Young Stars Tournament Day Three: Oilers evolved game hidden by score


The Nations Network sent some Jets Nation writers to the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, BC. They’re judging your team and bringing you the view from the Press Box. 

I’m back with more Oilers Young Stars updates from last night’s 7-2 loss to the Jets prospects. As a Jets blogger, I could really see my bias in this game. I often wrote notes that were ‘Jets player did x well’ rather than ‘Oilers player misread x.’ I suspect I missed some important details of the game from an Oiler fan perspective in that regard. Still, I hope what I saw spurs a conversation, and as always, I’m very interested to hear what you see on the stream that might have looked different. As before, systems followed by player reviews.

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System and Team Play

I could see the evolution of the Oilers’ intended system on display in this game. The powerplay continued to feature a cherry picker in transition, but the entry was to the opposite side, with the high forward circling up and attacking as F2 through the middle upon entry. They used three different half-court powerplays to my eye, starting with the umbrella and switching to a more effective funnel in the third and using a box+1 on the 5-on-3. A few notes about that.

One, the box+1 is where the PP creates a larger box around the PK box and then puts one person inside the PK box. The point is to draw the PK box apart and feed the man in the middle. You might notice from the name box+1 that it is intended to defeat a box. It is not well suited to a collapsed triangle, since the most dangerous attacker is now covered by three players. It generated just a single chance when the Jets forward over pursued the wing and left Khaira open, but Khaira missed the top corner from the low slot.

Two, I’m sure it was obvious to all that the funnel in the third was a game changer for the Oilers special teams. It’s easy to recognize – three skaters along the blue line in free rotation to pull apart the top of the box and two skaters in front of the net, required to create traffic and perform puck retrieval. The Oilers only had one skill forward for each PP unit, so the tactic fit their personnel well. You might have noticed a similar play used by Detroit a few years back, where Zetterberg would play the high middle and could choose to accept or let through the pass to Lidstrom behind him, both primed for a shot. The Oilers prospects aren’t that advanced just 3 days into Rookie camp, but it was interesting to see some evolution.

They also evolved their PK in the neutral zone, using a 1-1-2 that flattened to a 1-3 if the up-ice pressure failed for force a lane for the Jets PP. They maintained a box against the Jets umbrella with limited effectiveness. You might have noticed the Jets had a lot of time at the top and along the sides of the zone.

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At evens, the Oilers made huge changes, switching to a defensive collapse that closed the middle lanes Calgary has used to beat them. It meant the Oiler defenders backed down from the line and the Oiler forwards pursued contact and the puck less. In back check, they were tasked with moving through the middle lanes to a spot instead of tracking a particular man for man coverage. Cadorette was weak link, and the Jets have a talented group when given space. The Oilers also seemed more dedicated to the dump and chase, which backfired in the first because the Jets defenders are excellent puck movers at this tournament. One of the changes for the Oilers in-game was to back-off their second forechecker to float in the first outlet passing lane. The Jets defencemen were seen hesitating because in 3 days, they probably haven’t practiced more than a couple escape options. It gave the Oilers lead forechecker a chance to actually get on the puck and the Oilers had much more zone time in the second and third.


#60 Philippe Cadorette: If game one’s goat for the Oilers was Baddock, game two it was Cadorette. He was beat in every way a goalie can be – over the shoulder of his 5’11” frame a few times, five hole on a deke by Blomqvist, left flopping on the Petan goal. Shots when through him and around him, and when he got something on it, he didn’t have control of it. The Jets managed just 5 shots in the final frame, and Cadorette showed why prevention is the best medicine.

#78 Martin Gernat: Gernat fell back to earth a little in this game, and his blue line work for which I lauded him was good but unspectacular. Still had some excellent rushes with the puck and generally seemed offensive capable, through struggled to generate offence as he did in game one. In the defensive end, his struggles continued and worsened. He was prone to loose gaps in the first game, and against the Jets struggled to get his hands on anyone during play. The Jets swinging forward movement sometimes left Gernat looking like he was doing acceleration drills back and forth.

#80 Martin Marincin: Poor Marincin. Playing on his off-hand side again, changing partners from the limited by calm Betker to the frenetic Klefbom. Marincin looked better with the former. The change to the collapse system threw Marincin’s gaps, and he stopped closing lanes on forwards. Got beat by Kosmachuk because Klefbom was supposed to read the underneath lane and support in this system. Still got a stick on it, lucky whack by 72 blue. Had some odd plays. Weak shot to nowhere in 1st, unforced give away on PP in 3rd.

#82 Joey Leach: Skating is below average for this level, and his first period was spent trying to do too much and chasing the play. Give away that led to first goal was an example. Calmed his game in periods 2 and 3, trusted Musil more, and kept the play in front of him. Had a couple opportunistic rushes. A bottom pairing guy in this tournament.

#84 Oscar Klefbom: There are few players I’ve been more confused by than Klefbom. I think we have to call it a bad game, and certainly rust and moving to the small ice could easily be factors. Moved to the left for this game, he continuously rotated to the right – the opposite behaviour he showed in game one. He stood up Lukas Sutter in a 1-on-1 in the first after Marincin had given Kosmachuk space, and won the puck battle. Great break-up against the Jets fast break in the 2nd. In the third, pursued closely by a Jets forward, he skated full speed at his own end boards and executed a stop/turn/escape with a level of power and control not seen at this tournament. The Jet just had to turn past him as though a boat on water in comparison. His skating is elite for this level. His rushes were effective and dangerous. He had a few shifts in which he put together a defensive stop, transition play, and offensive attack in which it was impossible to deny his talent as a 1st round selection. He was also a defensive mess, chasing the puck all night and confusing Marincin to no end.

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#87 David Musil: David Musil is making it hard to imagine him as an NHL player. His skating is below average in this tournament, and it’s a problem. Still – I thought he had another good game. Maybe the only Oiler defender to never get confused by the Jets forward movements/rotation. Kept the play in front of him for the most part, despite mobility issues. Active stick, read passing lanes well. In the half-court, he’s rigid but effective. In transition he needs a lot of support.

#88 Brandon Davidson: The Oilers best player for much of the game. His shots were through traffic and on target all night. Great gap in transition – much tighter than most Oilers – and obvious awareness. Patient at both ends of the rink. Extensive powerplay time and one of the few lights on the unit until the Oilers moved to the funnel in the 3rd. Skating is very high level, though shy of Klefbom and Nurse still. Got beat on a Petan move at the blue line 2-on-2 in which Petan drew him in with a change of pace. Davidson made a swift attack but it was telegraphed. One of a few hesitations in the game, possibly because of loose systems and new team mates.


#39 Brandon Baddock: A much improved effort, showed good vertical speed and used his big 6’3” frame to get involved along the boards. Still a bottom end forward in this tournament, but nice to see how he got the invite.

#42 Marco Roy: A standout for the Oilers and just about the only consistent offensive threat. A strange line for him with Fyten and Houck meant he was often alone trying to create. Still was able to carry his line with outstanding two-way play and anticipation. Skating is above average, but not plus – quick but not powerful. Puck skills are very strong. The only Oiler forward to look comfortable on the powerplay. I think we might talk about him differently in this tournament if he had better linemates.

#47 Ty Bilke: Somehow Bilke was given an ‘even’ in the game sheet while his line mates were -2. I can’t go back and track that, but something tells me he was maybe fighting someone on the bench or checking the peanut vendor when the goals were scored. Bilke took his role very seriously on the All Violence Line, and even fought the Jets most invisible player, Jean Dupuy. Threw a huge hit on Adam Lowry after Lowry cleared on the PK in the third. Hit all the faces he could find when Roy was mugged in front of the net. His vertical speed is good and his approach speed to hits is high, meaning he’s likely thinking about them well in advance of the play or organize his angle. Shows focus and hockey sense. Was not particularly good with the puck or at supporting it, but certainly frustrated and angered the Jets.

#49 Kale Kessey: I think Kessey managed to hit every sponsor name on the boards in the whole rink. Maybe he’s after an endorsement deal. He did have some good moments, forced several turnovers by the Jets defencemen (who did not like to be hit), and looked good in front of the net on the powerplay. Good puck retrieval in the offensive end. His skating is not an issue at this level and he gets around the ice well. Clearly had the Jets thinking about him. Replaced some of Houck’s minutes after the injury and looked better with Roy than did Houck. Will have to add more hockey skills to move up levels, but has all the energy and recklessness an exhibition tournament can handle.

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#52 Austin Fyten: Appeared often throughout the game. Threw a number of open ice hits and was credited with 5 shots officially (though I’m not sure about a game sheet that gives Davidson just one shot on goal). Was a bit confused by Roy’s more creative use of the zone and could be seen standing still on occasion. He’s active and reacts to the play well. Anticipation is limited, and that’s most obvious on the powerplay where he didn’t know how to use movement to set up future plays.

#54 Jujhar Khaira: Another strong game for Khaira in many respects, but also a more conservative one. Less often seen on the offensive end boards, and the collapse helped him be less exposed defensively. A bad pass to Miller in front on a chance I bet Miller gets blamed for in 3rd. Missed chance on 5on3. The chaos he creates can lead him to chasing and his legs wore out on one play chasing back and forth. Has high-level anticipation as shown by his offensive positioning, but gets over-excited when defending and starts to chase. Needs more time in my opinion.

#58 Andrew Miller: A disappointment so far this tournament, given where he was expected to be as an over-age player with NHL hopes. The Oilers third best forward with the puck, but that puts him very low in the tournament. His two-way play is there, but not exceptional. Roy and Petan both do more with even less size. Relied upon as one of the few Oiler skill players and I think it’s reasonable to put some of the Oilers lack of scoring on his shoulders as a result. Puck skills are good, missing that scorer’s instinct so far (it is a rookie camp, mind you). Gives up on plays that aren’t going well, such as the Khaira pass to his skates.

#61 Jackson Houck: An ugly hit by Morrissey. Really an awful way to exit a supposedly friendly tournament. Was the third player on his line with Roy and Fyten, but it’s hard to say too much hockey related about a guy who was happy to be able to walk and talk last night. He says he’s concussion symptom free, with only facial injuries to show. We can hope it stays that way.

#67 Travis Ewanyk: The Oilers worst forward by a country mile. Twice (at least) in which he went to his position to receive a transition pass and then just didn’t notice that the play was coming to him. It was mind-boggling that he not only missed a pass (okay, that’s about organizing your body), but that he went to the right place and didn’t even know he was in the play. The first part (going to the right place) is coached. The second part showed a stunning lack of hockey sense. We’re left to wonder what would happen if the Oilers turned the puck over. Would he have just continued up ice? What did he think was happening? Apart from those two plays, he mostly played out-of-position goon, and was worse at it than Kessey or Bilke. In two viewings, I just don’t see how Ewanyk can be considered a defensively minded hockey player considering his lack of focus and attention to the play around him.

#71 Kyle Platzer: A very pleasant surprise for the Oilers, and their second most dangerous forward after Roy. Strong positioning throughout the game, great sense of the net, used his teammates well. Not a high level skater for this tournament to my eye, but was against an exceptionally mobile Jets defence. Another viewing is necessary.

#76 Chase Schaber: My first note on Schaber was that he was playing less time away from the puck covering for his linemates and more time at the puck trying to make an impression. To me, that’s why he was so much more noticeable to start the game. But then it continued, and he showed offensive skill in a few high quality chances. He drove the net, he caused turnovers, and he won faceoffs and back checked through passing lanes. Very good game for Schaber. Perhaps just the nature of a tournament like this, but not sure why he didn’t get moved around to more skilled lines.

#96 Greg Chase: Another solid outing for Chase, who has been a quiet but effective player for the Oilers. One play in the third where he stood stationary against the boards on the breakout, and then let the pass bounce off his skate and into the middle ice without moving for it. A lapse? Tired legs or brain? One moment didn’t overshadow the fact that he continues to play a possession style and use his line mates very well. 

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    it seems like some of the later round picks have been shining, in particular….3rd rounder Khaira, 4th rounder Platzer, 5th rounder Gernat, 6th rounder Davidson and 7th rounder Chase….so all is not lost for Oiler fans, despite the lopsided losing.

  • Cowboy

    Third straight loss , and collapse last two periods against an understaffed Canuck group minus Shinkaruk and Horvath . Over 3 games only Musil on defence can handle the physical going needed to play in NHL . The rest , including Nurse , who is a big disappointment on the physical play . Only Roy and Ewanyk looked sometimes decent . What a huge disappointment our club has been at this tournament . Question – why do our rookies look so much worse than the other clubs ? When your two best players continue to be Musil and Ewanyk it shows yu how bad rest areplaying . Roy showed some spark , but with his size unlikely to challenge at NHL level for quite a while .

  • Young Oil

    There were many people who are panicking about the lack of skill in the forwards in this tournament. To be fair, the forward lineup (except Roy and maybe Miller) all project to be bottom 6 forwards. The Oilers already (theoretically) have enough top 6 skill to last a decade, and just need to fill in the missing pieces. In this tournament, they’re not playing 3-4 players who are going to be on the NHL roster to start the year, unlike CGY or WPG. If they put their top picks from the past few years into the lineup (RNH, Yakupov, Slepyshev, Yakimov, Zharkov and Moroz), they would definitely have enough skill to win the games.

    While it is slightly concerning how many goals are being let in, young players usually take a bit to mature defensively, and that will come with time. The best defence is a good offense, and with a more balanced forward lineup, more time would have been spent in the other team’s end, which would have exploited weaknesses in the other team’s defence.

    There were actually many positives from this game I thought. Almost all of the forwards were very physical, and in doing so agitated the other team, causing them to take a multitude of penalties. However, they were unable to take advantage of them, due to the lack of offensive talent in the forward group, which again is to be expected when the majority of skilled Oiler prospects were not playing.

    All in all, I thought lots of forwards that weren’t camp invites had quality games. Khaira, Kessy, and Chase were all physical, agitated the other team, and drew penalties. Ewanyk was constantly putting his body on the line to block shots, even when they were down 6-1. These are all things that the Oilers desperately need in the bottom 6. Roy showed some very good offensive instincts I thought, and would have benefited from having more skilled players to pass to/take a pass from.

    All that being said, the #1 priority now is to draft a goalie in the first two rounds. Comrie looked very solid, even with a lack of quality scoring chances, and though I agree with all the choices made in the 2013 draft, next year we need a quality goaltending prospect that we can have some confidence in.

  • RMGS

    Kevin, you offer exceptional qualitative game/player evaluations. Do you track metrics like Corsi, scoring chance differential, and score-adjusted Fenwick-close, for example? Just curious to see a coherent and complementary game report with both approaches. BTW, I’ve only read two of your pieces, but I feel I’ve learned a little more about hockey already.

    • Kevin McCartney

      Thanks for the compliment RMGS.

      I didn’t track any metrics during the games. Covering 4 teams and doing both player and systems stuff… just too much to focus on already. I hoped the game sheets might give me something to work with (even just plain old shots), but are riddled with absurd errors. So, in some way, we’re left with a subjective argument.

      Some of the games are archived, and it might be a neat project to try to count it now. In the case of the Jets game, score effects played a huge part in the Oilers resurgent third and I would venture a guess based on the flow of the play that the 67-47-49 line was buried at corsi while the 54-71-58 line and Marco Roy individually were better off.

  • Cowboy

    I love this tournament because it really highlights the fact that a lot of these “players” have a lot to learn. Its amazing to see a guy like Klefbom being exposed and ripped by the media. From prospect to suspect in a matter of days. He and others in this tournament have stamped their ticket to OKC in a matter of games. It sure makes training camp easier when you know guys like Kassey and Ewanyk and more will need ore “seasoning” at the ECHL and Ahl levels. Negaives are good. It gives players a place where to improve.And this tournament has given the Oilers brass plenty to think on.

  • Cowboy

    Where are all the diehards calling Macgregor “magnificent” this weekend? If this is the future of this team the only parade they’ll be planning is for breaking the Panthers playoff drought record. I stayed for the first two games down here but I’m headed home.

      • So you think in a few years 3 players (4 if theres a huge cap increase) are gonna carry an organization with this supporting cast? Nurse is a few years away. Beyond that theres nothing. You dont think there is a serious problem when Grebeshkov and Omark are solutions to holes in your line up? Whos next osullivan? Jacques? Delauriers?