needs at least one year, and maybe two, in the WHL after playing in the NCAA last year, but he was really impressive tonight.
I wanted to focus in on a few players and here’s what I saw.
PITLICK: Isn’t afraid to hit. Had a big hit behind the net that led to a good scoring chance early. He uses his size wisely, especially when shielding the puck. He has very good offensive instincts, and he and Paajarvi found some chemistry early. Looking forward to watching him at Rexall this year; when the Tigers play the Oil Kings.
PAAJARVI: Has great speed, and good instincts. There has been lots of talk about him getting used to the size of the ice in the NHL, but the area between the dots is the same on any ice, and he looked very comfortable in that area. I look forward to seeing him against men, and how he will react and battle, but he is clearly ready for that challenge.
HARTIKAINEN: Not a great skater, but he saved a goal in the first period with a great back check. He likes contact and was involved a lot tonight. The Oilers don’t have many 3rd line grinders in the organization and with some improved skating he could be an asset.
VANDE VELDE: I was disappointed that he didn’t make more of an impact. He was the oldest Oiler on the ice, and while he wasn’t horrible he didn’t do much. VV will be a 3rd line centre if he ever makes the NHL, so I didn’t expect him dominate offensively, but I didn’t see him do a lot with the puck. Only one game, but he will need to be better next game.
MARINCIN: He needs to grow into his frame. He competes really hard, but he still a bit awkward on his skates during collisions. He has a very good stick, but needs to work on his shot. I suspect we will see a big improvement after a season in the WHL.
While I wanted to focus on those five specifically, I did notice a few other things during the game.
- Eberle has loads of patience with the puck. He is clearly thinks the game differently than most of the other rookies, and he wasn’t afraid to try different moves with the puck. He and Hall fed off each other well, but I’m not sold they will be linemates during the regular season.
- Nolan Toigo is a gritty D-man, and the only non-drafted Oiler on the ice made and impact. If he gets an invite to camp, or even a contract, he’ll probably be in the ECHL to start, but he played well. If he could improve his first pass, he’d be much better.
- Milan Kytnar was barely visible playing with Hall and Eberle. He doesn’t have the same offensive instincts as those two and he will need to become a solid two-way player if he ever hopes to play in Edmonton.
- Jeremie Blain loves to be physical, but he needs to improve his first step. Very young guy, but his work ethic and grit will get him a look, at least in the AHL, down the road.
- I expected TMJ to be some of the best players on the ice and they were, but Canuck fans had to be disappointed in Jordan Schroeder. He was the only first rounder they dressed, and I was shocked at how invisible he was tonight. It is only one game, but he should stand out in a game like this.
- Hall still has a tendancy to put himself in bad situations on the ice, but I noticed in the 3rd period he started to shield himself a bit better. It will be a process with him, but he looked like he was starting to realize he needs to alter how he positions himself and what route he takes going into plays. He also needs to watch his shift length.
- You know the song, Fire Burning On The Dance Floor by Sean Kingston.They played it over the sound system in the 3rd period and some idiot actually pulled the fire alarm a few seconds later. Gotta love the BC bud. Funny thing was not one fan even attempted to get out of their seat.
PAT QUINN SPEAKS
Quinn spoke for the first time since he was fired and given another role in the organization. When he was relieved of his coaching duties he wasn’t happy about it. He made it clear that it was never his plan to only coach for one season, but this evening Quinn seemed ready to tackle his new role with a team-first attitude.
What exactly is his role you ask?
"It’s yet to be defined," said Quinn. " I guess advisor is a loose sort of term I suppose in a lot of ways, but I’m well suited to help in a lot of areas, except trainers; although I’ve carried some bags too though (laughs). I can help with the coaching staffs certainly, some scouting if they wish and also some special assignment sort of things. It will be more defined as we work through it."
Quinn admitted it took him some time to get over the disappointment of being relieved of his coaching duties, but he has started the process of moving forward.
"My career has been just a wonderful journey through the game. The game is great in so many ways, and when you are part of it on an every day basis as the coach you are more alive than perhaps some of the other jobs that are in the game, and even outside of the game for that matter. Based on the timing I was preparing to come back and coach, but as we all know now, that plan changed, and maybe it is time for me to make a little change in how I view myself. I’ve made a commitment (to the team) now I want to make a contribution."
It isn’t perfectly clear what areas Quinn will be contributing to, but it is clear that Tom Renney wants to lean on Quinn for advice. "I think he has a good book on coaches in the league, their tendancies for example from a technical perspective. I thought Pat brought a lot of really neat things to our team last year, in terms of how he thinks the game and how he likes to teach it. I will certainly utilize that from him. I’m grateful for the fact that he takes my calls, and as corny as it sounds we have a good relationship and are good friends and that will always be the case," said Renney.
Renney has a lot of respect for Quinn and this is the second time Renney has succeeded him as head coach in the NHL, so expect Quinn to do some advance scouting for the Oilers. He also hinted he would be working with Todd Nelson in OKC at times as well. Quinn looked healthy and seemed genuinely happy to be back in a hockey rink. He cares about the game and doesn’t want to be a negative influence around the team. The biggest thing the team, and the coaches specifically, will miss about not having Quinn around is his sense of humour. Renney openly admitted he doesn’t possess the one-liners of Quinn and the coaches might need to improve in that area.
WHO SAW THIS COMING
From the department of shock and surprise, Canucks GM, Mike Gillis told a media scrum that he will meet with Roberto Luongo tomorrow to discuss his captaincy. Gillis said he wants to discuss it with Luongo, but after listening to Gillis he seems convinced it will be better for his goalie and the team if someone else wears the "C".
It was an asinine idea to begin with, and while Gillis has to make sure he doesn’t hurt his star goalie’s feelings he better slap the "C" on Henrik Sedin and move on. Luongo doesn’t need the added pressure of wearing the "C" on his helmet and the Canucks need him to be focused come playoff time.