— Norfolk Admirals (@NorfolkAdmirals) October 16, 2015
The Oilers new ECHL farm team, the Norfolk Admirals, get their season underway tonight. Most times at hockey’s Double-A level, there are few, if any, decent prospects, but the Oilers have a handful of signed players with the Admirals who are under the guidance of new head coach Eric Veilleux.
Up front the most-recognizable name is that of Greg Chase. After impressive rookie and training camps last season, Chase was expected to come into the 2015-16 season as the type of player who could provide the Triple-A Bakersfield Condors with some bite and energy in the lineup. That wasn’t the case, however, as Chase was handed a somewhat surprising demotion to Norfolk. He needs to recollect himself quickly to stay in the good books of the Oilers, and it seems that he is headed in that direction.
“His attitude has certainly bounced back. He’s played well with the puck and shown some creativity in manufacturing scoring chances. Not only for Chase, but for a lot of young players, they have to forget about the good ol’ days of junior. Now it’s a matter of being responsible at both ends and be reliable defensively. You have to learn the defensive game and be good at it. Chase has shown a lot of skills. He just needs to be more reliable defensively.” -Veilleux
Chase, potentially a steal as a seventh-round pick in 2013, will start the season on the Admirals’ second line alongside Josh Currie and Maxime Legault. Joining Chase up front is Oilers’ 2013 second-round pick Marco Roy, who will centre the Admirals’ third line with Alexis Loiselle and Alexandre Ranger. It’s been a tough road for Roy to navigate since getting drafted. He failed to land an entry-level contract from the Oilers and wound up being signed as a minor-league free agent. After several underwhelming performances, Roy showed some signs of life during Norfolk’s training camp.
“I saw him in junior at the Memorial Cup last year and he was OK, nothing special. During Bakersfield’s camp I saw him for two days and he was just OK. But once he got here, he had a great camp. I’m not saying I’m surprised because I’ve seen it before that when a player gets comfortable with where he is, he starts to play better. I told him yesterday the way he was playing was awesome. The key for him is to play a good two-way game.” -Veilleux
Connor Rankin, who was signed by Bakersfield at the same time as Braden Christoffer, is on Norfolk’s reserve list due to injury.
Under normal circumstance, Oilers prospect Ben Betker might have at least started the year in Bakersfield, but he got ticketed for Norfolk for two reasons. One, the Condors are stacked on defence especially with Darnell Nurse at least temporarily in town and Nikita Nikitin’s pending arrival, and two, both Dillon Simpson and Martin Gernat are returning from injury at some point.
Betker is better served in Norfolk for now anyway since he’ll play in the top four, and he got off to a good start in a pre-season game against Reading.
“He’s done very well. We had two hard weeks of practice during camp and he was tough, physical, and responsible as well.” -Veilleux
In goal, the Admirals are going with Ty Rimmer and rookie Philippe Cadorette, who was Veilleux’s netminder with the QMJHL’s Baie-Comeau Drakkar. Norfolk may wind up getting Eetu Laurikainen if and when the Condors’ goaltending mix straightens out. Currently, Laurikainen is the back-up to Laurent Brossoit but if Ben Scrivens’ impending arrival comes to fruition the Finnish netminder floats to Norfolk where he’ll be the No. 1 guy.
AYE ADMIRAL: A handful of last season’s ECHL Condors are still in the system and made the move to Norfolk including top d-man Gabriel Verpaelst and winger Jonathan Lessard. But Jordan Kremyr, last season’s Condors captain, was deemed expendable and traded to Tulsa.