In 2009 fall, Jean-Francois Jacques rode an impressive pre-season (5, 3-1-4 +1) into an opening night spot on the 1line for the Edmonton Oilers. He would get only 4 goals during the regular season, but the TC (and Pat Quinn’s endorsement) gave his career a push and he played 100 NHL games 2009-11. How much does pre-season scoring mean?
PERFORMANCE MARRIED TO OPPORTUNITY
I think the key component for TC hopefuls is opportunity. Pat Quinn’s hiring meant that every guy with some size (Jacques, Ryan Stone) and a reasonable skill level had an excellent–excellent–shot at making the Edmonton Oilers. However, doing something with said opportunity is vital, because momentum can only be sustained by getting precious pre-season minutes, and hopefully, a push on a major line.
Entering this training camp, I listed 9 "rookies" we could watch through the pre-season and see what kind of traction was made available and how they performed in the spotlight. The post is here. Let’s have another look at these gents.
- D Oscar Klefbom: Entering camp, I ranked him as the strongest candidate because of his impressive performance in front of Craig MacTavish a year ago in the SEL. As it turned out, Klefbom wasn’t impressive during rookie camp, got his bell rung at the U of A game and then didn’t stand out during his one pre-season game with the big club (no boxcars, no crooked numbers). He’ll begin his NA pro career in Oklahoma City.
- D Anton Belov: I described him as a fascinating signing by the Oilers, and felt he’d push for employment. It didn’t look good for him 10 days ago, but a late flight from Russia and some sleep were all he needed to impress. An under the radar signing that may turn into some significance, Belov played a lot once he got here (4, 0-1-1 -1 10 shots) and impressed every game. He’s still a player with some adjustments to make, but is certainly a strong candidate for a roster spot. (Note: not technically a rookie, I put him here because he’s new to the NHL).
- D Martin Marincin: I felt he had an outside shot at the team based on a solid AHL debut one season ago. Marincin was impressive during pre-season (2, 2-1-3 +2) but received a surprisingly early ticket out of town. I’m not certain the Oilers gave him a full look, but he’s certainly on track as a legit NHL prospect.
- C Andrew Miller: I described him as a bit of a mystery, and the song remains the same one month later.
- D Taylor Fedun: I felt he’d been passed by too many defenders to win a job, and that turned out to be the case. However, Fedun did everything he could during pre-season, posting a very impressive 4, 0-4-4 +3 and is very likely a top option for recall.
- C Mark Arcobello: 6, 1-3-4 +1 and with 12 shots, Arcobello got some good luck with the Gagner injury and appears poised to get his first extended time in the NHL. He can play with skill, if that translates to NHL points he could have a career.
- L Ryan Hamilton: Began the pre-season well and then tailed off, but the people I spoke to before TC (Noah Love, James Mirtle) felt their was a chance and he won the day. Hamilton (6, 0-3-3 -3) will need to show well early in the season to maintain his roster spot.
- C Will Acton: Faceoffs, some grit, trust of the coach. His offense in pre-season (6, 2-0-2 7 shots) and penalty killing/faceoff ability probably won him the job over Anton Lander. Like Hamilton, he’ll need to perform well early.
- R Tyler Pitlick: In August, I wrote "it’s a long shot and this is a pivotal season" and Pitlick showed very well during the pre-season (4, 0-1-1 +1) with his hard work and positioning. A much brighter outlook for him.
As it turns out, all of Belov, Arcobello, Hamilton and Acton made the team, and my guess is that all but Miller could end up seeing NHL action during the 2013-14 season. A hat tip to the pro scouts, as all but Arcobello were procured during the off-season.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
In the original article, I concluded that we wouldn’t see an Oiler rookie past 30 games this season. As it stands now, with injury and the TC performances in the books, one suspects Anton Belov, Mark Arcobello, Ryan Hamilton and Will Acton will clear 30 games–at the expense of Denis Grebeshkov, Sam Gagner, Ryan Jones and Anton Lander, respectively.
As they say, that’s why they play the games.
(Arcobello photo by Rob Ferguson, all rights reserved)