The @Edmonton Oilers first group was on the ice this morning at 9:30 a.m. and @Connor McDavid was among the skaters. He took part in every drill and his usual explosive speed was noticeable. He likely won’t play in the scrimmages on the weekend, and won’t play this week in preseason games, as the Oilers continue to be cautious with their star player, but he looked like his normal self on the ice this morning.
Here’s what I noticed on day one.
1. It might be a small thing, but it stood out for me. The team was split up into two groups. Group A got dressed in the Oilers regular dressing room, while Group B (skated at noon) got dressed in the visitor’s dressing room.
For many years the veterans, regardless of which group they skated with, would dress in their dressing room, while younger players dressed in the visiting room. I like the fact Tippett had each group dress together, regardless of veteran status.
He has a reputation of making every player feel they are an integral part of the team, and while dressing room assignments might not mean much, for me it showed he wants the players to feel equal right from the day one. It was a subtle move by Tippett, but one the players will notice. I believe small things can add up to something bigger.
2. Group A lines were:
D Pairs were:
They rotated a lot because @Kris Russell didn’t skate. The goalies were Koskinen, S. Starrett and Wells.
3. Russell is in concussion protocol. He was in a collision in the Captain skate and they are being cautious according to Dave Tippett. Russell will rest for six or seven days and will not play in any of the four preseason games next week.
4. Group B lines were:
Nygard-Cave-P. Russell
@Mike Smith didn’t skate due to having the flu so Rodrique and Skinner were the only two goalies in the second group.
Interesting to see Gagner on the second line on his off-wing. Both he and Neal played their off-wing. Gagner is the most proven offensive player among those pushing for the 2nd line spot. I’m very curious to see if he starts the season there.
5. @Joel Persson (pronounced Yull Pear-sin) is very smooth with the puck. I liked his lateral movement as well and it is clear he is confident with the puck. It was impossible to tell how he can defend and that is what will determine how much he plays with the Oilers. He’s in a good spot starting with Klefbom, and I’m intrigued to see how he defends.
6. @Gaetan Haas moves very well. He stood out for me mainly because he is a right shot centre. Right now it looks like he and Marody will battle for the “third line” centre spot. I’m not sure Colby Cave has the offensive upside Tippett wants for that line. Tippett said he wants a quicker, smaller line with offensive potential and I’m not sure Cave fits there. We’ll see.
7. Ken Holland said earlier this week if a young player isn’t playing, then he will be in the AHL. It makes sense with Evan Bouchard, but what about Ethan Bear or Caleb Jones? If Persson and Benning are the 2nd and 3rd pair RD, would the Oilers want Jones or Bear in the press box as the 7th defender? I think they could to start the season, but if they only play once in the first ten games I could see them rotated up and down so they get playing time in the AHL. Neither requires waivers, but they are also still developing. Too much time in the press box isn’t ideal. Maybe Lagesson, because he is older, might get the 7th spot as his development might be closer to complete than Jones and Bear. Maybe it will be Manning. Something to ponder.
8. It was a very relaxed first day compared to last year. Tippett didn’t come out yelling or barking to get his new team’s attention. He did stop the second group once and say, “You guys need to pick it up,” but that’s about it. I sense he really wants to build a unified team and isn’t going to ramp up the pressure right away.
9. A reminder that tomorrow is fan day. The doors at Rogers Place open at 11 am (for non-season seat holders) and remain open until 3:30 p.m. There will also a hot stove with a couple players that fans will be able to hear.

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