The two Ryans, Smyth and Nugent-Hopkins, have generated the most buzz through three days of training camp, but for different reasons. Fans love that the "Mullet" is back and they know what to expect from #94, but they are curious to see how the younger Ryan will fare against NHL players.
You will find out tomorrow, either in Saskatoon or Edmonton.
The Oilers have yet to release the rosters for tomorrow’s games, and I thought it was a no-brainer to play #93 and #94 at home, but it sounds more likely that they will play on a line with Jordan Eberle in Saskatoon. Nothing is official, but a little birdie hinted that might be the case.
In the grand scheme it doesn’t matter where they play, what matters is how Nugent-Hopkins adapts.
Starting tomorrow right through to the a few regular season games, he will need to prove to Tom Renney that he is capable of playing alongside NHL players. He’s in a different situation than Taylor Hall was last year. From the moment they drafted Hall they planned on keeping him in the NHL, but that isn’t the case with RNH.
If I had to put money on it, I’d say RNH starts the season with the Oilers, and unless he plays spectacularly well, he ends up in Red Deer before the end of October. I’m getting the sense they aren’t worried about how that move will be perceived in the hockey world or by their fans, and that it’s better for him long term.
We won’t know for sure until he plays regular season games, but right now I think the odds are better he goes back to junior.
When I spoke to Barker moments after he has signed in Edmonton he admitted he had a chip on his shoulder, and he was going to use that as motivation throughout the season. He’s guaranteed to suit up against one of his former teams tomorrow, either at home v. Minny or in the ‘Toon v. the Hawks.
Outside of wanting to prove them wrong he also wants to improve his offensive game.
"I want to contribute more offensively. I think that is my biggest weapon. Getting pucks through on the PP and making sure I find the open man is a must. We have a tremendous amount of skill of front here, and it’s a matter of getting the forwards the puck, and ensuring I get them the puck with space. I think that is something I excel at and I’ll really look to do this year."
Barker knows what he needs to focus on and he’s excited about the feedback he’s received from the coaches.
"I’ve talked to all the coaches a number of times, and I think it’s great to have those lines of communications. It is very open here and that’s very helpful. Obviously they want you to excel at what you do best; puck possession, controlling the puck, headman the puck at the right time, getting the puck to the forwards with space, pucks through to the net and they want me to be physical. They told me I can really help this team, if I do the things I do well," said Barker.
With Ryan Whitney’s ankle a slight concern early on, if the Oilers have any hopes of getting off to a good start Barker will need to be on his game.
FIRST CUTS COMING
The first round of cuts will come later today, but they”ll mostly be guys from rookie camps. Players like Schmidt, Vannieuwenhuizen, Pelss, Gernat, Smith, Rieder, Schaber and Musil. Brett Ferguson is committed to the U of A, so he could also be on the list.
The 2nd round of cuts will come late Tuesday or early Wednesday after the split squad games. The Oilers would like to get down around 35-40 players quickly.
- I’m surprised many have said Taylor Chorney would stay ahead of Jeff Petry because the Oilers are worried he’d get picked up on waivers. Do those same people realize the Oilers are the two-time defending cellar dwellers of the NHL. Who would pick up Chorney? Losing Chorney should not concern any Oiler fan.
- Corey Potter could be the 7th D-man. Renney had him in New York and on Saturday he said, "I’m surprised he hasn’t stuck in the NHL." Keep an eye on Potter.
- The Wild roster for tomorrow includes Cal Clutterbuck, Jed Ortmeyer, Matt Kassian and Clayton Stoner so you’ll probably see Darcy Hordichuk.
- Teemu Hartikainen has trimmed down, but he looks stronger on the puck and on the boards. I don’t see him starting the season here, based on numbers, but he’ll get called up at some point. Hartikainen is in the same boat as Omark was last year — good enough to make the team, but no room right now.
- Gilbert Brule has looked great. He wants to force Renney to play him more, which is the exact attitude he should have at this point.
- Nothing official on lines for tomorrow, but Taylor Hall will play in Edmonton, as will Magnus Paajarvi, Linus Omark and Anton Lander. They might form an all-Swedish line.