The Oilers rookies have medicals this morning before flying to Penticton to start the 2015 Young Stars tournament. They play Vancouver tomorrow night (8:30 p.m. MST), Calgary on Saturday (8:30 p.m. MST) and Winnipeg Monday afternoon (12:30 MST).
2015: Connor McDavid, Caleb Jones and Ethan Bear.
2014: Leon Draisaitl and Keven Bouchard.
2013: Darnell Nurse, Marco Roy (signed to American League contract), Anton Slepyshev, Kyle Platzer, Ben Betker and Greg Chase.
2012: Mitch Moroz and Joey Laleggia.
The Oilers signed 22-year-old goalie Eetu Laurikainen this summer and he’ll also be at the camp. St. Albert born Josh Wingquist signed an AHL deal with Bakersfield, while Alexis Loiseau, Connor Rankin and Braden Christorffer also have AHL-only deals. The other eight players are free agents and some are still draft eligible.
D-man Colton Waltz and forwards Rihards Bukarts, Cole Linaker, and Cole Sanford.
D-man Kevin Davis and Loik Leveille, forward Tyler Soy and goalie Jordan Papirny. If any of these four players stand out, the Oilers can sign them even though they are draft eligible, because they have played one full season in North America. Vlad Tkachev hadn’t done that last year and that’s why they couldn’t sign him.
WHO WE KNOW…
McDavid, Draisaitl and Nurse are the big three and I won’t put much stock in how they play this tournament. They will be the best players, and if they aren’t for a game I won’t overreact about it.
Moroz had a tough first year adjusting in the AHL, like many young players do. He will have a size and strength advantage in this tournament, and he needs a good tournament so he comes into main camp with some confidence. He needs to take a step forward this year.
Laleggia should stand out, due to his experience and skating ability.
The two players I’m going to watch the closest are Slepyshev and Chase. Chase will turn pro this year, and he will need some AHL seasoning, but he’s a pest and the Oilers don’t have one. If he can develop into a player like Andrew Shaw, he’d be a great asset for the Oilers.
I’ve never seen Slepyshev live and I’m intrigued by what I’ve read. I spoke with the Oilers Senior Director of Player Development, Rick Carriere, to get a scouting report on Slepyshev and a few other players I thought might interest fans.
“He has been in town a few days skating with the veterans at the
Royal Glenora. He is incredibly fit. He’s very strong, he has a powerful
stride, he makes plays at high speed, has good hands and he can shoot the puck
very well. He is a solid American Hockey League player now, but he’d be a guy
you would say is a solid NHL prospect when you watch him play. His best asset
is he can make plays with high tempo. He thinks the game well and things happen
continuously with him.
“Not every player can develop hockey sense. A lot of guys
can make a play when there is no pressure. A lot of guys can skate very well,
until they get the puck. It is a real skill to do it all in combination and do
it well. Slepyshev can.”
I’ve spoken with many scouts from other organizations about Slepyshev and they all like him. How he adjusts to the smaller ice will be the question, but most believe he has a really good chance to be an NHL player.
On Ethan Bear (This is for Lowetide, who loves this kid)…
“Ethan will be an interesting player. I don’t think he has really
bought into the whole fitness concept yet, in what it takes to be a player. But
he skates well, he handles the puck well, he makes good plays coming out of his
own end, he has good shot, he can play on the powerplay and when you get the fitness
component in the next year or two, I think we will see a pretty special player.”
I like how honest Carriere was about Bear. He has immense talent, and now he just needs to put in the work away from the rink to become a pro player. He should benefit from seeing Nurse, McDavid and Draisaitl. He’ll find out real quick after watching them on and off the ice how important fitness is.
“He would be ahead of the other two guys, Bouchard and
Papirny, because he’s played some games at an elite men’s league level. We hope
he’d come over with the experience and have that confidence about him. He is
very athletic. If you remember him in Swift Current, he was pretty successful
and had a good junior career in the WHL before he went back home. He is a bit
of a veteran, if you want to call it that. He had good positional play, he’s
sound with the puck behind the net and he’s very athletic.”
I find evaluating goalies extremely difficult. The Oilers have a few young ones in the system, and if one of Laurikainen, Brossoit or Nielson pan out they will be very happy.
“He is built like a tank. We had him at development camp and
it is incredible; he’s about 220 pounds on a 5’11” frame, and he is a thick,
solid kid, but he is very athletic. He has a good shot, he plays on the PP in
junior. He showed us some good skill and mobility in July at camp. He is definitely
a guy we wanted to see play in a setting against other teams, not guys you had
lunch with at orientation camp.”
An intriguing prospect. A good tournament could get him invited to main camp and allow the scouts to see him up close a bit longer. He will need to be consistent all season in junior to get drafted, but he has a unique body type which allows him to be very strong on the puck.
“He could be a late bloomer. He didn’t get drafted. He comes from a
program where he was a leader on his team and he put up some good points in the
QMJHL (96 in 69 games last year). We had him at the development camp, and he’s trained hard all summer and
I’m curious to see how he performs in this tournament. He is very skilled.”
He is hoping to impress and he’s already signed an AHL deal. He likely will need to start in the ECHL and move his way up. He will need to score.
“If he wasn’t 5’8” we wouldn’t have him at this camp, because
he would have been drafted. He is close to a 100-point guy in the WHL (50-45-95) from Medicine Hat
and he is incredibly skilled. Size was the only reason teams didn’t draft him.”
He still has one year left of WHL eligibility. I’ve seen him dominate the Oil Kings a few times. He is a dynamic offensive player, but as Carriere said his size is an issue, but Tyler Johnson proved hard work and elite skill can trump a lack of size.
This is a fun tournament to watch. The kids are fired up to make an impression to their NHL organization, while the free agents are desperately trying to get noticed. The games are intense, and a bit more free flowing because there isn’t time to have a strong emphasis on systems or continuity amongst lines.
I’m certain McDavid will play two of the three games, similar to Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins when they were at the camp. My best guess is he plays Friday and Monday.
ADDED…MAIN TRAINING CAMP…
If you were planning on attending training camp, you have to enter a priority draw. The camp is in Leduc and the rink isn’t big enough to handle the demand. You can enter here. Good luck. I guess this McDavid kid is a big deal.
The NFL kicks off tonight and I will doing my show live today (2-6 p.m) from The Burg (102 ave and 104 street), Canada’s only official bar of the Pittsburgh Steelers. They made a deal with the Steelers and they will have some pretty cool giveaways, prizes and food during NFL season. We will be giving away the above framed picture (courtesy of Pro Am Sports) as well as many other great prizes tonight. If you are Steelers fan, or just a die-hard NFL fan you should stop in.
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