The Edmonton Oilers have announced the players who will be taking part in their rookie camp and rookie tournament, which will start on September 6th. Guy Flaming had previously given us the heads-up that 2009 draft-eligible forward Burke Gallimore would be attending, but his is not the only interesting name on the list.
We can broadly divide the guys attending camp into two groups: Oilers prospects and free agent invitees. Since we're less familiar with the latter group, let's consider them first.
Dalibor Bortnak - Bortnak was draft-eligible this past year, but after a disappointing season with the Kamloops Blazers (68GP - 8G - 20A - 28PTS, -7) he went unselected. It's been an interesting couple of years for Bortnak, who had a fine season in Slovakian junior three years ago (44GP - 16G - 36A - 52PTS, +15) but didn't play much for HC Liberec the following year (2007-08). The indispensable Michael Remmerde described him thusly:
Strengths: Very good size, big frame. Good work ethic. Competes hard and will battle physically.
Weaknesses: No hands. Needs to get much, much stronger to be effective physically.
Bortnak stands 6'4" and could rebound in a big way after suffering some culture shock last year.
Brett Breitkreuz - The 6'1", 207lb forward has never posted flashy numbers either with Kelowna or the Edmotnon Oil Kings, but he plays with a physical edge and isn't afraid to fight. The Oil Kings originally grabbed him in the expansion draft when they joined the WHL. If he does turn into a legitimate NHL prospect, it will almost certainly be in a bottom-six role.
Michael Burns - Another big Oil Kings forward, Burns didn't play a ton last year and recorded only five points in 58 games. There isn't a lot of information available online, although by his birth date he was eligible for this summer's draft.
Burke Gallimore - I did a fairly extensive profile on Gallimore a few days back; he was passed over in this summer's draft despite a decent skill level. There are concerns about his work ethic and intensity, but we can be fairly confident that Oilers' scouts have seen a lot of him - he played on a line with prospect Milan Kytnar.
Jeff Lee - Another Oil Kings forward, Lee seems likely to go the CIS route and study business. He's had an eclectic amateur career to date, and he isn't really a high-end prospect based on his scoring numbers. That said, he had a fine season with the Oil Kings.
Stepan Novotny - Aside from Gallimore, Novotny is probably the most interesting invitee to camp. Again, from Micahel Remmerde:
Strengths: Some slick offensive ability. Very good skater with speed and shiftyness.
Weaknesses: Does not like to get hit and plays somewhat scared.
There's more on Remmerde's site, including a reference to a lacklustre playoffs (in 22 games, Novotny managed just six points). Novotny's numbers were poor for his draft class, but the raw talent Remmerde refers to must have been what caught the Oilers' eye.
*Derek Hulak - Lowetide tells us that Hulak (the linemate of Kytnar and Gallimore in Saskatoon) has been invited, but I didn't see him on the Oilers' official list.
We're undoubtedly more familiar with this list of players; it's mostly picks from the last few drafts with one of the Oilers' college free agents tossed in (Jamie Bates, who played in Stockton last year).
It's a good group of players and should provide the Oilers coaching staff with a chance to help some of the junior guys before they return to their amateur teams, as well as get a much better read on some guys passed over in the latest draft. Plus, it supports the Oil Kings, which is always a positive and probably one of the things the Oilers had in mind when they were pushing for a WHL franchise.
Bortnak, Gallimore and Novotny are the three forwards I'll be most interested to follow, with Toni Rajala getting a special mention since he's recovering from injury.