The Penticton Young Stars tournament is over for the Oilers, although they move on to play the Golden Bears on Wednesday. It was three games against
their peers for young Oiler prospects to show their stuff to the club. The baby
Oilers played the Canucks, the Flames, and the Jets. Here are a few things I
took away from the tournament.
The Oilers took their shiny new toy out of the box for
almost 60 minutes in the very first game and they didn’t like the way the other
kids were playing with it. They immediately packed him back up in only the
finest bubble-wrap and put the box on a shelf far away from where those good
for nothing little kids could reach.
Connor McDavid looked eminently talented in his only game
action but he also looked rusty. He’s going to play again on Wednesday in front
of the Rexall faithful but I doubt playing him one more game would have hurt
him. Whether they like it or not, shutting him down for the tournament after
the Virtanen hit made it look like the club was afraid.
And as for the suggestion that there’s nothing for McDavid
to prove because we all know he’s going to make the team: Well, the same was
true of Hall and the other Oiler rookies who attended this tournament in the
past and played in two games. McDavid is different from those players, but I don’t
know why they want to treat him differently already. He should be going through the same paces as everybody else.
Kid’s a hockey player. He should have been playing hockey.
Leon Draisaitl looked incredible for most of the tournament.
He’s a play making machine and an absolute tank when he’s carrying the puck.
Everybody talks about his ability to make plays on the backhand. Some have even
suggested he does it too much. Those people are simply making face-noise when
they try to speak.
Draisaitl’s work on the backhand is a weapon that should be
celebrated. He makes plays that are otherwise impossible look easy. I can’t
imagine what would possess anyone to complain about it. He used those skills to put up five points in three games. He’s a great prospect even if overshadowed.
While we’re at it, the slow skating Draisaitl who needs to
work on his footwork showed time and again that he had the wheels to blow past
defenders. I’m sorry but anyone who continues to beat that drum is completely
out of touch with reality. It’s going to be my litmus test for who actually watches
the games and who just repeats inane talking points
CHAOS & NURSE
— Connor McJeanshorts (@JSBMjeanshorts) September 13, 2015
The Young Stars prospect tournament is a tournament with extremely limited
coaching influence on the team. They are effectively gathered then thrown onto
the ice for the games. The structure and systems for the teams are loose at
best. That makes defensemen in particular more prone to look bad.
Some people have been critical of Nurse’s play at the
tournament, citing him trying to do too much offensively. I would suggest to
those people that we wait until main camp and into preseason before making
those judgments. Defensemen at these tournaments often have to jump up into the
play because the breakout formations aren’t familiar to everyone. If Nurse has
the puck and nobody knows what he’s going to do with it, and he doesn’t know
where they are going, he’s going to skate it out himself.
I thought Nurse showed off his ++ skating ability, his
toughness, and his offensive ability. Judging by how terrible the D looked
without him on Monday afternoon I’d say he proved how valuable he was
defensively, too. It’s too early yet to make a judgment on if he can play in the
NHL right away. It might not matter anyway — even if he is ready, I don’t think
the Oilers are ready for him. Too many contracts in the way.
He was quiet for long stretches but unleashed some shots
that raised eyebrows. He’s a big kid who didn’t exactly stand out except
for a few flashes, I thought. One thing I did notice was that his work in the
corners looked really good. He should be able to use his physical advantage on
the forecheck. My gut tells me the switch to North American ice is something he
will adapt to over a time but when he does he could be very good.
He was a filthy player with enough skill to put the puck in
the net after driving the opposition crazy. He threw a surprise attack elbow
towards Jake Virtanen’s chin after Virtanen belted McDavid. The thing he will
need to work on is walking the line after the whistle is blown. He took some
dumb penalties that negated power play opportunities for things like
unsportsmanlike conduct. He has to find the line and stay there without going
over. That’s tough to ask of a rookie pro who will not get the benefit of the
doubt from the officials, but that’s the role Chase wants to occupy. He has to
figure it out.
THE GRAND WINQUISITOR
Josh Winquist looked like a man on a mission in this
tournament. In three games he had four goals and one assist. Yes, at 22 he was one of the older players, but he flashed a lot of
skill for a kid with an AHL-only contract. With his final seasons in the WHL
being a point per game or well above, that offense hasn’t come out of nowhere.
He might find himself with a real ELC sometime this year if he continues to
progress offensively in the AHL.
AND THE PROFESSOR AND MARY-ANN
There were a few players among the rest of the kids who
attended that stood out in a game or two. Loiseau, Platzer, and Christoffer all
had very good tournaments. For that matter, so did Connor Rankin who looked
very shifty out there.
On the negative side of the ledger, I thought Betker and
Waltz looked poor and it was their skating that failed them. I really didn’t see
the positives in Ethan Bear’s game that I was hoping for either.
Lastly, I want Laurikainen to succeed. He was perfect in the
first game but looked human when the Oilers left him out to dry in the first
half of the game vs the Jets. Goalies, man, who knows what they’ll do tomorrow?