Edmonton Oilers make their first seven cuts of training camp

Jones, Caleb

Todd McLellan wasted no time in shrinking the Edmonton Oilers’ training camp roster Tuesday. The morning after the club’s first significant pre-season contests, the Oilers announced seven cuts, reducing the cap roster down to 51 names.

These moves come on the heels of a pair of goaltending assignments, with Dylan Wells having been returned to junior and Keven Bouchard being released. Defenceman Kayle Doetzel was previously shipped out. 

This cull would seem to have been scripted well in advance. The players above are all either guys on AHL-only contracts or junior players young enough to have no legitimate shot at making the Oilers out of training camp. Under McLellan, Edmonton hasn’t been big on keeping these sorts of players around any longer than the opening days, so nobody listed here is a surprise.

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No changes were made in net, though it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the team try to get down to four goalies soon. Cam Talbot will be the starter out of the gate, while Jonas Gustavsson and Laurent Brossoit will hang around late into camp. The handling of Nick Ellis will be interesting; I’d guess he sticks around for a bit to keep the goalie numbers even, with Eetu Laurikainen being shipped out in the near future. 

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The Oilers still have 16 defencemen in camp, and will need to get that number down to eight or nine (Andrew Ference being likely to spend the year on injured reserve). We can be reasonably sure that six guys have jobs (Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Andrej Sekera, Brandon Davidson, Darnell Nurse and Mark Fayne). The seventh and perhaps eighth slots should be a fight between Eric Gryba, David Musil, Jordan Oesterle and Griffin Reinhart. My guess is that barring injury only one of those players makes the cut. 

I have Matt Benning, Dillon Simpson and Mark Fraser as being a bit behind the group fighting for jobs, but mileage may vary and any of the three could end up staying late into camp. Benning, in particular, will be well-served by being a right shot and sometimes the polish of those college guys surprises. Ben Betker is the low guy on the totem pole and probably gets sent out shortly, perhaps at the same time as Joey Laleggia. 

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Most of the cuts will come up front, where that list of 30 names needs to be knocked down to 13 or 14. 

We can start by locking in the obvious players. Milan Lucic, Connor McDavid and Jordan Eberle are probably going to be the team’s top line. Benoit Pouliot, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl and Patrick Maroon are going to play top-nine roles. Matt Hendricks, Mark Letestu and Zack Kassian are going to be on the roster, too, and I’d be very surprised if Nail Yakupov didn’t start the year in the NHL. That’s eleven names, leaving just two or three spots for the other 19 players still in camp. 

Of those 19, I count 11 players with a real shot at one of those jobs. I’d handicap it this way:

  • Kris Versteeg (PTO) – 15 goals, 38 points in the NHL last year
  • Iiro Pakarinen – He has a one-way deal and the coach clearly likes him
  • Anton Lander – Most coaches want at least on of their spare forwards to be a centre
  • Jesse Puljujarvi – He’ll be in the NHL this year, but a month in the ‘A’ won’t hurt him any
  • Tyler Pitlick – He needs to stay healthy. It’s good to see him playing well early
  • Drake Caggiula – Rookie pros generally don’t stick around unless they’re in the top-12
  • Taylor Beck – A big guy who can score a bit and has 87 games of NHL experience
  • Jujhar Khaira – He has another year of waiver exemption, and there’s a lot of competition 
  • Anton Slepyshev – His AHL numbers suggest he isn’t ready, but he did make the team last year
  • Jere Sallinen – Undersized role player didn’t score much in the KHL last year
  • Ryan Vesce (PTO) – He had good KHL numbers and has histoy with McLellan, but he’s also 34

After that come the obvious cuts. Tyler Benson’s young and hurt and will be back in junior at some point, while Josh Currie, Kyle Platzer, Ryan Hamilton, Braden Christoffer, Mitch Moroz, Patrick Russell and Greg Chase have to be seen as being AHL-bound.

It’s early days yet. We’re still a dozen players away from when the choices get really interesting.  

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS



  • Chainsawz

    Would have liked to see Bear and Jones for another match… Chase didn’t crack 9 minutes last night, thought he’d get cut early. Was he hurt last night?

  • Shawn Cronin

    Stauffer has been pumping the tires of Benning on his radio show so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Oilers are hoping he sticks around longer than he should. “Mmmmm-Kay” – Bob Stauffer, every 2 mins.

  • ubermiguel

    Versteeg looked like an NHL player last night; a bit slow, and bit small (knocked on his ass a couple of times), but he knew where to be and how to generate chances. Pitlick was great last night, genuinely earned that 1st star. What’s his waiver status? I could see that being a determining factor. Puljujarvi could use some AHL seasoning, he was lost last night. Beck was out of position a lot last night, didn’t realize he had actual NHL experience, it didn’t show.

  • Warred

    I am surprised to see bear sent down so early. If he is supposed to be a good as we keep hearing he could become i would’ve liked him to stay longer learn from the current NHLers just so he could develop his own methods and hopefully curve his development in the proper direction.

    • fran huckzky

      Young guys with no chance of making the big team are much better off getting back and leading their junior teams than sitting around and practising with the big team. If Ethan continues to develop his opportunity will come. This is what happens when we are finally get depth throughout the organization.

      • Warred

        its fair to send guys back but letting them practice in an environment outside their comfort zone and rise their compete levels to that of the guys around them that have or are trying desperately to make the big squad. Having these guys who hopefully dominate at the junior level practice day in and day out with the guys hoping to making the cuts down there seems like a less productive use of the preseason time. Im not saying that these guys stay the whole time just let them play with the big dog learn grow battle battles that they shouldn’t out right win every time like we hope they should in junior.

  • Jordanzza

    Jonathan, do you foresee a scenario where the Oilers start the year by sending Nurse down to the AHL for seasoning? IMHO a long stretch of top pairing minutes down there would do wonders for him. He struggled mightily at times last year. To be honest, I’d rather have Musil or Oesterle playing left side with Fayne on the bottom pairing with Gryba in at 7th. Reinhart and Nurse both have the pedigree to be dominant and enduring top 4 defensemen but we could damage their progress (and team success) by putting their carts before our horse, no?

  • vetinari

    When they make a cut, they should post a video on their website of Hunter chasing the player through a typical horror film setting (i.e. a haunted house, a tree lined country road, a back alley), jumping out, wrestling the player down and hauling the screaming player away by the leg into the darkness to the sounds of growling and bones crunching… or just send out a Tweet… you known, whatever works.

  • Drew R. Fan

    From the few highlights I saw last night Big Ben Betker looked like he had a solid game. Big hit and a fight. Exactly what the oilers need. Hope he makes it tough for the staff to cut him. Although I agree that the top 6 spots are locked up already. Would be nice to see someone come out of nowhere on this oilers team and steal a spot for once.