The Oilers sat Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Fedun and both of their ballyhooed goaltenders and sent out the B team + Anton Lander to face the Calgary Flames. Unsurprisingly, the hockey that resulted was less than crisp, and seemed more like a pick up game than real hockey. It was Penticton Young Stars, now with more firewagon!
Rather than break down the game play (and it was difficult because play-by-play man Gene Principe had zero interest in giving a play-by-play), I've decided to break the game down by line and pairing. If you are in desperate need of a recap, watch the full replay below or the highlights after the jump:
Phil Cornet, or Philippe Cornay, as Gene would call him, looked like a guy with a year of pro experience out there. He was bigger and a bit strong than most of his opponents and had little problems completing passes and reading the play. He may be ECHL bound with the crowding in Oklahoma City, but if he plays solid, efficient hockey and puts the puck on net, he may stick in OKC. He's certainly no stranger to shooting, but he passed on a couple of shots tonight in order to force the puck to...
Anton Lander showed once again why he doesn't belong at this camp. He's smarter and faster than almost everyone in the tournament and shows it in all three zones. He scored a beautiful goal in tight tonight and got the puck up in a hurry to avoid a low stick or a quick pad. He won faceoffs, checked hard and sold himself even more to the observers. He's becoming a golden boy.
Tobias Rieder has shown a wicked shot a couple of times in this series, but was over-shadowed by his two elders this evening. He played a complimentary role. However, given his skating ability and shot, I think the saw him good part of me has raised him up the rankings more than anyone else.
Tyler Pitlick had another outstanding game. Jonathan Willis commented that he thought Pitlick has looked rusty so far, but I countered that he's been outstanding defensively, especially on the forecheck and in transition. Against Calgary, he put his whole game together. He was still very good defensively, but he used his body more. His timing was better and of course, he displayed his heavy shot by scoring a one-timer from the slot. He also recovered from bobbling a puck along the boards to take a hit and slide a cross-ice pass to Martin Marincin for a goal, though just like last night, the official scorer seems to think it was unassisted. Bizarre. If Pitlick can stay healthy, he should have a very big year in the WHL.
I noticed Curtis Hamilton without looking for him on two separate occasions, both times streaking back through the neutral zone in a furious backcheck. Hamilton's offense might not ever translate to the NHL, but I think he's the kind of player who will play the toughs, move the puck in the right direction and have excellent underlying stats. If you think that sounds like Fernando Pisani, that's exactly who Hamilton reminds me of.
Antti Tyrvainen dropped the gloves early, forechecked like a mad Finn, and hit everyone. Gene Principe went out of his way to talk about how Finns aren't normally known for being tough and gritty, but Tyrvainen is. I was apoplectic until I realized that Gene doesn't understand that a player can be gritty and tough without fighting, and just because Finns don't typically fight doesn't mean they aren't gritty. For Pete's sake, look at the Finns who have come through the league. Tyrvainen is going to be a fan-favorite in Oklahoma City, and I suspect he's going to help the Barons sell tickets, as unusual as that sounds.
Toni Rajala is small. Very small. But he possesses blazing speed and has a good amount of skill. It was mostly wasted on this line tonight, though he created a couple of scoring chances with pure speed. If he's going to make it in North America, he's going to be a project and the Oilers will have to wait on him.
Brett Ferguson was discovered by Scott as someone who dominated even strength play in Red Deer last year, but the nagging question remained - what he an overage player beating on younger kids or did he develop some special skills as an overager? He didn't have the skating ability to keep up with a number of the more agile players and didn't show much. Seems like a guy ideally suited for Stockton.
Chase Schaber was non-existent in this one.
What was it OilLeak said in the GDT? Ah yes:
"That 4th line leaves something to be desired"
Indeed it did. Drew Czerwonka was pushed around the ice, though he did make one nice play to sacrifice his body (and maybe brain if he were playing at a higher level of hockey) in order to move the puck up ice. Cam Abney had one shift where he was able to get near the net, and to be honest, I don't remember a single play made by Colin Smith.
David Musil played his best game of the tournament tonight, but it came on a night when he was paired was Brandon Davidson and they weren't working together. I noted in the GDT that Musil moves like Eric Brewer on the ice. He was very calm with the puck tonight and had no issues making the simple play to move the puck, but he also tried a couple of stretch passes that were bobbled by the intended forward.
Davidson was up and down throughout the evening. He displayed the flashes of a player who will one day make it, but he also displayed flashes of a player who is completely overwhelmed.
Once again tonight Jeremie Blain just looked lost. It's not speed or quickness, he's not a step behind the play, it's that he's unwilling to make a play. He'll get to the spot and watch a forward go around him and not step into the forward. On the very next shift he'll get to the spot and get run over or through. He needs to take a line and stick with it. Finish the play off.
Wes Vannieuwenhuizen, well, he's sure willing to fight!
If we were tracking HUAs, Martin Marincin would lead the Oilers for the tournament. He's got size and can play the game, but commits an HUA at least once per period. Tonight he had : In the first period he tried to skate the puck out of his own zone directly through the top of the crease and slot. He had the puck stripped and gave the Flames a scoring chance; later in the second period on the power play, he attempted skate the puck around a defender to the corner to the circle but was nearly stripped for the breakaway SH chance; he did the exact same thing in the third period. If this small three-game sample was an accurate representation of Marincin's game, the best thing for him is another year in the WHL unlearning all of these bad habits.
Tyler Schmidt, well, he's sure willing to fight!
The Copper & Blue Three Stars:
★★★ - David Musil
★★ - Anton Lander
★ - Tyler Pitlick