This morning, Edmonton Oiler players and fans begin their annual journey through training camp and pre-season. It is a bonding ritual that dates back decades and includes some of the very best players in the history of the game. Today, eyes that have followed great players, also rans and never-were’s will follow Taylor Hall, Magnus Pääjärvi, Jordan Eberle, Tyler Pitlick and others. This year is believed to be more important than recent seasons. Why?
For the generation of Oilers fan who followed the team during the time of Mike Rogers or Wayne Gretzky, this period of the rebuild (outstanding young prospects just getting started) reminds us of two or three pre-seasons. Maybe 1979, or 1980, or maybe 1994. We know there are good times ahead, great memories to come. For the Oiler fan who became a member of OilersNation with the Marchant goal, this experience might be a little unique. For someone who came to the Oilers as a fan in 2006, this is going to be fun.
And in a very real way, it all begins this morning. Here’s a quick list of some of the players who are worth following:
- #4 Taylor Hall: It’ll be interesting to see how quickly he adjusts to the increased size and speed of the NHL game. He’s a very confident young man, and a productive pre-season could set the tone for his entire season. Sam Gagner went through the fall 2007 pre-season 4gp, 2-0-2; Andrew Cogliano went 7gp, 4-3-7 the same year.
- #14 Jordan Eberle: I think he’ll be the most complete rookie this season. He’s the oldest of the group, has a lot of experience against older competition and thinks the game so well. I bet he becomes a PK option–maybe not this season–and his passing ability is splendid. Went 4gp, 0-0-0 -1 last pre-season.
- #23 Linus Omark: You have to hand it to the procurement department. They lose a puck wizard like Schremp and find a replacement the following TC. Another youtube sensation, this one has more experience and foot speed. I think he’s going to be a fan favorite by noon today.
- #30 Olivier Roy: The kid is building a nice resume and may end up eating everyone’s lunch down the line. For now, a solid training camp will serve as a reminder to management about his abilities. A strong WJ performance could put him in the conversation for NHL employment as early as 2011 fall.
- #48 Alex Plante: This is an important year for the young defender. He’s at an age where the organization should be considering him for callup, and last season was impressive (despite the horrible team he played on in Springfield). I don’t think he’ll make the roster, but a solid camp may mean a quick recall.
- #54 Chris Vande Velde: Big college center should stand out from the rookie crowd based solely on age. This training camp is very important for him, he’ll need to make a good impression.
- #56 Teemu Hartikainen: Big Finn (yeah!) is a more mature player than many rookies at this year’s camp. His size and grit should mean he stands out in the crowd.
- #58 Jeff Petry: I’d like to find out where he is in terms of progress compared to someone like Plante (or Chorney). If Petry can handle the big wingers and has an idea about positioning, we might see him in Edmonton later this season.
- #68 Tyler Pitlick: Looked like a really good young player in rookie camp, now we’ll get to see him against older, more mature talent. The early buzz on him is loud.
- #91 Magnus Pääjärvi: The man has wheels and an impressive touch around the net. You get the feeling he won’t take long to adjust. Appears fearless, and he can fly.
Those are the names I’ll be watching closely over the next couple of weeks. Some of these kids are going to be here a decade from now. The 10-11 Oilers training camp really is hockey’s future on display.