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Oilers fall to NAIT/MacEwan All-Stars despite 49 shot effort

For years it’s been a tradition to have the Oilers rookies take on the University of Alberta Golden Bears. The two teams squared off 26 times since 1988 (a short hiatus between 2009-12) and this annual game often allows fans and media alike to get their first live looks at the future of the club.

Over the course of the past few years, the likes of Jordan Eberle, Darnell Nurse, and Oscar Klefbom have made appearances. Fans have been especially spoiled over the past three years with Draisaitl, McDavid, and Puljujarvi all getting into the lineup.

This year, things were a little different. It was the first time in three years that the game didn’t feature a top 5 pick from the previous draft. Also, the Golden Bears were no longer the opponent instead an all star team from NAIT and Grant MacEwan took on the team of Oilers prospects.

The organization only had roughly 16 sections open for fans to sit and if you were expecting the place to be packed with Oilers fans, you would have been disappointed. While there was a healthy dose of Oilers jerseys in the crowd, most of the people I chatted with came simply to support their schools.

The atmosphere in the rink was solid. The sections weren’t jammed packed, but the crowd had a bit of college atmosphere that was captured perfectly when a group of students were shown chugging two or three drinks at a time on the big screen. Nothing says college like drinking on a Wednesday!

Despite their clear underdog status, the NAIT/MacEwan All Star Team didn’t make a ton of mistakes and just kept things simple. They capitalized on the few opportunities they got and although at times it appeared they were just hanging on by a thread, they deserve a tonne of credit just for keeping this game close, never mind coming away with the win.

Of course, a bulk of the praise needs to go to the two goalies. Marc-Olivier Daigle and Nathan Park both played outstanding, splitting 49 saves in the shutout effort.

As for the Oilers prospects, they just didn’t look comfortable for most of the game, despite dominating the play. I mean, all you had to do was look at the shot clock once to final buzzer went to see just how much of the play was in the NAIT/MacEwan end. But the Oilers made multiple passes that missed by a few inches and forced too many cute plays. They basically played the exact opposite style of play that NAIT/MacEwan did.

You could pick out a few negatives, but you could also find a good amount of positives with some of the individuals in the Oilers lineup.

Most fans, including myself, paid extra attention to Kailer Yamamoto who, despite having a bit of an off night, showed some flashes of his strong hockey sense throughout the game. He just oozes potential and the thought of his creativity one day being on a line with #97 has me drooling.

Like I said, Yamamoto did have some rough patches throughout the game. He was sent to the box twice in the middle frame and seemed frustrated. There were also a few plays where he was caught a step ahead going into the offensive zone and couldn’t quite drag his leg enough to keep the play alive. *insert cliche height joke*

Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones were playing on the same pair for most of the game and based on the way these two worked, you’d swear they’d been playing together for the past decade. They worked the blue line very well in the offensive zone and when they were on the ice, they controlled the play.

I always felt like expectations needed to be tempered when it came to these two, but I believe the hype now. These two guys are going to be legit and I’m giddy about it.

Joseph Gambardella had a solid night as well. He wore the ‘C’ for this one and was definitely one of the Oilers better forwards. He had some solid offensive looks, most notably a shorthanded breakaway in the second period in which he couldn’t quite slide his shot through the pads of Marc-Olivier Daigle.

As the game continued and the Oilers chances piled up, you could tell they were beginning to get frustrated. William Lagesson was playing like there was literally two crucial points on the line. He drove the net hard a few times in the third and whenever there was a scrum after the whistle, you knew the big Swede was going to be right in the middle of it.

Oil Kings forward Trey Fix-Wolansky really turned on the jets in the third period as well making two Connor McDavid like rushes through the neutral zone, and I don’t throw that term around loosely. He gained speed and created a couple really nice looks that came dangerously close to tying this game up.

The Wrap

In the end, despite throwing everything they had at the NAIT/MacEwan All Star, the Oilers couldn’t buy a goal. It was really as exciting as a 2-0 game can get and provided a good look at some players who may get lost in the shuffle once the main camp begins.

Speaking of the main camp, being back in Rogers Place watching hockey increased my excitement for the upcoming season tenfold. Can we please fast forward to October 4th yet?

  • Space Pants

    I caught those girls with the tripod of drinks going with straws stuck in their mouths, but the highlight of the night for me was the guy who stuck out his phone in front of the camera and it read “F**K KESLER”. I absolutely burst out laughing instantly. Awesome stuff.

  • OriginalPouzar

    My overall thoughts on the Prospects Camp:

    Overall the young defensive talent is through the roof.

    Mantha was pretty darn good in the first game but fell off after that. Didn’t accomplish too much tonight against the students.

    Bear and Paigin showed some nice offensive skill throughout but both made a lot of mistakes in every game they played. They generally made mistakes early in games and got better but still, lots of mistakes.

    Paigin might just be adjusting to the NA ice but he had gap issued, backed in on his tenders quite often and got walked multiple times in each game leading to goals against.

    Bear was pressing passes and turning the puck over and had some defensive zone coverage.
    Definite offensive skill for both those guys – they both need time. Paigin isn’t close to NHL ready from the looks of it – it very well could be an adjustment to the ice issue.

    Jones, Lagesson and Samorukov thoroughly impressed me.

    Jones was by far the best of the group – calm, great skater, good decisions, nice offensive instincts, solid on the body.

    Lagesson was fairly solid and a much better skater and puck mover than I anticipated – I really hope he as a great year in Sweden and comes to NA next year.

    Samorukov was pretty calm for a just drafted 18 year old and a great skater – I’ve got big plans for him in 3 years or so.

    Yamamoto has a ton of skill, quickness and tenacity. Great stick picking off passes – great on the PK. He showed off the skill in the offensive zone but he was quite inconsistent and simply didn’t make all that much happen. Two offensive zone penalties in the game tonight as well as a terrible offside in the third negating a 3 on 1 down by a goal. He made a couple nice skill plays tonight but overall had a pretty bad game.

    He looks like a great prospect but, unless something happens at camp playing with real NHL players, he simply will not be in NHL games this year.

    Joe G did what was expected. As a more mature player with real NHL aspirations, he was an offensive leader. Nothing spectacular but consistently making good plays. I think he will compete with the likes of Brad Malone for a potential call-up, in particular if our PK needs help.

    Maksimov and Safin have incredible talent but are so different on the ice right now.

    It was actually Maksimov that was the more impressive player. His skill was on display on a more consistent basis – he was skating, backchecking and making plays.

    Safin was generally not that noticeable and then would show off incredible skill for a play (and the entire 3rd period against Van) – he’ll need to work on, well, working. It might also be an adjustment to NA ice.

    Butcher – well, he came out of nowhere – very shifty and skilled. He’s a small guy and older (21). He could surprise with a good year in the AHL and earn himself a contract in the sprint – distant bell.

    I was really impressed by Evan Polei, another player on an AHL contract – bigger body that was tough on the puck and showed offensive acumen in each game.

    The goalies – unreal good. Even Starret who gave up 4 goals played quite well in his game. Wells was very solid in his game and a half. Skinner was unreal good in his SO win – not just solid but spectacular. Wells and Skinner are likely 3 and 4 on Canada’s depth chart for the WJHC – I think Wells might make it but Skinner has some work to do.

    • OldBalls99

      Wow OP. That is a great synopsis! Are you a professional blogger or something? I agree with your assessment of the D. Jones for me is more NHL ready than any of them. One year in the AHL and he will be ready. Alas he will likely be trade bait for an impact player in our cup run. I thought Lagesson played Div 1 NCAA? I was impressed by him as well.

      Thanks for the well thought our post.

      • HardBoiledOil 1.0

        too early to label Benson over Debrincat a “mistake”. if Benson can get over his injury woes, it might be a lot closer between the two ! and i’d like to see the 5’7″ Debrincat play regularly and not get killed in the NHL first before declaring him the better player of the two.

    • madjam

      Crapped the bed and a major bust ? No . He did not seem to live up to the hype surrounding him at this level of competition , which leaves one wondering how he could fair in tougher NHL conditions . Entire forward group was not that impressive . Who might Yam turn out to be – a cross between T.Marchant or J.Eberle ? Eberle ( another 22 draft pick) took 3 years to crack lineup , and unless Yam shows a lot more at main camp then he might be a 3 year prospect as well . Lots of potential talent in rookies , but a lot of rough edges to alleviate to make jump to NHL . For forwards , none looked as good as last years rookies in Gagguilla or Jesse . That should have been expected for forwards at least . Defence prospects are showing not to badly at least . From last 4 games Polei (play and special teams) and Jones look like they could press for main club depending how they do against better competition . Had hoped Gambardella would have shown more at this level of competition , but I thought he under performed and did not dominate as expected .

      • Roberto

        I think Yam will be fine too… maybe even starting at main camp. I think some props are due to Nait/McEwan…. Edmonton has a lot of pretty good hockey players around. Some props are due to the ACAC kids who likely spend a lot of the summer drinking Ice Cold beer, beating the Oilers Rookies at the start of the season.

        • the reasonable person

          Yes indeed. My observations of the game were that the Jones and Bear defence pairing were the most noticeable in a good way, I like Polei (but don’t see him in the NHL this year and it’s still an uphill climb for him to get there), and kudos to NAIT/MacEwan. The calibre of hockey around here is as good as it gets and the depth of good hockey players is off the charts.

      • Spydyr

        Last week you had Yamamoto winning the Calder and now you have him as a major bust. Madjam you have to put down the kool-aid and get off the roller-coaster. He is what I said he was weeks ago. At least two years from being considered for the NHL and then only if he puts on some weight.

        • madjam

          Contraversey and hype are always fun in off season to create interest and dialogue . Yam could yet prove to be more than shown so far , in main camp . So could a few others . They are not out till they are cut from main squad . What part of NO to Yam being a bust did you not understand .

      • the reasonable person

        I’m glad you pointed out that Ebs took 3 years to crack the lineup. Yammer clearly isn’t close yet and we as Oilers’ fans probably just have perverted expectations from all the years of having a top 5 (or 1 overall) right from age 17 the year before into the lineup year after year. But given that Ebs took 3 Yammer might have top 6 potential in 3 and I think a realistic progression is even more WHL scoring this year, good World Juniors, then hopefully WHL leader in points at age 19 then we’ll see about NHL regular at 20. Get him into Bakersfield games as soon as his WHL season ends in each of the next 2 years.

        A 20 year old season in the Bake if necessary and frankly, use as needed for trade deadline bate for a solid rental in the right year.

        • madjam

          I have not completely written off Yam as yet for this year despite his stature and slow start . Oiler history shows why that might not be such a good idea . Vladimir Tkachev in 2013 was so good early , Oilers offered him a ELC only to have NHL recind it . He is now 21 and still only 144lbs. , but second in scoring on his present team . Have no idea if Oilers own any of his rights or not . He looked like he was going to make team back in 2013-14 season , he was that impressive . Yamamoto looks better than Tkachev and if he starts finding back of net in exhibition his stock will rise substantially . Don’t be to quick to write him off with such a small sample to judge by . Tkachev was not even drafted as far as I am aware , but was quite the buzz back 4 years ago .

  • madjam

    Looking forward to next Monday’s split squad game , and some of the combinations that might play together in those games . If anyone is going to Oilers practices , can you show some of the combinations some of the rookies might be trying with and how they look .