The Oilers announced the roster for their rookie camp in Penticton later this week, and while most of the names on the list are drafted and/or signed players in the system, there were a few free agent additions.
The New Guys
- Vladimir Tkachev. Easily the most exciting player of the lot, and a guy who put up 30 points in just 20 QMJHL games last season, which was his first year of draft eligibility. He’s fast and crafty; he’s Russian and 5’9”/163 pounds. He didn’t get drafted this past year but based on recent history (Carolina signed a guy in a similar boat) the Oilers have a window to sign him to an ELC if they like what they see.
- Alex Krushelnyski. Mike’s son is back for a second spin with the Oilers, and his college career is now over. He’s a little undersized, and his numbers at the NCAA level were decent but not spectacular, though he has a reputation as a two-way guy.
- Connor Boland. The only real surprise of the lot. The 19-year-old defenceman has good size (6’2”, 200 pounds) and was the captain of the OHL’s Peterborough Petes last season. He’s passed through two drafts without being selected but attended Buffalo’s camp last season. He hasn’t scored in the OHL but at least one report has him down as smart and mobile.
Generally these things don’t go anywhere, but Tkachev is a really interesting guy by the numbers and Krushelnyski might be worth a pro contract and seems pretty clearly in the hunt for one.
Nine to Watch
Rookie camp is always exciting because even though the hockey isn’t amazing it’s the first NHL-related activity of the year and it’s always been way too long since the last game. It’s also a chance to watch some specific items of interest.
- Will Leon Draisaitl dominate? No other question at this camp is as important to the Oilers; the team is pretty clearly counting on Draisaitl to play significant minutes in this coming season and this is his first test. Even against older prospects he should be the class of the forward group.
- Will Darnell Nurse dominate? There isn’t a pressing, desperate lack of decent defencemen, so Nurse’s status has been a quieter issue this off-season. But he’s a guy who could play his way into the plans and we should see the first signs of it here if so.
- Will Greg Chase dominate? Chase is an interesting guy because he’s one of the team’s few recent late picks performing well north of expectations. He could be on the Canadian WJC team this winter, and he has a case as the team’s second-best forward prospect after Draisaitl; seeing him go head-to-head with Yakimov and Khaira will be interesting.
- How is Bogdan Yakimov’s skating? Yakimov will be making his first appearance in North America this season, and as we saw with Klefbom there’s a learning curve that comes with it. Because of that, I’m not expecting crazy results – I’m just looking to see how well he skates, which has been his Achilles heel as a prospect.
- Where does Jujhar Khaira play? Most projections that I’ve seen have Khaira slotted for a centre position with the Barons this year, but the rookie camp is crazy with centres and the Oilers’ official depth chart lists him as a left wing. Where he plays in camp should give us an idea of the team’s intentions for this coming year.
- How does Dillon Simpson look? Simpson is a bit of a wild card; sometimes these college guys take to pro hockey like a duck to water and sometimes they struggle mightily. This is a critical year where the blueliner could either force his way into the NHL recall conversation or tumble down the depth chart, and this camp could be telling.
- Can Marco Roy rebound? The 2013 second round pick has draft pedigree, but is coming off a deeply disappointing 2013-14 campaign, one which was clearly impacted by injuries. A strong rookie camp would be our first sign of a rebound.
- Which of Laurent Brossoit and Frans Tuohimaa impresses most? Brossoit is the current ‘goalie of the future’ in the system but he’s hardly an unassailable prospect; Tuohimaa is a bit of a wild card but just might challenge him for a job in OKC this season. Bouchard’s been getting lit up in the QMJHL camp and Rimmer’s a Central Leaguer, so Brossoit v. Tuohimaa is the contest to watch.
- Will any of the AHL crowd stand out? A whole pile of players on minor-league deals – Kellen and Connor Jones, Josh Winquist, Mitch Holmberg, Graeme Craig, CJ Ludwig – will be in camp, and all of the mare on the bubble for AHL work this season. Some of these guys have done things that make them worthy of interest, and a good rookie camp could give any one of them the early edge needed to crack the minor-league depth chart.
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