Afternoon session…Day one recap

CAM00538

Group A stepped on the ice at 10 a.m, and groups B and C came on at 12:45 p.m. You can see the Group A lineup here, and I suspect that group will play the Monday home game vs. Calgary, while Group B will be in Calgary Monday night.

After Connor McDavid made his first training camp appearance in the morning, fans got to see some other new Oilers; Mark Letestu, Cam Talbot, Lauri Korpikoski, Eric Gryba and Griffin Reinhart.

Group B

Pouliot-RNH-Eberle
Hendricks-Letestu-Korpikoski
Gazdic-Khaira-Pakarinen/McRae
Slepyshev-Yakimov-Klinkhammer

Klefbom-Schultz
Reinhart-Gryba
Nurse-Musil
Musil

Talbot
Brossoit

Group C

Moroz-Loiseau-Sanford
Winquist-Rankin-Chase
Roy

Laleggia-Betker

Bear-Gernat

Leveille-Jones

Rimmer
Laurikainen

CAMP THOUGHTS

  • Group C had a shorter practice than the first two groups. Group C consisted of players from the rookie camp, excluding Martin Gernat, who had ACL surgery in the summer. Gernat is still recovering, but even when he is healthy he will be hard-pressed to get any playing time in Bakersfield. The Oilers blueline depth is much better than previous years, and Gernat has been bypassed.
  • Players in group C seem destined for junior or to the AHL. It will be interesting to see if any of them play even one exhibition game. Laleggia would be the best bet to get in a game.
  • McLellan wasted no time giving us a glimpse of what the opening night forwards could look like. RNH and McDavid will centre the top two lines, Letestu has the checking line, while Draisailt centres a skilled line, who McLellan will likely try and get easier minutes.
  • The defence, however, is still very unpredictable. McLellan admitted as much yesterday, and the top-nine could look much different on October 8th than they did today. Today’s pairings have them ranked like this: 
    Sekera-Fayne
    Klefbom-Schultz
    Ference-Nikitin
    Reinhart-Gryba
    Nurse

    Nurse will have to earn his spot, which is fine. I think the top-four are likely going to stay together, but the battle for #5-#7 will be decided over the next few weeks, and will probably continue into the season. I can see a scenario where Nurse starts in the minors, but ends the season playing ahead of some of the other defenders. I could also see him outplaying the other four and winning a spot in the opening night roster. For me, the blueline battle is easily the most intriguing story line of training camp.

  • Tyler Pitlick needs to make a statement in preseason. He has play with an edge. He needs to be strong on the boards and step out of his comfort zone. 
  • It might not be much, but today at the end of Group A practice they had a conditioning skate and one player stood out for all the wrong reasons. Players started at centre, skated down the boards into the north end of the rink, curled around pylons just inside the blueline and then had to skate hard down the middle of the ice to the other end, then curl either right or left and skate down the wall and then curl back into the middle and skate hard again. They did this for about 3 1/2 minutes. Half way through it, Nikita Nikitin was breathing really hard. It is only one day, but based on what MacTavish said last year, this caught my attention. He looked more fatigued than anyone else.
  • I had a good chat with Anton Lander. He told me he and Draisaitl spoke before camp and they will rotate centre responsibilities based on who is the first one back into the zone. Faceoffs will switch based on who is feeling it. Lander spoke like a player who feels much more confident about his abilities. It probably helps that when he showed up at camp, he wasn’t listed behind Wil Acton on the depth chart. 
  • I had Brad Winchester on my show today discussing his retirement. He told a great story about his first playoff game, which was game two in Detroit in 2006. “Prior to the game MacT decided I should scoop up the octopus after the anthem. I had a latex glove on my hand, and after the anthem I waited until the guy threw it on the ice. I skated over and scooped it up before the Wings’ guy who usually picked it up and twirled it around could. I picked it up and carried it to our bench. Our guys loved it. It was a nice way to relax the team,” he said.

    Winchester also scored what he called “the biggest goal of his career” that afternoon in Detroit. It was his first NHL goal, and it is rare a player can say his first goal was their biggest. Thanks for the stories Brad, and I hope you enjoy retirement as much as Steve Staios enjoyed you picking up the octopus.

Brad_Winchester

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  • mcjesus take the wheel

    Gregor, you are a machine. Three articles, hosting your show and I saw you asking most of the questions in scrums in Leduc. Impressed with your work ethic. Great job letting us know what happened at camp. I’m pumped for the season.

    I agree the D will be the most competitive part of camp.

  • freelancer

    Great to see some consistency already. With respect to some of the AHL guys it’s nice to see the NHL guys pretty much all playing together. Training camp shouldn’t be the time to try and develop your prospects.

  • fran huckzky

    OH OH I made a prediction that Nikitin was going to fool a lot of people and have a comeback year. PLEASE NIK don’t make it appear that the one who got fooled was me.

  • fran huckzky

    Jason : Do you know if McLellan is a student or graduate of the John C. Maxwell Advanced Leadership Certification Program ? A lot of what he does , or is doing , seems along those lines . Examples : 1. Strategies for success/team networking 2. Helping others reach their purpose, vision and goals . 3.Power of abundant mindset .4. Inspiring positive life transformation ,etc..

    • Jason Gregor

      Why? RNH, Eberle, Pouliot, Klefbom, Hendricks, Letestu and Talbot will also be there.

      Do you think Nikitin is in good books because he plays at home? I think reading too much into where they are playing. It is how they play.

      • socaldave

        I think there is a good chance Calgary will try to be on him with an aggressive forecheck. Especially in the Saddledone. If they are, we may get some hint whether or not he’s upping his game.

        We may not but we’re certainly not going to be able to tell through practices.

      • The Soup Fascist

        I believe the league actually mandates a certain % of the lineup must have NHL experience for preseason games. Something like 11 players must have played a minimum of 50 NHL games. Those may not be the exact numbers but the point is the policy ensures you will field something that at least resembles a professional line up.

  • socaldave

    Just moved within the last half inch of tolerance for Nikitin……. If he’s really out of shape AGAIN (anyone know his fitness test results?), he’s gotta be done.

  • freelancer

    On a different note, pleasantly surprised to see a Draisaitl-Lander-Yakupov line. If it can get going and take advantage of teams having to zero in on the top 6 we could have some real secondary scoring.

    Not sure how I would feel about that line come road games though as teams would be matching their best against them. If we’re talking pairs, maybe a guy like Hendricks slots up onto the third line on the road?

  • socaldave

    Was listening to Ference’s comments on the Oiler’s site. Man, I wish the guys was better at hockey. Articulate, honest, great leader. Amazing off-ice captain … and he might not actually step on the ice all year.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Just watched some highlights on TV and saw TMac lay into the guys on the ice. Being this isn’t his first rodeo as an NHL coach he can absolutely do that and these players WILL listen. Love it! Seems like he is the kind of guy that will tell you to “&&@! &$@@!l” on the ice but then ask “how your kids?” off the ice.

    This team needs a royal kick in the keister!

  • The Soup Fascist

    I can’t see Nurse making the team to start the year, even if he earns it. There’s just too many guys with nhl contracts. What are the odds they’d ship Nikitin down to ride the bus? How’d his fitness testing go?

    Lander and Drasaitl switching C responsibilities depending on who’s back first? Any concerns that might cause some confusion from time to time?

    My favourite training camp story so far this year is Ho-Sang showing up late for isles camp and being immediately sent to juniors! Haha, that can’t help his reputation much!

      • Cheap Shot Charlie

        It’s fun to have a mouthy guy in the NHL like Ho-Sang or Avery…as long as he’s not on your team and he gets shown up on a nightly basis.

        Ever notice how scoring has gone down since Avery left the NHL? Coincidence?!? Bring out the matrix!

      • Stack Pad Save

        Have you ever met Ho-Sang? Had a conversation with him? Or are you saying this because he called out Hockey Canada for keeping him off their tryouts after being one of the most dominant young players in Jr. Hockey?
        Or do you just like to pick fights with teenage kids from behind your keyboard?

  • Stack Pad Save

    I really like the lines that McLellan is experimenting with in training camp. It is what the majority of Oilers fans knew that Eakins should have done. I really like it that he told the media to read into his lines.

    I like that he is pushing them in practice. Practice is where you can make players better, not by taking away their toys a la Dallas Eakins and the ping pong table and donuts.

    I also really like that the 4th line actually has players on it who can play.

    I can’t wait to see if any of the young defence man can move up the depth chart threw out training camp. Please keep the information flowing Gregor.

  • Spydyr

    TALENT IS NOT ENOUGH . McLellan seems to be filling team with between the ears wisdom and motivation on how to be more productive players and team members . How to rise above just skill or talent .

    • Anton CP

      I never understood Eakins obsession with fitness and health. These are proefsisonal athletes, they know all about what it takes to stay fit and healthy with some help from the Oilers training staff of course.

      It’s “assumed” you come to camp healthy and ready to go. MacT or any coach for that matter should never have to tell a professional athlete so. Eakins went WAY overboard with his beliefs on this. WAY overboard.

    • bazmagoo

      “Only Scott Howson knows.” Dear god I almost forgot that clown is still collecting a pay cheque. Good thing Katz is a billionaire with money to waste.

      • NJ

        He’s being described as generational now too. Seems to be thrown around more often now or maybe it is just a very good time of development. Watched some of his highlights in Europe and he looks very good.

        • Anton CP

          Auston Matthews is on par with Jack Eichel, he fits the bill of a professional hockey player. He understands that he will be the first overall pick for next year and he went over to Europe that he can play with grown ups to help him ready for NHL. He missed this year’s draft by only 2 days so he should be treated as same class as this year’s draft class. He would be a No.2 or No.3 picks if he entered this year’s draft. The gap between Matthews and everyone else is huge, I just hope that the Oilers won’t be in the lottery for next year. Also the next year’s tank battle will likely be between Arizona and Carolina, and maybe Nucks too.