It goes without saying we shouldn’t read too much into today’s rookie game between the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, even though some people will, but it is significant in that it’s the first step of many in how the 2018-19 edition of the Oilers will take shape.
That’s compounded by the fact this off-season has been a lot longer than most people around here expected it would be a year ago. So, sure, I’m looking forward to seeing what Evan Bouchard, Kailer Yamamoto and, finally, Tyler Benson do today with the rest of the rookies, through main camp and into the pre-season. It’s past time to get started.
Guys like Bouchard and Yamamoto should, and usually do, stand out in rookie events like this, which is a change-up from the Young Stars Classic out in Penticton. The next step for them will be main camp. I’m also looking forward to getting my first look at Cooper Marody and seeing more from Ethan Bear. The way I see it at this juncture, these are the four youngsters at rookie camp with the best chance of taking a run at a roster spot as we move along. Am I missing anybody?
“The most important thing is their effort and will,” said Jay Woodcroft, who’ll run the rookie bench today and the Bakersfield bench this season. “Not to be pressured up, not to overthink things or be worried about concepts or systems. We’ve put our focus on the will to do things correctly and the ability to adjust if a mistake is made. For some of the younger players, this is their first camp and we want to make sure it’s an environment that’s encouraging. Let them know that mistakes will be made and that it’s not the end of the world . . .” There’s more here.
From the way Woodcroft has been running his lines, it looks like we’ll see Marody, who came over from Philadelphia at the deadline last March, in the middle between Joe Gambardella on left wing and Yamamoto on the right. Bouchard has been pencilled in on the right side in a defensive pairing with Caleb Jones against Calgary’s rookies. Marody and Jones were taken in the 2015 Entry Draft and both are 21, so I’d expect them to shine.
I’m wondering if Jones, taken 117th overall, might be ready to take a step and push for a job. What about Marody, taken 158th? Bear, who played 18 games with the Oilers last season, and Yamamoto, who played nine, will hog the spotlight in their rookie encores on the way to main camp, but the bar has been set higher for them. I, like most people, will be disappointed if they aren’t pushing to stay on the roster to start the season.
As always, we’ll find out soon enough. Let’s go.
David Staples at the Edmonton Journal was speculating the other day about a possible return to Edmonton by Taylor Hall based on the musings of Oilers Now host Bob Stauffer. What Staples wrote is here. Might Hall, who just won the Hart Trophy with the New Jersey Devils and will be a UFA in the summer of 2020, consider such a return?
As unlikely as it seems, and having Tweeted to Staples I don’t see much of a chance of it happening, I learned a long time ago to never say never. In an example Staples cited, I never imagined seeing Mike Comrie returning to Edmonton based on how he left here, and I was pretty close to that situation at the time. No chance. No way. Likewise, while I thought it would be a great story if Ryan Smyth returned, it seemed like a longshot.
Things change. The people and personalities involved in situations change. Right now, I don’t think enough has changed around here that a Hall return is very likely, even if the thought of playing with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl would be attractive. First and foremost, there’s no reason for Hall to consider Edmonton in 2020 unless the Oilers have a chance of contending for the Stanley Cup and the Devils don’t. Hall is going to get paid no matter where he ends up. Where can he win? Not here, not yet.
Second, will the Oilers be able to afford Hall in 2020 given the money they’re on the hook for in long-term deals with McDavid and Draisaitl? It’s possible, depending on how much money comes off the books and what happens with the salary cap between now and then. Even then, you’re looking at having $30 million or so tied up in three players.
I was never one of those “good riddance” guys when it came to Hall. He was guilty of nothing more than being the best player on some bad teams and he ended up saddled with more blame than he deserved. If – big emphasis on IF – circumstances were that Hall was willing to look at the Oilers in 2020, they’d be foolish not to take a look at him.