cynic might suggest that Edmonton Oilers’ coach Dallas Eakins had the names of
the centres he intended to keep on his 23-man roster written in ink before
training camp started, despite what he said today.
eight final roster cuts they are – no need for a drum roll – Ryan
Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl, Mark Arcobello and Boyd Gordon, a foursome I’d suggest
95 per cent of fans and media in town had slotted in before camp began. The
only surprise is they’ll keep career minor-leaguer Will Acton as an extra
forward because he plays centre and kills penalties.
are the four centres, in order, I had pegged to make the team in an item I
wrote Sept. 18. I’m guessing you had them, too, although there was a fair
amount of buzz among the fan base about Bogdan Yakimov, who was very impressive
but was sent to Oklahoma City of the AHL today.
Absolutely, but Eakins insisted straight-faced today the top four spots were
filled on merit, based on training camp – which is a fib unless you think RNH
and Boyd Gordon actually had to earn their spots and that Draisaitl wasn’t
going to make it unless he seized up and fainted on day one.
“It’s the group that won the spots,” Eakins said,
sounding less-than-convincing. “We only have so many centres in
our organization and those were the guys, with Nuge and Gordon and Draisaitl,
Arcobello and Will Acton. They were the guys that we deemed that had won the
the end, I feel good about it. Nuge had an exceptional camp. Boyd is stepping
out of his comfort zone, making a few more plays. He’s been great on our
came on as camp went along. He can fill a couple of different roles. He can
help us a little on the penalty kill. He can make plays, fill in on the power
play, where we have lots of options. We have no less than eight or nine
forwards who fancy themselves as power play guys.
obviously, can make the plays and has got size. Will Acton can kill penalties
and play the wing. We feel good about it right now. I think everybody feels
good about everything right now. We’ll see how it goes into the season. If we have to
make changes, we’ll make the changes.”
don’t know if everybody “feels good about everything.” A lot of people, myself included,
would rather have seen the second and third slots contested by somebody
other than Draisaitl and Arcobello. That, clearly, wasn’t going to happen when GM Craig MacTavish couldn’t
land a veteran centre to add to the camp mix. Yakimov, though, added some
some people made the case that the Oilers take their time with Draisaitl and
return him to junior no matter what, I wasn’t against him being given the
opportunity to earn a roster spot on merit. Given his showing, one can argue
that’s what happened, although the fact is, the job was his to lose.
think we’ll have a game plan going in with him to a game,” Eakins said of
bringing along Draisaitl, who showed some chemistry with Nail Yakupov in Vancouver
Saturday and, for the most part, has looked like he belongs in camp and
on what team we’re playing, what their personnel looks like, who he’d be
matched up against. If it’s something that a big, red flag is going up, then
it’s my job to try to protect him from that. If it’s a night where we think he
can handle it, so be it.
not forget. It’s never about one player on the ice. It’s almost like the Corsi
debate a little bit. Do we need to protect Leon? Well, he’s got four of his
teammates out there with him. They should be looking to protect him as well.
depends who he’s playing against, too. This isn’t just about one player. A
whole line goes out there. Right now, he’ll have a couple of guys on his wings
(Benoit Pouliot and Yakupov) that have played in the league and he should have
a fairly good pair of defensemen behind him as well.”
lack of experience in the two and three holes with Draisaitl and Arcobello is a
concern, but that’s been the case since the Oilers opened camp with the group
they did. This collection of centres is, to borrow from a phrase, exactly what
we thought they would bet.
has benefitted from having a full summer to work out without the shoulder
issues that required surgery. Draisaitl hasn’t looked the least bit
overwhelmed. He’s a gifted play-maker and deft passer who might have something
going with Yakupov. Now, the competition gets tougher.
is versatile enough to move up a spot if Draisaitl needs to be spelled off. He
can contribute offensively and hold his own defensively. Gordon will do the
heavy-lifting with defensive zone starts whether he’s playing between Matt
Hendricks and Jesse Joensuu or moving up based on match-ups and in-game
better or worse, this is the group just about everybody expected.
to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason
Gregor Show on TSN 1260.