All Over The Place: Young Stars Thoughts

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.

MINT CONDITION

Mint

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.

DR DRAI

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

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.

SLEPYSHEV

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.

CHASE

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?

  • 24% body fat

    How do people still have chase above Platzer. Platzer is the better player. Looks like Lander 2.0.

    I guess maybe because we don’t have a Chase, but skill and talent wise Platzer is better.

      • Kevwan

        Your points made are all valid but think that like this quote he shows something that we need… And likely quite a bit more of. So if he comes to Penticton and didn’t play that way, he would have been doing himself a disservice. The idea that taking dumb penalties in these meaningless games is laughable. Chase certainly wouldn’t make the same plays in playoff hockey or when the games on the line in regular season. This is a showcase and he needed to assert himself in the way that got him drafted and to this level.

  • mcjesus take the wheel

    Matt : Nice breakdown . If it were your decision , would you go with Nurse , Reinhart , Draisatl and McDavid right from start of season to build their chemistry, etc. like Sather did in our glory days , or would you remain conservative and run with more incumbents ? In a nutshell – low risk high reward or remain low risk low reward ?

    • If I’ve inherited the Oilers exactly as they are in this hypothetical then I would have Nurse and Reinhart as my top pairing in the AHL until I can get rid of Nikitin and Ference or until there’s injury. I honestly don’t see a good way around that issue.

      I think Draisaitl could start in the NHL this year. I actually don’t see why he needs to be in the AHL, especially with Korpikoski currently slated for the 3rd line. Korp is barely an NHLer these days.

      • In our cap we have zero dollars for LTI (long term injuries ) allotted . So if Ference , Nikitin and Purcell all got injured first game and had to go on LTI list , we would still not save even one dollar off the cap for entire year . If we use Draisaitl and McDavid that would put us over the 5.175M bonus allotment if both got their bonuses . We look to be somewhat strapped on who we can use in case of injuries . Did Chia get let lose because of cap problems of the Bruins , and consequently they had to entertain getting rid off some very valuable assets in Lucic and Hamilton ? Can hardly blame their new group for not wanting to send Hamilton here .

    • BobbyCanuck

      Not realy. The oiler brass were scheduled to fly out Sunday. Flights were booked before tournament started………They knew then there would be nothing to see Monday afternoon.

    • Chris_Cruise

      It does feel like they’re being over protective doesn’t it?!

      You’d think Connor would be chomping at the bit to get back on the ice and impose his will. At the very least I’m sure he just wants to feel involved.

      As for Drai,….I’m sorry, but I still think he’s going to struggle in the NHL with those heavy feet. Unless his role is going to be that of a playmaker, I don’t see him having the necessary wheels to be a goal scorer. His reach and strength are good, but he can’t create any separation with his feet.

      • Reg Dunlop

        At the risk of being ridiculed by the author for disagreeing with him, last year demonstrated that, at the NHL level, Leon is not mobile enough on his pegs. Because he looked good in a prospect tourney, because he looked good in junior, and because our beloved Oilers selected him in the draft solely because the better and higher ranked available player seemed to be a duplicate of existing Oilers… these are the reasons for all the Leonphile going on here. Comparing him to Kopitar is silly. Being shorter, lighter, slower and far less experienced, he is closer to Brendan Gaunce. He actually reminds me of Matti Hagman who shuffled around the ice for the oil back in 1980.

        Does that qualify as face-noise? I guess so, since it is counter to the view of NHL-mensa Matt. Lucky for us, the season starts soon and the proof will surely be in the pudding.

        • braidonh

          Not really sure what game you’ve been watching. I respect that Draisaitl is not Kopitar. Nobody is saying that Leon Draisaitl = Kopitar. The rub is here, however; Brendan Gaunce is a laughable comparison. I’d like to direct you to the skills competition where Draisaitl was the fastest Oiler. If he ‘shuffle[s]’ as you say, I am curious as to how he can do this at a pace higher than that of the [as LT likes to say] bullet train that is Taylor Hall.

          I feel as if I should comment on the condescending comments directed towards Matt, but he’s a big boy and he doesn’t need it. Watch hockey, draw conclusions. I’m sure you’ve done your homework, but in this case, you’re objectively wrong.

        • Chris_Cruise

          Agreed.

          Wow….Seems as though Leon has become the new untouchable when it comes to criticism on here. It’s comical.

          We can all see that his first couple of steps are atrocious and need to be improved just like Tavares needed to improve his skating once reaching the NHL. Sure, once he’s given time and space to gallop his way to top speed he’s fast but that’s not how 99% of the NHL is played. It’s all about quick starts and stops, first couple of steps are much more important than top end speed.

          Tavares was a junior phenom like Drai, well, more so than Drai….except in order to become the NHL phenom Johnny T currently is, he really needed to work on his skating. Everyone could see it. Like Leon, he had all the tools to dominate Junior level kids but when that extra step is needed at the Pro level, he didn’t have it yet. What’s so wrong with pointing this out?! Why can’t you guys accept this obvious fact?! LMFAO!

          I’m not bashing or hating on the kid either, I hope for the absolute best for him and I hope he gets a great skating coach…perhaps hire the guy who helped Tavares. I’m just a little surprised that a year after his first stint with the Oil he doesn’t look any “quicker”. Still has a clunky stride and heavy looking feet.

          Once again, before all the hate pours in,….I hope for the best for him. I just have major doubts about him being able to keep up with the game similarly to how he fared last year at this time. I expected to see a little more progression at this point.

        • Kevwan

          Is Kopitar faster than Hall? Because Draisatl is. He proved it by winning fastest skater at last years Oilers skills comp

          Just because his legs don’t appear to move fast doesn’t mean he is not moving fast…

  • BobbyCanuck

    Nice comment about the back hand passing, does Drai have a good backhand shot as well?

    The back hand skill set seems to be disappearing, I noticed during the play-offs many players had a decent chance of a shot on net or pass via the back-hand, but chose to fuddle around in an attempt to get it to their forehand…thus missing the window of opportunity

  • Colin M

    Last season, MacT played many of the “Penticton Youngstars” during the big team’s exhibition games. The “regular players” often sat out. When the regular season started, the team was obviously rusty. I hope Todd McL uses the Oilers pre-season wisely to get the season off to a good start for a change.

  • “Then 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.”

    I think you’re forgetting Joey Legs here, Matt. He had an excellent couple of games. Highest scoring D in the tourney (one more point than Morissey in one fewer game) ; third best plus/minus (behind only Drai and Platzer); and, by me eye at least, showed himself to be able to defend as well as stir the drink offensively. I don’t think it’ll be very long at all before he’s eating Brad Hunt’s lunch down on the farm and pushing for a call up.

  • DaveChamp

    It’s important to remember when comparing McDavid’s playing time in the tournament to Hall’s and Eberle’s is that when you say “they” played Hall and Eberle differently than McDavid, you’re not referring to the same people. There is different management and different coaches. They’re allowed to have different ideologies when it comes to star player usage in a tournament where young “tough guys” are looking to make a name for themselves by taking a run at the most talked about player in the league. I think not playing him was the right thing to do. Let him play lots in the regular season but there was no need to play him more than one game with the rookies.

  • Pizzy

    i can understand mcdavid not playing back to back games. But sitting out Monday? As a fan who flew to kelowna to watch the tournement, i am extremely disappointed. Shame on the oilrs organization@

  • lav

    No point playing McD in a rookie showcase when TMC already stated it’s going to be a small group at camp. McD is probably going to be playing top 6 minutes. Why tire him out?

  • DaveChamp

    Thanks for a good wrap up Matt.

    You are spot on about the roster. A couple of dog contracts on D and bonus / cap issues pretty much have the starting line up set in stone.

    It was great to see the younger set making some names for themselves. That bodes well for a younger team next season. As the year wears on some older and overpaid NHL players will be moved. Lets hope they can over achieve before they go so we can maximize drafts picks for them.

    Defending national champs with a real team game should bring out the best in McDavid & Co. See you there!

  • ziyan94

    Like I’ve said in previous posts, I think Chase will be the ideal guy to play with Hall and McDavid.
    He can protect them, interchange w/ McDavid at C (backchecking, faceoffs), lead the forecheck in the dirty areas, while he also has the skill to capitalize on the chances they’ll feed him.

  • Kevwan

    I attended all the games in Penticton and thoroughly enjoyed them.

    One thing that I haven’t seen mentioned was the Oilers poor play in the first periods. OK against Vancouver but brutal against Calgary and Winnipeg. I found it mildly concerning.

    One player who stood out to me in a good way was Cole Sanford. Yes he’s small but never seemed out of position and made a ton of simple, good plays. He’s a very smart player and I thought he and Platzer were excellent together. I look forward to following him in Medicine Hat this year.