At First Glance
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
2 months ago
It’s Captain Obvious material to warn people not to put too much weight into one pre-season game, but even with a common-sense caveat like that in place, you’ve got to start somewhere. That’s what the Edmonton Oilers did Sunday in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Winnipeg Jets.
With a rematch between different rosters being played in Winnipeg tonight, the takeaways from Sunday at Rogers Place are many. Several are of the we-already-knew-that variety while others provide us something of a square-one perspective as the Oilers work their way into an eight-game pre-season schedule.
Even without scoring a goal, Jay Woodcroft’s top line of Evander Kane, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zach Hyman looked as good as you’d expect with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl getting the night off. The blueline pair of Darnell Nurse and Evan Bouchard looked just fine. No surprise on either count.
At first glance, Brandon Sutter, in the hunt for a roster spot after two years out with Long Covid, looked like what the Oilers need at fourth-line centre. Dylan Holloway, who got into 51 games with the Oilers last season, played 15:27, threw a big hit and looked ready to stake his claim at left wing on the third line. A lot of eyes are on 2019 first-round selection Philip Broberg, who logged 18:59 paired with Vincent Desharnais and looked fine.
Mar 27, 2023; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Edmonton Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft reacts in the first period against the Arizona Coyotes at Mullett Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
“Process-wise with him, we should expect him to play three of the first five exhibition games,” Woodcroft said of how he intends to handle Sutter. “He won’t be playing (today in Winnipeg), but he’s somebody that, I thought that line was very good tonight.”
“It just felt good to be out there,” said Sutter, who admitted to some pre-game jitters. “My kids were here and they haven’t seen me play in three years. They’re little, so they don’t remember anything, so it was kind of a special night for me.”
As for Broberg, Woodcroft said: “I thought Philip looked very comfortable. He made some really good plays with the puck. I thought he separated people from the puck defensively and was able to accelerate out.
“That’s the Philip Broberg I got to see in the American Hockey League on a day-in, day-out basis. He’s somebody that I think is just growing into who he can become, and today was a good first exhibition game for him.”
WHAT ABOUT BEAU?
Then there’s Beau Akey, the team’s second-round pick from the Barrie Colts in the Entry Draft this summer. We won’t see the poised 18-year-old blueliner for at least a couple of seasons, but he hasn’t looked the least bit overwhelmed, including yesterday. Akey, who was sent back to Barrie this morning, played 17:26 in a pairing with Ben Gleason.
“You can see why he was drafted where he was, he has poise, he’s competitive, he made a lot of really good plays with the puck and was unafraid of the stage,” Woodcroft said.
“Realistically, Beau Akey knows he isn’t playing for the Edmonton Oilers in the middle of October, but he wants to come in and leave an impression. One of the first steps to making the NHL is to show that you belong on the same ice surface as NHL players.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
What plays out with Sutter, Holloway and Broberg are stories for here and now. Throw in a glance down the road at a possible blue-chipper like Akey and you’ve got a snapshot of what this time on the hockey calendar always looks like with more to come tonight. Welcome back.
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