Notes from Oilers Skate

Photo credit:Tony Brar
Jason Gregor
9 months ago
There aren’t many openings on the Oilers’ 21-man roster. You could argue the only spot available is the 12th forward position, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the Oilers and head coach Jay Woodcroft. He knows what he has. It is more about getting what he has to play how he wants, but he won’t be on the ice with the players for another two weeks.
For now the Oilers players are skating, with David Pelletier, Dustin Schwartz and Ryan Marsh keeping things organized. While watching their first “open” skate earlier today, I wasn’t too concerned about who looked good, because I don’t think these types of skates are for that. But there were a few things I did notice.
They had 18 forwards on the ice.
McDavid, Draisaitl, RNH, Hyman, Brown, McLeod, Foegele, Holloway, Janmark, Ryan, Gagner, Caggiula, Sutter, Hamblin, Pederson, Malone, Griffith and Savoie. Rapheal Lavoie is in Washington for rookie orientation. The NHL has these orientation meetings every year for young players who could make their NHL teams. Evander Kane didn’t skate today.
There were 12 D-men with Ekholm, Ceci, Bouchard, Kulak, Broberg, Desharnais, Niemelainen, Gleason, Kemp, Dineen and Hoefenmayer. Nurse didn’t skate today.
Skinner, Campbell, Rodrigue and Pickard were the goalies. Ryan Fanti is banged up.
McDavid skated with Foegele and Hyman today. Draisaitl was with RNH and Brown.
Yesterday, McDavid was with Brown and RNH.
They will try many different combinations through the captain skates, and into the preseason. I won’t be shocked if Woodcroft uses the first 10-15 games to see which combinations work best, especially if he dresses 11 forwards some games.
Broberg was paired with Ekholm today, while Desharnais skated with Niemelainen on team blue. Bouchard skated with Kulak to start, but team white only had five D-men, so they rotated five guys and had different pairings.
The biggest question to be answered on the blueline is: How will Dave Manson deploy his defence? If they dress six, will it be Broberg or Desharnais? And if they dress seven, can he get Broberg enough minutes to help his growth and development? Ben Gleason, who signed a two-way deal and will start in the AHL, moves quite well. He should help Bakersfield.
About 25 minutes into the scrimmage James Hamblin crashed hard into the end boards while racing for the puck. It looked like he stepped on a stick. He was down for a few minutes, but did get up and skated off on his own steam. You hope it is nothing serious. He is going to be one of Bakersfield’s top guys and a recall option if injuries occur.
He doesn’t get talked about a lot, but Kulak was very steady. His skating really stands out in skates like this. He is effortless, and I could make a case he might be the most underappreciated player on the Oilers. He has been excellent the past two playoff years. He is an excellent third pair defender who can move up the lineup and not look out of place. He doesn’t make many mistakes.
Rodrigue had a good year last year, and was quite good down the stretch. It will be interesting to see what he does this season. Could he become an NHL option in the near future?
Brown has a similar relentless work ethic as Hyman. It will be interesting to see if Woodcroft plays them together or if he wants one on each of his top two lines.
I felt like I was watching a 1980s game with no advertising on the boards.
The Oilers’ next “open to media” skate will be next Monday or Tuesday. Only one or two a week are open, which is fine, since there isn’t much to report on.
The good news is the first preseason game is 17 days away.

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