The Oilers and Flames will play two preseason games on September 21st for the second consecutive year. Last year, the Oilers won 3-1 in Edmonton while the Flames were victorious 1-0 in Calgary, and tonight Oilers fans will get to see Connor McDavid against NHL players for the first time.
I always caution not to read too much into the outcome of preseason games, especially when much of the roster consists of AHL-bound players.
Justin Schultz had a goal, an assist, was +2 and was named first star in Edmonton’s home preseason game vs. the Flames last year. He never had a two-point game at home during the entire regular season. Some players are able to build off of a good start, and all the forwards would love to get some offensive confidence right away, but keep in mind it is the first game.
Tonight is more about the process than the result. Of course teams want to win, but Todd McLellan will be evaluating the effort, desire and how players are learning his systematic and stylistic demands.
I’ll be watching to see if the Oilers are more competitive and willing to battle for lose pucks. McLellan has made it clear that is what he wants from his team. He wants them to get used to going to the tough areas on the ice, driving the net, battling hard for lose pucks and not getting discouraged when adversity arrives.
In Edmonton you will see:
Talbot and Brossoit
Ramo and MacDonald
In Calgary fans will see:
Scrivens and Nilsson
- Luke Gazdic practiced with Group B all training camp, and that group is playing in Calgary, but Gazdic was switched and will play in Edmonton. I don’t think it is a coincidence he is playing in McDavid’s debut.
- The Oilers blueline in Calgary will face a much more skilled group of forwards than we will see in Edmonton, and I’m sure that is why Reinhart, Gryba and Nurse are playing there. Those three, especially Nurse and Reinhart, will be watched closely and it is better to see them against top-line NHL forwards, instead of the squad the Flames will dress in Edmonton. I’m not critiquing the Flames — most teams dress a more veteran lineup on home ice — I’m just saying it is a smart move by McLellan to get a better evaluation of the young defenders.
- Speaking of young D-men, I don’t see why anyone would be concerned about Klefbom’s contract extension that makes him a $4.167 million cap hit. Can you name one young D-man who received a long-term deal (6+ years) that hasn’t panned out recently? Travis Hamonic ($3.9 mill cap hit), John Carlsson and Roman Josi ($4 mill), and Jonas Brodin ($4.167 mill) are excellent deals. John Klingberg’s deal ($4.25 mill) begins this season. It is a very good signing. Klefbom is already a top-four D-man and he looks to be trending towards top-pairing status. If he reaches that his contract is a steal, and if he only remains a top-four it is a solid contract. I’d like to see someone explain why it is a bad deal or even much of a risk.
- Luke Schenn signed a five-year deal worth with a $3.6 mill cap hit, but his skating was an issue when he signed and it still is. Tyler Myers signed a seven year deal worth $5.5 mill, and while he struggled the first few years, he is now looking good. The Jets really benefit because his actually salary will be lower than his cap hit for the next four seasons. But contracts in the $4 mill range have yet to be a bust.
- The Letestu line has never played together and they are the ones who need time to create chemistry. The top lines have all played together at some point, at least a two of the linemates, but the fourth line has never skated together. They need to know the action of each other, because they will be in more defensive situations than offensive, which are more creative. To be a great shut down line you need to know where your linemates are and how they react in specific situations.
- Yakupov has played briefly with Draisaitl and Lander, but they’ve never been a trio. The big learning curve for all three offensive lines will be McLellan’s demand for puck support in the offensive zone. The third forward will be more down low, not high, at least not often during a contained cycle. McLellan is a firm believer in puck support and being closer together in the offensive zone, especially on the cycle. Expect that to become a staple in the offensive zone.
- Expect the Oilers to get down to three goalies after tonight’s two games. McLellan will then let Talbot, Scrivens and Nilsson each get a full game on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
- Do you want to go to tonight’s game? I will do a draw for a pair of tickets at 4 p.m. You can enter here.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers win 5-2 at home and lose 4-2 on the road.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid registers a point. He had a point in 45 of 47 regular season games in the OHL last year. He will get a point in his first preseason game.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Josh Winquist snips another goal. He is on an AHL deal, but he continues his hot streak from the rookie tournament and Bears game.
Recently by Jason Gregor: