The first time I watched the Oilers rookies battle the U of A Golden Bears was in 1993. Jason Arnott was a rookie and my brother was a free agent invitee to training camp. He played with Arnott for the first few days of camp, and I vividly remember him calling me at home after the second day of training camp and talking about his experience.
He told me Arnott was going to be an excellent player. He was big, strong, had a great shot and played with an edge. Arnott went on to score 33 goals as a rookie, so his scouting report was pretty accurate.
My brother grew up a diehard Mark Messier fan, so wearing the Oilers jersey, even against the Bears was a fun experience for him.
My bro was invited to training camp after playing the previous two seasons at Acadia University. They are still considered one of the greatest University teams ever. They crushed the U of A Bears 9-4 in the semi-finals at Nationals and then trounced Toronto 12-1 in the final in 1993. They made the Nationals in 1992 as well, but had three of their best players suspended prior to the tourney due to a brawl in the AUAA finals.
He suited up for the Oilers rookies and was actually named player of the game that night, scoring two goals. It was a thrill for him because the legend, Rod Phillips, chose the players of the game and we had grown up listening to Rod.
If social media had been around in 1993, I’m sure Oilers fans would have been clamouring for the Oilers to sign him to a contract after that game. The instantaneous reaction of social media today, often leads to many incorrect evaluations and a lot of knee-jerk reactions.
While Arnott went on to an excellent NHL career, my brother played a few years of minor pro. The biggest mistake he made was listening to his agent’s advice after the Oilers training camp. He didn’t have a contract entering camp, but the Oilers did offer him a 25-game contract/tryout with their AHL affiliate in Cape Breton during camp.
His agent said he’d be better off waiting for a “real” NHL contract and that other teams would sign him. It didn’t happen. He learned that you are much better off being in an organization, even if it is on a 25-game tryout, than being a free agent, especially when you’ve yet to prove yourself at the NHL level.
It likely wouldn’t have made a difference in the long run, and my brother has no regrets and he is happily married today, but as you watch the game tonight, don’t get too excited if one prospect plays excellent. It shows they have skill, but consistency is the biggest hurdle most players have to overcome if they want to succeed in the NHL.
Puck drop is 7 p.m. tonight at Clare Drake arena. Tickets are available at the door.
The Oiler rookies have a nice combination of speed, skill and size. The centres are all big, and Yakimov an Draisailt are extremely skilled. Khaira had only 43 points in 59 games in the WHL last season, so I’d be surprised if he becomes a big point-producer in the pros. I think best-case scenario is that he becomes a solid two-way third line centre.
Moriz, Holmberg, Chase and Tkachev are all very skilled.
Holmberg had 62 goals and 118 points in 72 games for Spokane as a 20 year-old last year. He has excellent hands. He’ll need to improve his footspeed to produce in pro, but he has great skill.
Chase produced 35 goals and 85 points in 70 games for the Hitmen last season, and he’s a pest, which is something the Oilers don’t have. He has the potential to score 100 points this season, and if he gets off to a good start he has an excellent chance of making the World Junior Team.
Moroz had a breakout year at 19, scoring 35 goals and 63 points while adding 156 PIMs. He had 19 points in 21 playoff games, and then won a Memorial Cup with the Oil Kings. He’s a big body with some size. He wants to improve his footspeed and he will have to learn how to battle without having a physical size advantage every night.
Tkachev only played 20 games in the QMJHL last year, but he tallied 30 points. He’s extremely small, listed at 141 pounds, but he doesn’t shy away from contact. He was bypassed in the draft and is in camp as a free agent. The Oilers can sign him now, but once the season starts no team can sign him and he becomes draft eligible again. The Oilers can be patient and see how he handles bigger players tonight and into training camp. If they like his tenacity, there is a good chance they sign him. He has very good skill, but how much will he grow over the next three of four years is the question.
Ludwig is looking for a contract. The Oilers have virtually no right-shot defenders in the AHL, and if he continues to play well, he had two goals vs. Calgary in Penticton, he could earn himself a contract.
Oesterle, Simpson, Musil and Gernat are all destined for the AHL, but it will be interesting to see how Simpson and Gernat look on the right side.
Nurse is the only D-man dressed tonight who has a shot to make the Oilers this year, and the only one who looks like a lock to play in the NHL, and his biggest challenge will be trying to avoid doing too much. He is eager to impress, like most high draft picks, and if he just plays within himself he will do fine.
These are the two best goalie prospects in the Oilers system, although Rimmer is only signed to an AHL standard contract at this point.
- The U of A leads the series 13-10. The Bears are 8-2 in the last 10 meetings, but the teams never played between 2010-2012. The Oilers rookies will be in tough tonight against the defending CIS champions.
- The Oilers announced they’ve added Olympic figure skating champion, David Pelletier as a skating coach on Rick Carriere’s player development staff. Pelletier will also work with skills coach Steve Serdachny. Pelletier has received rave reviews the past few years from numerous hockey academies and schools that he’s taught at. The Oilers have a few prospects who should benefit from working with Pelletier.
It is fascinating watching how differently NHL teams negotiate contracts.
In 2013, the Detroit Red Wings signed Danny Dekeyser to a two-year deal, but really it was only for one season. He played 11 games in 2013, after graduating college, and then last season he was their #2 D-man. Yesterday, they signed him to a two-year extension worth $2,187 mill/year. That is an excellent value contract, but in his first contract he didn’t have the bonus potential of Justin Schultz. By not giving DeKeyser all the bonus potential in his first deal, it allowed them to get him signed to only $2.1 on this deal. Very smart.
They offered his camp three different options.
Two year deal at $3 million per season.
Six years at $5.33 mill/season.
Eight years at $5.75 mill/season.
When a team or an agent make the negotiations public, usually it is sign they aren’t making any progress. Johansen had a very good year last year, 33 goals and 63 points in 82 games. The Blue Jackets want a short term deal to ensure he’s consistent, while his agent wants to cash in big now.
The problem the Blue Jackets have is that last year they gave Sergei Bobrovsky $5.625 million/year for two years after 38 great games, he won Vezina trophy, during the lockout-shortened 2013 season. Bobrovsky’s first two seasons in the NHL, with Philadelphia, weren’t much better, statistically, than Johansen’s first years with Columbus. They were willing to roll the dice on Bobrovsky, but aren’t willing to do so with Johansen and you know his agent will use Bobrovsky as an example to try and strengthen their demands. I’m not saying it is right, because I think a bridge deal is best for Johansen, but his agent will use Bobrovsky big deal after only one great year as an example.
Meanwhile, the Ottawa Senators are in the midst of a tough negotiations with Marc Methot. Methot’s camp supposedly used Brooks Orpik’s asinine $5.5 mill/year deal as their first asking price. Ouch.
- If the Blue Jackets can’t reach a deal with Johansen, you can bet many GMs will be on the phone talking trade with Kekelainen. The Oilers would gladly give Johansen $5 mill/year on a short two-year deal. But what would the Blue Jackets want in return? I can tell you it would be something significant, not just prospects or picks. It would start with Eberle and… I’d bet.
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