Final chance to impress

HolyGrail

The Oilers have 32 players on the training camp roster, but Martin Gernat, Mitch Moroz, Iiro Pakarinen and Dillon Simpson are only here because they are injured. Once they are deemed healthy they will be sent to the AHL.

That leaves 28 players battling for 23 spots, but realistically I see nine players battling for the final five spots on the roster.

Ben Scrivens and Anders Nilsson are in a close race to become Cam Talbot’s back up.

Darnell Nurse, Brandon Davidson, Nikita Nikitin, Griffin Reinhart, Luke Gazdic, Anton Slepyshev and Rob Klinkhammer competing for the remaining three skater
positions.

Todd McLellan has been quiet on his plans to keep either 14 forwards and seven D-men, or 13 forwards and eight D-men. I don’t see one option having more
value than the other, but it will impact the aforementioned players.

Teddy Purcell is still injured, and he hasn’t skated in a week. If he
isn’t ready to start the season, Slepyshev could start the season with the
Oilers. If Purcell is on the active roster, Slepyshev will be in the minors
rather than sitting in the pressbox. He either plays in the top-nine or in the
AHL. I don’t see him as a fourth line player.

Davidson is caught in a numbers game and I suspect he goes to
Bakersfield.

I believe Nurse is also going to start in the AHL. He will be a fixture
on the Oilers’ blueline in the future, but  for now they will let him develop in the
AHL.

Gazdic will be on the roster. His teammates love him, and the Oilers want his specialized ability in the lineup on certain nights.

So Reinhart, Klinkhammer, Nikitin are fighting for the final spot.
Reinhart doesn’t need to clear waivers, and they’d rather have him playing every night in the AHL than rotating is as the 6th/7th D-man, so the Oilers might start him in
Bakersfield.

McLellan’s decision to run with two extra forwards or two extra D-men
will go a long way in deciding who stays and who goes.

I won’t read too much into who starts the year in Edmonton.
Injuries, trades and how players perform early in the season will also impact
how many recalls we see in the first month of the season. The opening night 23-man roster will look much different than the 23 players who finish the season in Edmonton.

Practice Notes…

Meow

  • The Oilers worked on the PP today in two specific
    units.
    Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle, Pouliot, Hall and Schultz were the first unit, while
    McDavid, Draisaitl, Lander, Yakupov and Sekera was the other.

  • McLellan and assistant coach Jay Woodcroft spent a lot of the PP time working on
    the breakout. If you can’t get out of the zone, it doesn’t matter how good you
    are in the offensive zone. They had six or seven different breakouts. “Schultzy might need a quarterback sleeve to call all the plays,” said Eberle. Woodcroft is in charge of the PP and he’s been working with the players on the multiple PP breakouts off the ice for a few days. He is a huge believer in having multiple looks, but also having some set plays off faceoffs in the offensive zone. 

  • Based on today’s D pairings in practice, it looks
    like Gryba and Ference could start the season as the third pair. If
    Ference is going to lose his spot in the top-six, I see the coaches allowing
    him to play his way out of it in the regular season, not in the preseason.
    Veteran players are often given the opportunity to let their play lose their
    spot, rather than have it taken from them.

  • McLellan ran a drill to emulate the final two
    minutes of a period. He asked Hall and Eberle if they can protect the lead and put them out as the penalty killers in a 5-on-4 situation. He fires the puck into
    the zone and says, “Let’s see it.” He wants all his players to feel comfortable
    and confident in any situation.

  • You have to think Talbot plays tomorrow and Saturday. He is the starter and you want him sharp to start the season. The back up battle is intriguing, however, ensuring the starter is ready should take priority over who wins the #2 job. 
  • Expect to see Draisaitl with McDavid and Hall for the remainder of the preseason. Purcell’s injury has opened up this spot for Draisaitl, and he might run with it. He has looked very good, but the next three games will offer more NHL-talented rosters, and it will give us a more accurate picture of how he looks against NHLers. I’ve really liked his game thus far.

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