Hockey is back! Yes indeed, hockey returns this evening as the faux-Canucks take on the (less) faux-Oilers to open the Young Stars tournament in Penticton, BC at 5:00 p.m. I took a look at the roster for the tournament in August, and unlike the other teams participating, the Oilers could easily have three players from this camp in the opening night lineup, which makes these games a lot more exciting. The Oilers are streaming the game on their website, so for many fans, this will be the first glimpse of Magnus Paajarvi and Taylor Hall on the ice in Oiler colours. After the jump, we'll look at who's in the lineup and talk a bit about the comments from head coach Tom Renney.
Forwards: The Oilers wrote who's "out" rather than who's "in" the lineup, but from what I can gather, the men who will be in the lineup tonight are Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi, Jordan Eberle, Chris Vande Velde, Tyler Pitlick, Teemu Hartikainen, Philippe Cornet, Curtis Hamilton, Ryan Martindale, Milan Kytnar, Kristians Pelss, and Cameron Abney. This is the "A" team as far as I can tell. The only forward the Oilers have drafted who's not in the lineup is Drew Czerwonka, which might be a bit of a tell on how he's looked in practice. None of the free agents the Oilers have brought to camp will be in the lineup.
Defenders: Again, I'm not 100% on these but it looks like the men in the lineup tonight will be Martin Marincin, Jeremie Blain, Brandon Davidson, Johan Motin, Alex Plante, and Nolan Toigo. Jeff Petry is out of the lineup tonight with an "upper-body" injury that doesn't appear to be serious. Still, an injury at the start of Rookie Camp probably isn't what Petry was hoping for going into his first full professional season. It doesn't seem to be as serious as Peckham's injury last year, but it's something to watch for over the next few days. Speaking of injury, I'm glad to see Alex Plante back on the ice. I know it's been a long time since he had the concussion, but, well, concussions can be scary. With Petry out, Nolan Toigo gets bumped up to the "A" team, and that's got to be a good feeling for him. He's the only free agent in the lineup tonight, and he seems to have bested an Oiler pick (Jordan Bendfeld) to get the spot. It's obviously very early, but it's a nice first step toward making the Barons for Toigo. On the other side of things, if indeed this is supposed to be the "A" squad, that's a big kick in the ass to Bendfeld who's one of the oldest guys in camp.
Goalies: Olivier Roy gets the start tonight, and I'm going to be keeping a close eye on his puckhandling every time we see him play, which hopefully includes some time in this tournament, in some exhibition games, and again at Christmas for the World Juniors.
Coaches: Todd Nelson will be running the forwards tonight, and Gerry Fleming will be handling the defensemen. Nelson is the head coach for Oklahoma City, and Fleming is his assistant, so it'll be interesting to see if they take a liking to any players in particular, especially among the guys trying out for the team. The other man on the bench will be new Oilers' assistant coach Steve Smith.
Tom Renney on the meaning of tonight's game: "One of the things you want to evaluate is their instinctive play, and working off of each other's instincts. Regardless of whether it's a "D" pair or a forward group or whatever. I think the big things is just making sure you're able to do that, playing to your strengths. We have given them some things to think about in terms of tactics; you've got to think your way through a game too, you've got to have some hockey IQ, and we'll be looking a that as well. But we're certainly not going to evaluate these kids on the first time they step on the ice and play a game. We're going to give them the opportunity to have at least a couple of games each per player, and then we'll determine from there how they're doing."
That sounds positive to me. They've got a few things to think about in terms of system play, but it's not going to be overwhelming, and at least for the guys who know they're heading to main camp, the situation is pretty relaxed. This should serve as a nice caution to fans - have some fun watching, and don't take this game too seriously!