After a day off the Oilers were back working hard on and off the ice. As the morning group went through battle drills and line rushes, the 2nd unit (guys not playing tomorrow) were doing off-ice training. Pre and post-skate workouts aren’t new to the players, many have done them in the past, but under Eakins it is much more regimented.
It is going to take time before the Oilers are comfortable with Eakins, and vice versa, but his approach has been very consistent since day one. He is very talkative on the ice, and gets involved in the drills. I’m curious to see how long it takes until the players completely understand his system.
We’ll get another chance to watch them tomorrow night when they battle the Canucks on Hockey Night in Canada.
We will finally get to see Anton Belov. (BELL-ov) He’s looked good in practice, which ultimately doesn’t mean much, because they weren’t emulating game situations. He’s a good skater, very fluid and in one-on-one drills he never got beat. He’s the biggest wildcard in camp right now, because very few have watched him live. If he plays well, I think he has a great shot and jumping ahead of Grebeshkov and Larsen.
He prefers to play the right side, despite shooting left, and that means Nick Schultz could play his natural left side on the 3rd pairing.
It is rare to see three right-handed shooters on one line, but that’s what we’ll see with Perron, Gagner and Eberle. The remaining four preseason games should give us a better indication of what the top-three lines will look like on opening night.
I wonder if we’ll see Yakupov and Hall together at some point. Eakins stated earlier that he’d like veterans alongside Hall for the first few preseason games, and I’m curious to see if that will change the closer we get to October 1st.
- I’m not sure why some people were surprised yesterday when the Oilers announced Nugent-Hopkins’ new contract, 7 years at $42 million. After Hall and Eberle were extended last year at $6/season, it seemed obvious RNH would receive a similar deal. There is no more or less risk with RNH than there was with Hall last summer.
- How the Oilers approach extending Justin Schultz is much more intriguing. I doubt either side starts serious negotiations until the middle of the seasons. Schultz has only played 48 NHL games, so there is no urgency for the Oilers to get a deal. Drew Doughty, Erik Karlsson, Alex Pietrangelo are the only young D-men who got a huge 2nd contract. Myers has struggled mightily since signing is, while Pietrangelo and Karlsson’s kick in this year. Only Doughty has has lived up to his new deal.
- Schultz could outperform Myers, but at this stage of his career his overall game isn’t close to Pietrangelo, Doughty or Karlsson. I don’t see him getting a bridge contract (short-term), because he’s eligible for arbitration. I could see him landing a four-year deal around $5 mill/year. The Schultz negotiations is much more interesting to me, because there are very few comparables to him, due to his age and coming off a two-year entry level contract and being arbitration eligible.
- Darnell Nurse played great in Vancouver, and he has impressed the coaching staff, but I hope they look big picture with Nurse and send him back to junior. Even if he stays and plays nine games early in the season, I still don’t think that is a big enough sample size to know how good he will be. History shows D-men need time to develop.
Since the 2005 draft these D-men have jumped directly to the NHL after being drafted four months earlier:
Drew Doughty, Zach Bogosian and Luke Schenn (2008 class).
Dmitri Kulikov and Victor Hedman (2009).
Cam Fowler (2010) and Adam Larsson (2011).
Outside of Doughty none of them have become elite D-men, Bogosian and Hedman are solid, but not great and, when you compare their success to forwards who recently went directly to the NHL it isn’t close. Also, look at the list of top D-men in the game, and only Doughty went straight to the NHL.
An extra year sure didn’t hurt Pietrangelo, Karlsson, Subban and other young D-men. I have no problem if Nurse gets a few regular season games to reward him for playing great, but the Oilers have to look long term with Nurse and let him develop one more year in junior.