I got an update from Todd Nelson on some of the Oiler prospects. We chatted about Magnus Paajarvi, Anton Lander, Martin Marincin as well as the Jordan Eberle and Taylor’s quest to take on more of a leadership role. Nelson had some great insight into his young players.
Gregor: Jordan Eberle doesn’t shoot the puck very often, but he’s very accurate. Do you care that he doesn’t shoot a lot, or do you encourage him to shoot the puck more?
Nelson: I think as a team, as a whole, we want our team to shoot the puck a lot more. I think we’re a better hockey team when we do that. Sometimes we get into a situation where, we don’t shoot the puck- we’re trying to be too cute- and then once again, it’s funny how it works, if we’re not shooting the puck we’re not generating anything. But in the case of Jordan, obviously, he’s very accurate with his shot and he usually makes the right decision- when to pass, when to shoot. So in his case, it’s maybe a bit difference just because he’s able to pick his spot. But as for some other guys that have to shoot a lot more to generate goals, we encourage them just to shoot a lot.
Gregor: With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins gone to the World Juniors, what do you need to see more of from your remaining centres, at least offensively, now that he’s gone?
Nelson: Well, I think one of the things we’re looking at is who’s going to fill that void? A player that we put there with Jordan and Taylor, if we have them together, is Mark Arcobello. I think he’s done a fantastic job since Nuge has been away. There was some chemistry in training camp with Arco and Jordan. The thing is that it’s been a pretty good fit, the only problem with that is that you’re taking a creative guy off a different line. So then other guys are going to have to ante up and try to produce in those areas. But Arcobello has been pretty good. Obviously losing Nugent-Hopkins is a big void to fill but I think Arcobello has done a fantastic job of that.
Gregor: Is Arcobello a player that you see potentially as an NHLer in the future?
Nelson: I think we’d have to see if he was given the opportunity he would handle it. It’s one thing to put up numbers in the American Hockey League. That’s one thing we’ve seen over the years, many players that have had fantastic careers in the American Hockey League, but when they get called up they can’t perform the same way. I’m kind of curious to see how he’d do.
He’s definitely smart enough, he’s a very smart hockey player and he’s creative enough. But for Arcobello to get that opportunity and produce, he’s going to have to play probably within the top six. It would be pretty hard for him to crack that, but once again I’m pretty curious because he’s doing some fantastic things for us, but it still remains to be seen if he’s capable of playing up there.
Gregor: Does he have the hockey acumen necessary to be a top-six player in the NHL, and will you get a better gauge of that when he’s playing with guys like Hall and Eberle?
Nelson: He’s fit in pretty well with those guys, so from that perspective, ya. He could play some games up top and we’d have to see. Obviously he’d have to be playing with some creative guys like he is now. I would like to hope that he’d be able to play up there. Obviously we’d like to see all of our players graduate to the NHL. If it doesn’t work out in the National Hockey League, he certainly can be a very good hockey player at this level. He’s a guy that has the potential to go over to Europe and make a lot of money, if the NHL doesn’t work out for him.
Gregor: We’ve talked before about Tyler Pitlick. There are a lot of things you like about his game. One of them was you wanted him to be more consistent physically, just engaging, not necessarily running everybody over. I noticed last week where you challenged him to be better. What does he have to do, in the physical department, to be a better player?
Nelson: You touched on it. I think consistency is first and foremost. You see flashes in a game where one shift he’d be playing physical, creating scoring opportunities and then two shifts later, he was invisible- you don’t notice him. That’s one of the things that every player has to deal with, is just consistency at this level.
Right now, he’s going through a tough time, let’s face it. He hasn’t scored a goal yet, I know it’s weighing on his mind. We sat him out on Saturday night and I talked to him after Friday’s game and said, ‘We have to see more out of you.’ He knows he’s just going through a tough time, where he’s waiting to get that first goal. I think once he does, things will fall into place. Everybody knows that when you score goals, sometimes you get really hot and you’re very confident and other times you go through slumps. Tyler’s just having a hard time this year.
Gregor: Have you contemplated trying him at the middle?
Nelson: Not quite yet. We have guys that can fill that void. I used him there last year at the start of the year and he did alright. Centre is a position that if you don’t play it quite a bit, it takes you awhile to get back in the groove. As of right now, I think it’d be too much on his plate. I think having him playing wing the right move. He’s comfortable there, and he’ll have less to think about. If he get’s going and feels good about his game, and we’re all comfortable with it, that’s something that we could explore. But as of right now, I think we’ll just keep him on wing.
Gregor: A lot of people in Edmonton have wondered about, at least as a trial experiment, using Taylor Hall in the middle. Hall told me that he’d be open to the experiment as long as he had a long time to do it- not just for a game here or there or at practice. Is it something you’ve talked about or will explore?
Nelson: I talked to him at the start of the year and asked, ‘How do you feel about playing Centre, because everybody’s been asking that question.’ He told me, ‘I want to feel comfortable with my game. It’s been awhile since I’ve played, so right now I’d rather play wing.’ He’s up front and honest with us. We don’t want to put a player in a situation where they don’t feel comfortable. That’s not to say we can’t explore that as the season goes on, but we have quite a few centres and right now it’s not really a need that we have to look at.
Gregor: Martin Marincin had a great start to the season. It obviously helped when he was playing with Justin Schultz, but lately he’s struggled. What has Marincin not done lately?
Nelson: Well, just the growing pains. I think that’s the biggest thing. Marty’s been victimized the last three weeks or so, where he’s maybe coughed up the puck in key parts of the game. You’re going to get that with young defencemen. One thing that he’s battling with is that Marty’s the type of player that goes all in. I was kind of joking with the players and the staff about; he’s like Tin Cup’s Roy McAvoy, where he wants to go all in all the time.
Sometimes you have to know when to hold them and know when to fold them. If we’re up by one goal and there is five minutes left that’s a situation where you think defence first, and we have enough goals to win. But he’s learning those things and it’s cost him a few times where in that situation, he’d do something high risk and all of a sudden it ends up in the back of our net. He’s just a young player that’s learning these things. You like the fact that he’s very confident, but he has to learn the game and recognize you do certain things at different times of the game. .
Gregor: What about Magnus Paajarvi? Obviously you like more than three goals from him. Is he a guy who’s never going to be a finisher? Is he more of a playmaker?
Nelson: I think he’s probably, pretty much, a playmaker. He gets opportunities in the game. Scoring goals doesn’t come natural, like maybe it would with Jordan Eberle. He has to work for everything he gets. He may have to generate six or seven chances to have an opportunity to score, where in the case of Jordan he’ll get one opportunity and bury it. I think moving forward he’s a player that obviously wants to score goals, but right now they’re not coming like he wants them to be. I think he just has to stick with it and just focus on the task at hand, keep on driving the net, taking pucks to the net, getting dirty in those areas. He’s better at that, but there’s always room for improvement
Gregor: What about Anton Lander? Offensively he hasn’t put up a lot of numbers. Has he been creating enough offense for your liking, or does he need to do more?
Nelson: He’s been playing some good hockey for us. I think it was kind of weird, he got sick one weekend and he came back after that and it was like he was a different player. I don’t know if it was just a situation where he needed a break and had to refocus, but he’s been playing some really good hockey for us lately. He’s been responsible in both ends of the rink. He’s been doing some things offensively that we never saw at the start of the year, so it’s getting better and better. He got off to a slow start, but I like where his game is at right now and hopefully that continues.
Gregor: What about the leadership of Hall and Eberle? Have you seen it? Both of them told me that was something they wanted to improve. They wanted to take on a bigger leadership role. Have you seen it develop?
Nelson: Ya, I’ve seen that develop. With both those guys, just by the way they play, guys follow. In the room I’ve started to hear them be a bit more vocal. I think they’re very comfortable with it. But based on their play, they lead by example in a lot areas and they take the bull by the horns in a lot of areas. If the game’s on the line, they’ll do something to create a goal. I’ve seen that and I think from the leadership quality inside the room, they’re starting to get more vocal and starting to really be part of something here and the guys are following.
When the lockout ends in January, yes I believe that will happen, it sounds like outside of the obvious four choices, 4, 14, 19 and 93, the only other player who will come up is Teemu Hartikainen. Paajarvi is having a decent season, but unless he really turns it up in the next few weeks he will stay in the AHL.
Yesterday we raised another $3,000 due to the generous bids of Carmelo and Kyle. Thanks guys and thanks to all the sponsors who donated for our Ski Package.
Today we will repeat what we did last Wednesday and have three packages on the auction block.
Item One.. A pub party for 10 at On The Rocks...Dr. Wang and the staff will ensure you have a great night out. Food and bevvies included. Trust me, only bid on this if you have a fun group of friends. They will treat you very well at OTR.
Item Two... A stainless steel Big Rock fridge and 12 cases of Big Rock Beer! Awesome…
Item Three: Pamper your Pooch Package from Posh Pooch Hotel & Daycare.
- 12 medium bags of dog food. (Acana or Origin)
- Ten days of daycare for one dog.
- Ten nights of boarding for one dog.(This includes all day as well)
- An assessment for one dog.
All the proceeds from today will go towards Operation Friendship Seniors Society and the Christmas Bureau. Bidding starts at 2 p.m thru to 5:55 p.m. You can bid by calling 780.426.8326 or 1.800.243.1945. You can also text in a bid to 101260.
Thanks in advance for your bids.