Photo Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

McDavid Unlikely to Play in Preseason

According to Edmonton Oilers General Manager Ken Holland, it is more likely that Connor McDavid will play zero preseason games.

Take a deep breathe Oilersnation. I realize that isn’t great news, but read Holland’s entire quote before your mind wanders to places you don’t like.

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Holland addressed the media after the Oilers annual Barry Katz golf media golf tournament at the Edmonton Country Club earlier this morning.

Holland was asked what is the Oilers preseason plan for McDavid?

“If he was fully healthy he’d play two or three games,” said Holland. “This is a unique situation. Either (he’ll play) one game at most, or very likely zero. We have three weeks to go, and we are going to be conservative. We’d rather be safe than sorry. If he isn’t going to be ready for opening night, then he’s not ready.

“He was in Toronto all summer and he has a group of people who were working with him on his rehab. Mark Lindsay, Gary Roberts, his agent Jeff Jackson and some other people. I received constant videos. One or two videos a week of him skating and training. Our training staff and doctors were in constant communication, and they went and saw him in Toronto.

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“Everything we have heard all along has been positive. You guys have seen him skate. He’s involved in scrimmages and he’s been doing things down low in three-on-three games. He is in a good spot, but we might as well be conservative and safe.”

It makes sense to err on the side of caution. As Holland pointed out if McDavid wasn’t coming off an injury he’d likely only play two or three preseason games. If he skates in one I don’t see it being that much of an issue. Knowing McDavid, if he feels good, he will lobby to play at least one game. If he doesn’t play any games, I doubt it will impact him that much. But I understand if Oilersnation is a bit concerned. I suspect the angst won’t fully subside until you see him play a game, whether it is preseason or regular season.

Bouchard Development…

I asked Holland about his thoughts on Evan Bouchard and if he is leaning to him starting in the American League?

“My philosophy has always been to very patient with young players,” said Holland. “Now I did put Dylan Larkin on the Detroit Red Wings when he was 19, so for every rule there is an exception. I thought he (Bouchard) played very well in the two rookie games. I think he was our best conditioned athlete in the testing among all our rookies. So he has put his work in during the summer.

“I want to watch him play in the preseason. We have Persson who came over from Sweden, Lagesson, Bear and Jones from the American League. You have Bouch, Samorukov and Manning and all the defenders who were on the team. I, along with Tipp (Dave Tippett) are looking forward to watching preseason and see how it all plays out.

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“We are going to carry seven defenders. He (Bouchard) is not fighting for seven spots, he is fighting for one of the six spots. My philosophy always is when you are putting the roster together, I will say to the head coach when we are playing tell me who is in the lineup. If the young player isn’t in the lineup he is going to the American League. If he is in the lineup, then we have a further conversation about where he fits.

“I’d rather make the call during the season to call the player up than to make the call during the season to send the player down. I think it is easier on their mind and mentality to be working their way up than their way down. Young players have to take the job from a veteran,” explained Holland.

His last line should be music to Oilers’ fans ears. Work their way up rather than down. The seemingly endless cycle of rushing players has crushed this organization for decades. As Holland pointed out with Larkin, or course there are exceptions, but the vast majority of players need time to develop in the AHL. I’d much rather have to recall Bouchard because he is dominating in the AHL, than reassign him to Bakersfield because he is struggling in the NHL.

Put players in positions to succeed not fail. Playing with confidence is so important, and I believe it is vital to place them in a situation where their confidence can grow rather than disappear.

Puljujarvi Trade Talks…

Jesse Puljujarvi has 2-2-4 in four games for Karput. He is tied for the team lead in goals and points, and leads them with 23 shots. He is averaging 16:45/game, which is 6th among forwards, but only 50 seconds less than the 2nd most played forward. He is off to a decent start.

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Has there been any movement on trade talks?

“I believe there are teams out there who are interested, but I didn’t get anything (trade offer) that I felt was worth pushing to the final stages to get a trade done,” said Holland. “Things get quiet in late August and now with all the rookie camps things have gone more quiet. I’m not going to force something. If it is there, I will explore it, if it is not there…prepare to sit.”

Holland’s stance on Puljujarvi hasn’t changed since day one. If a trade makes sense for the Oilers he will make it. If not, he will wait patiently.


Feb 27, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Edmonton Oilers center Kyle Brodziak (28) looks on as he warms up before playing against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena. The Maple Leafs beat the Oilers 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Oilers will open training camp with 54 players on Friday morning. Six goalies, 16 defencemen and 32 forwards will compete for the 23 roster spots.

You can expect some young players to stick through the weekend, but Holland will make a few cuts on Sunday and Monday. I don’t believe Olivier Rodrique will play in the preseason. The Oilers would like him to focus on making the World Junior team, so they will want him playing in junior right away. I could see a few more players not getting any preseason action either.

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Kyle Brodziak is listed as one of the 32 forwards, but he won’t be on the ice. He won’t get medical clearance and will start the season on the IR. Holland addressed the bottom six competition and said many of those battling for spots will play between four and six preseason games.

Don’t be surprised if the Oilers make significant cuts after next Friday’s game against the Calgary Flames. The team is heading to Kelowna for a few days of team bonding on September 21st to 23rd, and I could see them down to 28-32 players by next Friday night.

And for those who want to watch training camp. Saturday is fan day and the doors open at 11 a.m. and remain open until 3:30. The players will be on the ice at noon and admission is free if you want to watch.

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