The first Edmonton game of the season was an ugly affair, with the “Oilers” losing to the “Flames” by a 5-2 score. There were a few high points for the Oilers’ prospects in attendance, but there was also a lot not to like – and a number of high profile prospects struggled in their 2013-14 debuts.
Cameron Abney. Took two minor penalties and was otherwise a non-factor.
Greg Chase. Aside from Marco Roy, Chase was the only Oilers forward to generate a real chance in the first period with a nice 2-on-1 rush that was stopped by Laurent Brossoit. His hard work also led to the Oilers’ first goal, as he won a battle in the corner and set Gernat up in the high slot. Also took Laurent Brossoit out by going hard to the front of the net and getting pushed into him, then triggered a third period scrum by doing much the same in the crease again. Looked like a lot more than seventh round pick.
Travis Ewanyk. Was awarded a goal after Calgary scored on their own net. He didn’t look bad – he didn’t shy from contact, always seemed aware of what was going on defensively and had the puck a fair bit – but he didn’t generate a lot in the way of results either.
Jackson Houck. Energetic forward took an elbowing penalty for kind of a mean hit in the first period. Didn’t generate a lot on a line with Ewanyk and Abney but did look tenacious; almost scored on a 5-on-3 power play but was robbed at the side of the net.
Kale Kessy. He’s big, but he didn’t spend a lot of time in proximity to the puck (and didn’t look that good when he did). A non-factor on a line that got hammered by the opposition.
Jujhar Khaira. Played a physical game and scored the Oilers’ first goal by going to the front of the net, redirecting Martin Gernat’s point shot. The results weren’t incredible but he has a great combination of speed, skill and size – and the fact that he’s a little on the mean side just adds to the appeal.
Andrew Miller. Miller should have been leading the team offensively, but he wasn’t even close. Got caught a few times on chances against and looked defensively suspect, couldn’t find the range with his passes and did almost nothing in the offensive zone. An extremely disappointing debut for a highly rated college free agent.
Marco Roy. Had Edmonton’s first real scoring chance of the game, getting stopped on a breakaway, and as basically the only forward on the team consistently generating offence. Finished the night minus-3 and looked like the only guy on his line with a pulse.
The other guys. Ty Bilcke did a decent job in a tilt with Keegan Kanzig, and Austin Fyten had some nice moments both offensively and on the penalty kill. Neither Bradnon Baddock or Chase Schaber were particularly impressive.
Defence and Goaltending
Ben Betker. My first thought was, ‘wow, that’s a big guy.’ He’s listed at 6’6”, 216 pounds on Everett’s website and he looks it. He had a bit of an advantage, being paired with Martin Marincin, but seemed to play a safe, simple game. His footspeed wasn’t exposed but it wasn’t a strength either.
Martin Gernat. An interesting mix of good and bad. His point shot was redirected for the Oilers’ first goal and he played a pretty smart physical game defensively. However, he also got beat in his own end of the ice.
Oscar Klefbom. He calmed down a little as the game went on, but he didn’t look like a guy on the verge of cracking the NHL lineup. It could well have been rust but Klefbom had one really brutal giveaway and looked accident-prone in his own end. He and Nurse had a rough night against the Flames.
Martin Marincin. Edmonton’s only experienced AHL defenceman looked a lot like Edmonton’s only experienced AHL defenceman. He made smart pinches, recovered quickly when the puck went the other way and just looked like he had ice in his veins – a rarity among Oilers defencemen in this game. Took a penalty in the third trying to cover for a blue line turnover.
David Musil. Even by the standards of Edmonton’s defence in this game, Musil looked rough. Made a terrible play on Calgary’s third goal, biting on a fake and leaving Martin Gernat facing a 2-on-1, and followed that up a little later by going for the big hit and leaving Gernat facing another 2-on-1.
Darnell Nurse. Probably the guy I was looking forward to seeing the most, Nurse had an inauspicious start, taking a boarding penalty on his first shift and adding another penalty before the end of the opening period. Had a few nice defensive moments and quite a few weaker ones, sometimes just getting beat by the opposition and sometimes helping matters along by missing on a hit attempt. The good news is that he has lots of time to polish down the rough edges.
Tyler Bunz. Bunz got peppered in the early going and briefly looked quite good, but only briefly. He allowed one really weak goal (along with four others) in a night where he didn’t get a lot of support. The good news is that he can clearly handle the puck, and presumably he looks better when the play occasionally moves to the other end of the ice.
Four Oilers impressed me with really solid play. On the blue line, Martin Marincin looked like a veteran. Up front, Marco Roy was the Oilers’ most dynamic forward, Greg Chase consistently did things to get noticed, and Jujhar Khaira showcased a nice skillset.
There were a few other pleasant surprises. Travis Ewanyk looked like a solid two-way player, and Jackson Houck was always involved. ECHL’er Austin Fyten was the best of the invites. It might have just been playing with Marincin, but Ben Betker also looked better than I expected, given his age and draft pedigree.
The pairing of Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom got hammered, and the Martin Gernat/David Musil duo were almost as rough. Andrew Miller should be a dominant player at this level and looked anything but in his first game, while Cameron Abney continued to look like a player who won’t be getting re-signed when his entry-level deal ends.
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