The Oilers’ prospects played their second game of the pre-preseason earlier this evening, lining up against the Jets’ rookies. After the jump, random scattered thoughts on the game and the players.
It was a sloppy game, for the most part – exactly the sort of contest one expects from two prospect teams still finding their feet. There were the obligatory tussles, a series of defensive breakdowns, soft goals, and in the midst of all of that chaos some exceptional plays by talented young players.
The best player for either side was Oilers goaltender Tyler Bunz, who made a series of highlight reel saves in both the second and third periods. Aside from one waved-off goal (the puck was batted in by Carl Klingberg from way over the net), nothing got past him despite defensive breakdowns and a plethora of chances in close.
Bunz wasn’t the only player on the Oilers who impressed. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins looked to be in a league of his own early in the game before fading from view a little as the contest went on, but he still played well. He showed a willingness to engage physically – he probably led both clubs in hits through the first period – and had some great shifts, particularly on the power play.
Ryan Martindale, whose willingness to compete on a consistent basis has been questioned in virtually every scouting report going back to before his draft day, really stood out early on. He showed offensive acumen – Chase Schaber’s unassisted goal was in large part a result of his efforts – and nailed Shayne Wiebe (more on him in a moment) with a major hit in the first period. Unfortunately he left the game after that first period with a hip flexor injury, and while there is still no official news on the cause it may very well have been connected to the hit on Wiebe.
On the blue-line, Taylor Fedun was the best of an erratic bunch, both offensively and in his own end. Undrafted rearguard Ryan Lowery had some offensive flashes but those were outnumbered by some high profile gaffes – an unacceptable combination for a 23-year old with four years of college experience playing against kids. Lowery’s uncertain play made it difficult to evaluate his partner, the also undrafted Wes Vannieuwenhuizen, who fought (and lost) to the much larger Cody Sol.
Beyond that group, Chase Schraber had his moments, Martin Gernat through a massive hip-check, and Tyler Pitlick had something of a mixed contest.
The Jets didn’t get the same calibre of goaltending from second-year professional Chris Carrozzi. Though last year’s Gwinnett Gladiator improved as the contest went on, the second goal against was a tough one to allow and his rebound control was haphazard at best.
Up front, while prospects like Mark Scheifele and Ivan Telegin are more highly-touted, it was Shayne Wiebe who really stood out. The undersized and undrafted WHL’er scored 44 goals for Brandon last season, and he was flying all night. The big hit from Martindale left him unfazed, and while he generated a lot offensively he was also good in his own end – midway through the second, for example, he snuck behind Nugent-Hopkins, stripping him of the puck and carrying it out of the defensive zone. He was arguably the most impressive forward for either squad over the entirety of the match. On defense, Zach Redmond had a strong game.
And while watching a choppy online feed of players with jersey numbers in the ‘70’s was less than ideal, it was a real pleasure to watch hockey again.