As the Oilers gather this morning in Leduc, we’re all watching each player (well, our favorites and a few others) and how they perform during the next two weeks. Does it matter? Yes and no.
WAY TO GO OUT ON A LIMB!
Hey, I wish there was an answer (it would make this story hum a little better) but NHL teams head into training camps with most of the jobs already decided. In fact, one of the big early stories for Edmonton this camp is Leon Draisaitl, who has a chance to win a job—that’s one of very few openings. Fortunately for Oilers fans there are more than the usual number of jobs open this year:
- Backup goalie (a race between Ben Scrivens, who should win it, and Anders Nilsson. The club didn’t bring in Nilsson to whistle, so he’ll get a real look).
- 5-6-7D (after Sekera-Fayne and Klefbom-Schultz, it looks like a fairly even race between Nikita Nikitin, Andrew Ference, Eric Gryba and Griffin Reinhart. Darnell Nurse and Brandon Davidson are also in photo).
- 3L (Leon has the first chance with checkers like Lauri Korpikoski available to jump in as needed).
- 14F (There are about 500 candidates, including the possibility of running 8D—or even 3G—to start the year).
It’s probably reasonable to assume the following jobs are secure:
- G Cam Talbot
- D Andrej Sekera, Mark Fayne, Oscar Klefbom, Justin Schultz, Andrew Ference
- C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Connor McDavid, Anton Lander, Mark Letestu
- L Taylor Hall, Benoit Pouliot, Matt Hendricks, Luke Gazdic
- R Jordan Eberle, Teddy Purcell, Nail Yakupov, Lauri Korpikoski
That’s 18 of 23, or 78%. If you add Nikitin and Gryba to the blue (most likely) we’re pretty much done (Scrivens, Leon, final F or D). There’s less certainty though, I think Todd McLellan is going to take the best 23 men to war with him.
There are all kinds of examples from last year of great performances that went unrewarded and poor performances that were overlooked. Example: The goaltenders:
- Viktor Fasth in TC: 3GP, 1.52 .944
- Ben Scrivens in TC: 3GP, 2.26 .898
Small sample and all, but Ben Scrivens was in fact struggling leaving the station one year ago. Dallas Eakins chose Scrivens October 9 (5GA, loss), October 14 (3GA in a relief role), October 15 (6GA, loss), October 17 (1GA, loss). Fasth started October 11 (4G, shootout loss), October 14 against the Los Angeles game (he was injured in that game). Starting Fasth out of the box may have been the better way, and pre-season numbers did indicate that might be a plan. Still, hockey men are hockey men and we have to admit that’s a small sample size.
- Vladimir Tkachev went 3GP, 0-3-3 and continued to wow everyone. He also took playing time from Oilers prospects, as management incorrectly identified Tkachev as a prospect they could sign.
- Bogdan Yakimov went 5GP, 1-1-2 and impressed with size and mobility. It did earn him a callup and it’s reasonable to believe at least part of that came from pre-season impressions.
- Leon Draisaitl went 6GP, 0-2-2 and played well enough to earn an NHL job.
- Darnell Nurse went 6GP, 0-2-2 and played well enough to earn an NHL job.
- The two men above earning NHL jobs last year says as much about the depth and balance of the Oilers as it does about their performance.
Pre-season numbers 2014-15 are here.
Brad Hunt was in the opening night lineup for Edmonton last fall, Martin Marincin was in the minors and the Oilers were taking their time sussing out the defense—Darnell Nurse didn’t play his games until October 14 and 15.
Todd McLellan may value pre-season performance in a different manner, but over the years observing this stuff it doesn’t seem to have much rhyme nor reason. I remain convinced Tony Hand is the most famous pre-season Oilers All-Star of all time, although that kid Tkachev came pretty damn close last fall.