Honest-to-goodness NHL hockey is back! The Edmonton Oilers' 2011-12 training camp kicks off today at Millennium Place in Edmonton and if last year's crowds were any indication, the place will be packed. We've got your handy reference guide for training camp basics and story lines to keep you covered for at least opening weekend. My colleagues will start breaking things down tomorrow night with the Joey Moss Cup and continue through the final cutdown day.
The Oilers will divide the invitees up into three squads A, B, C, (Scott will have a breakdown of this year's list when it's released) and though there was lip-service to open competition last season, it wasn't in the cards. 2011 won't be much different as a minimum of 21 players and possibly 23 players are all but guaranteed roster spots and only significant injuries will alter the expected course.
Arm yourself with reference material for camp and the exhibition games by using the Copper & Blue archives: for a rundown on last year's team, make sure to check out our comprehensive list of 2010-2011 player recaps; Scott Reynolds has searched high and low for a comparable NHL player for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and his results have been interesting; a number of Oilers will meet significant career milestones in 2011-12, and if you have season tickets and need to divide them amongst a group, or you're interested in a game or two, make sure you check out Ryan Batty's Guide to Splitting up Your Season Tickets.
|Friday, September 16th||Training Camp opens|
|Sunday, September 18th||Joey Moss Cup|
|Monday, September 19th||First Cutdown Day Likely|
|Tuesday, September 20th||Exhibition game vs. Chicago Blackhawks|
|Thursday, September 22nd||Exhibition game vs. Vancouver Canucks|
|Saturday, September 24th||Exhibition game vs. Calgary Flames|
|Sunday, September 25th||Exhibition game @ Calgary Flames|
|Tuesday, September 27th||Exhibition game vs. Phoenix Coyotes|
|Wednesday, September 28th||Second Cutdown Day Likely|
|Friday, September 30th||Exhibition game @ Minnesota Wild|
|Saturday, October 1st||Exhibition game @ Vancouver Canucks|
|Monday, October 3rd||Final Cutdown Day Likely|
Roster Spot Assured:
|4||Taylor Hall||Left Wing||2LW||Settles in for potential 30 goal season|
|5||Ladislav Smid||Left Defense||3D||May be asked to take on more than he can handle|
|6||Ryan Whitney||Left Defense||1D||Team's #1 defender still battling foot injury|
|10||Shawn Horcoff||Centre||2C||Veteran defensive presence should help Hall & Eberle|
|13||Cam Barker||Left Defense||4D||Cut by the Wild, this could be his last chance in the NHL|
|14||Jordan Eberle||Right Wing||2RW||Deft winger should continue to grow in secondary role|
|16||Darcy Hordichuk||Left Wing||13F||Hired knuckles should only play against other goons.|
|20||Eric Belanger||Centre||3C||Long-awaited 3rd line centre should play between Swedes|
|23||Linus Omark||Right Wing||3RW||A defensive-minded centre should help his game|
|25||Andy Sutton||Left Defense||6D||Aging veteran brought in to hit people|
|28||Ryan Jones||Left Wing||4RW||Hard-pressed to repeat his 2010 season with less PT|
|35||Nikolai Khabibulin||Goaltender||1G||Did jail time help refocus aged goalie?|
|40||Devan Dubnyk||Goaltender||2G||Young backstop could get a chance to start 50 games|
|49||Theo Peckham||Left Defense||6D||Will be asked to take on a lesser role compared to 2010|
|55||Ben Eager||Left Wing||4LW||Agitator must remain under control with league worst PK|
|67||Gilbert Brule||Centre||4C||Recovery complete-can he regain 2009 form without Penner?|
|77||Tom Gilbert||Right Defense||1D||All-around rock will be called upon to play huge minutes.|
|83||Ales Hemsky||Right Wing||1RW||Trade questions will loom over his entire season|
|89||Sam Gagner||Centre||1C||With two excellent wings, will be asked to do more|
|91||Magnus Paajarvi||Left Wing||3LW||Showed great chemistry with Omark|
|94||Ryan Smyth||Left Wing||1LW||Should handle tough minutes while Hall learns.|
- However strange it may seem, 21 roster spots are already locked up and there will be competition for only two spots.
- Most fans would say that Jeff Petry should have a spot locked up and probably in the top 4 given the defensive depth, but recent comments from Steve Tambellini about him wanting Jeff Petry to believe he can make the team were somewhere between eye-opening and stunning.
- Tom Renney might give Ryan Jones an extended look in the top 9 at the expense of Linus Omark.
- Steve Tambellini's comments on Cam Barker being a top 4 defenseman means that the team already has his role planned:
"...we feel that the addition of Barker, at his age and his experience…that should take some of the weight away from those people that can play those minutes like Whitney and Gilbert and Barker should be able to jump right in there."
Battling For A Spot:
|37||Lennart Petrell||Left Wing||13FC||Defensive and tough, the Finn could help PK|
|41||Taylor Chorney||Left Defense||7D||Has leg up on everyone because of waivers|
|44||Corey Potter||Right Defense||7D||1 RHD in top 6 means he could make team|
|54||Chris Vandevelde||Centre||4C||Showed well in brief stint in NHL in 2010|
|56||Teemu Hartikainen||Left Wing||13F||Physical goal scorer's skills not replicated anywhere in org.|
|57||Anton Lander||Centre||4C||May be in the same boat as Omark last year|
|58||Jeff Petry||Right Defense||7D||Top 4 D by talent and play, waiver status hurts his chances|
|72||Ryan Nugent-Hopkins||Centre||4C||Could already be on team, Oilers haven't admitted publically|
- In reality, these battles might be all for show. Many, including myself, believe that Chorney and Nugent-Hopkins already have these spots sewn up.
Projected NHL Depth Chart:
|Ryan Smyth||-||Sam Gagner||-||Ales Hemsky|
|Taylor Hall||-||Shawn Horcoff||-||Jordan Eberle|
|Magnus Paajarvi||-||Eric Belanger||-||Linus Omark|
|Ben Eager||-||Gilbert Brule||-||Ryan Jones|
|Ryan Whitney||-||Tom Gilbert|
|Ladislav Smid||-||Cam Barker|
|Theo Peckham||-||Andy Sutton|