The Edmonton Oilers are sending a much stronger group to the BC interior this year, and should get better results because of it. Keeping score in a rookie tournament has no value at all, but there are players in Penticton today who could make the NHL team this fall if things break right. Here’s a look at Edmonton’s marquee players and what they’ll need to show this weekend and for the rest of September.

draisiatl tc

He’s also taller, but the concern for Oilers fans in regard to the big German center has less to do with size and more to do with speed and playing the center position. Leon can skate and pass with aplomb at this camp—that’s a hurdle he’s already managed, after all, as a WHL impact player—and he’ll get a chance to show his stuff in main camp and the preseason. None of that is objectionable, this is a stud prospect who already has the size Edmonton needs at the pivot position despite being miles from his 20th birthday.

The risk comes deep in preseason or early in the regular year, if Draisaitl is unready for the rigors of the NHL game and the assignments of the center position. I love this guy’s future, but don’t know if his present can carry the day. We’ll see. There’s a real chance Mark Arcobello plays a much larger role than Leon during the 2014-15 season.

nurse tc

Nurse gained his weight over a full year, Leon over a few weeks. One suspects the maturation for Nurse over the year will make him an impact player at this camp. Kevin McCartney talked about Nurse and his performance at the camp one year ago:

  • #74 Darnell Nurse: The first thing to notice about Nurse is his
    skating. He’s a big, big man, but it’s his transition and lateral
    skating that make him effective. His straight away speed is reasonable,
    and his skating in short bursts is very good. He was able to keep a
    close gap against the Flames, and his escapes were sharp all night. He
    is remarkably mobile and rarely needs to use his size. He’s effective
    with the puck and showed strong awareness while his partner switched
    sides all night. He did, however, struggle to read coverage and was
    rarely patient without the puck. (PS: the trip on Nurse in the third was
    really, clearly a trip. Tough break.)


Nurse actually showed better (imo) at main camp last fall, as we often see with these young defenders. Unproven blue tend to flourish in structure more than chaos, which is probably why coaches have been pairing kids with veterans for over 100 years.

I think Nurse has a chance to win a job this year, and I think there’s an even greater chance he’ll be one of the six best defensemen in camp. It all starts in Penticton. 

matty yakimov

The other name to watch this camp is Bogdan Yakimov. By description, he and Leon Draisaitl appear to have some things in common. Both are big men capable of doing impressive things with the puck, and both are quality passers.

I don’t think anyone believes Yakimov’s skill set approaches that of Draisaitl, but it’s also true the Russian is 13 months older than the German. That’s a fairly large gap, and we shouldn’t be surprised if Bogdan gets a lot of attention in Penticton. 


I’d suggest that Mitchell Moroz, Greg Chase and Martin Gernat are worthyof our attention at this year’s camp. It’s going to be fun. The results of the games aren’t important, but strong showings from Draisaitl, Nurse and Yakimov would represent positive arrows for the Oilers future, and in some cases, the present.

  • hallsyoilerforever5

    The oilers are filled with prospects with size such as Khaira, Moroz, Draisaitl, Nurse, Yakimov, Chase, and etc. Can’t wait to watch our oiler prospects play against the canucks and flames. Kick some a$$, boys!

  • D

    If it doesn’t violate the CBA, and if Draisaitl is with the big team after 9 games, I would like the Oil to have the option of resting him on pre-determined nights so that he plays, say, 60 games this season. If the Oil disclose this plan to him at the beginning of the year, then there is little risk that those nights off will be construed by Draisaitl in a negative fashion.


    I guess I am just too excited for this season that I couldn’t wait for the preseason to start… So a road trip to Penticton this weekend it is! Can’t wait to finally see Draisaitl, Nurse, and the boys in action!

    • Zarny

      I saw Seth Jones at one of the Winter Hawks/Oil kings playoff games last year. That kid was huge. Easily one of the largest 19 yr/olds playing hockey. Could’ve played nfl. It seriously blew my mind how big that dude was.

      Does it raise any concerns that Dr Dre put on weight in 4 mo vs Nurse doing it in 1 yr… Saskatchewan beef maybe??

    • ubermiguel

      If he’s anything like Uncle Donovan he’s going to combine smarts and size. McNabb used to pick great spots to run with the ball, I’m hoping Nurse is the same with pinching from the point.

  • ComeAtMeDog

    With a combination of luck, better D, improved goaltending, ore goals and more puck position time, especially on the PK, the Oilers can start climbing that ladder out of that western basement…
    A good 40 goals less against, at least 40 more goals for and 7 more wins should be a great indication of things to come. Playoffs by 2016-17?

  • DieHard

    This is all pointing to a very competitive team in year one of the new rink. I’m talking playoffs and better. Perhaps Stanley worthy or close. You never know, a little luck, a big dose of confidence. Core players at prime. Support and vets big, strong and skilled.

  • Leef O'Golin

    I’m really enjoying watching Greg Chase climb up the ladder. He’s in a great spot in that he’s not under the microscope, but he seems to be surpassing expectations at every turn. Looking forward to a great season in the Dub and hopefully some WJC action.

  • Serious Gord

    I am not as concerned as some regarding Leon being gifted a roster position. One of the best junior players in the world, incredible skill set, and a big, mature body. All of that suggests he should be in the league. The issue is where he plays in the line up. The Oilers haven’t done enough to limit exposure. Nobody complained when Seguin made the Bruins. Why? He was protected. Duschene? Toews? Same thing. Elite talents (not first overall) who made their respective teams in a somewhat sheltered position. So, the underlying concern has nothing to do with Leon being NHL ready. It is about the team make-up. Because Oilers.

    • Zarny

      Seguin, Duchene and Toews were all considered to be better prospects than Draisaitl.

      Not to mention Toews played NCAA the year after being drafted not the NHL.

      • Serious Gord

        I think this is true only in hindsight of what they turned into, but if you were to take Draisaitl back in time, I’m not so sure. After all, Hedman was considered a better prospect than Duchene, Hall a better one than Seguin, and both Erik Johnson and Jordan Stall were considered better prospects than Toews.

        I think the point j is trying to make is that these guys had success when they came in because they played sheltered minutes, and the expectations for them were not sky high, first line dominance type stuff.

        When discussing players, everyone removes themselves from what it was like at the time they were drafted, and that bugs me. Yak, for example, lots of people say the Oilers should have taken Murray, but then everyone forgets that by doing so, they likely wouldn’t have landed Schultz. And then everyone forgets just how hyped a prospect he was at the time. So at the time, it was an amazing pick.

        Bringing it back to LD, I see no better way to compare prospects than how they did in junior the year before they were drafted, and points wise on a bad team, I think LD compares very favorably to all the above names.

        • Serious Gord

          Thanks Will – good enhancement of my comment.

          And I agree, there is always contention with respect to who is a better prospect but the fact remains that the top 3-5 draft eligible players in the world should be good enough to play in the NHL if managed appropriately. These are the best of the best. The issue of course is the teams picking in the top 5 spots tend to be lacking veteran talent/skill so many of these kids are put in tough situations at an early age. In the Oilers case, it just wasn’t a good UFA year for centermen so the pool dried up quickly. Perhaps something unfolds after camp and a player shakes loose. We need a 2 year stop gap.

        • Zarny

          I disagree it is only in hindsight. The consensus by Central Scouting and ISS is that if you took Ekblad, Reinhart, Bennett and Draisaitl back in time none of them would have even been in the conversation for #1 overall with guys like Crosby, Tavares, Stamkos, Hall and MacKinnon. In strong draft years none may have even gone in the top 5.

          Hedman wasn’t considered a better prospect than Duchene. Both were considered good enough prospects though to get into a #1 overall conversation with John Tavares who played 4 years of Jr hockey while putting up 77, 134, 118 and 94 PT. No one this year would have been in that conversation.

          I assume by “the year before they were drafted” you are really talking about Draisaitl’s draft year (106 PT 64 games). If so, I disagree that there is no better way to compare prospects.

          In terms of who will make an immediate impact as an 18-19 y/o I think the year(s) before their draft year as well as what their basic skill set is are what you look at.

          Crosby had 135 PT in 59 games. Stamkos had 92 PT in 63 games. Tavares had 118 PT in 59 games. Hall had 90 PT in 63 games. MacKinnon had 78 PT in 58 games. They dominated their Jr leagues for 2-3 years.

          Draisaitl only had 58 PT in 64 games as a 17 y/o and only dominated the WHL for 1 season while being an older draft eligible player to boot. He simply isn’t that caliber of prospect and should not have the same expectations.

          If you look at the other prospects who have done well immediately like Seguin, Duchene and even Jeff Skinner they are all very strong skaters. That isn’t a coincidence considering the biggest difference jumping to the NHL is speed. Skating is not Draisaitl’s strong suit.

          So Leon doesn’t have the pedigree of the uber elite prospects and he doesn’t have the key skill set of others who have done well early. In 3-5 years I have no doubt Draisaitl will be a very good NHL player. Maybe even elite.

          I think it’s wishful thinking though that he is going to make an immediate impact or be as good as the names mentioned simply because he had a good draft year and was picked 3rd overall.

          • Hmmm..Seguins year before draft year wasnt all that pretty.

            Draisaitl also had to adjust to a new culture and play a totally different style game. Plus he’s physically alot more mature today than Seguin, and Skinner were at the same age. So there!

  • Leef O'Golin

    What an exciting season. First time in I don’t know how long this many quality prospects were developing at once. I’d say in past years everyone would be excited to see a first overall, then a guy like Greg Chase would get a bunch of ink. This year, he’s like one of 7 players I’m really interested in seeing.

    Looking forward to watching Draisaitl in Oiler town all year.

  • Spydyr

    I for one am looking forward to the day when we are more concerned at this time of year that the veteran players have had enough rest after a long playoff run.That there are articles about when the Cup banner will be raised.Then another article about prospects and the opening of rookie camp.

      • Serious Gord

        Interesting point.

        While it is perhaps premature to make moves with expansion in mind, if two or four teams are added within the next five years which teams will suffer the most? IOW what type of roster will be least likely to be pillaged and damaged? Will a expansion draft be based on numbers of players or their Cap hit or a hybrid? How will player protection work?

        Lots of questions – nil answers that are public, though i suspect the GMs do have access to some of them. And it is not premature for GMs and management (and agents) to negotiate contracts with the expansion issue in mind.

  • Serious Gord

    I beg your pardon!! Anytime the Oilers jersey is on and the opposing team has a Canucks jersey on the results matter, they matter bigtime.

    Last year the #1 thing I noticed from Nurse was his skating. With the added weight gain coipled with his skating and the chip on his shoulder that he plays with Nurse is gonna be an animal tonight.

    When it comes to LD assuming he makes the team, I think because of the wear and tear his body will enddure people need to mentally prepare for him to be a healthy scratch 5-10 times.

    GAME DAY BABY! GO OIL. Cant wait to get to Penticton. My canucks fan buddy and I have a bet. Loser jumps in the lake after the game. yeeeehaaw!!

    PS….aplomb?? Someones using the thesaruas they got for Christmas

    • utarded

      Not to mention Fayne and Nikitin and the eventual arrival of Klefbom. The Oilers Defence will finally have some size. I hope they all play with a nice edge and just rain down hits on Bennet, Monahan, and upcoming midget Gaudreau.

  • Tonight is the unofficial start of the season. Young men PLEASE show us what you can do, we ALL expect, want and deserve better than we have had the past 8 years. Bring it on, let the games begin, drop the puck and LET’S PLAY HOCKEY. YAY