Nail Yakupov minutes after being drafted. Photo by Lisa McRitchie all rights reserved
This was a tremendously busy week for the Oilers, but somehow things have come together. It started last weekend when the Oilers drafted first overall for the third year in a row. In my opinion they took the best player available and will be a better team next season because of it. The Oilers finished out the rest of the draft weekend by taking several power forwards and trying to fill in needs. Who will pan out from this year's draft class remains to be seen.
In the second round, the Oilers drafted Mitch Moroz LW of the Edmonton Oil Kings. The third round was Jujhar Khaira LW of the BCJHL and Daniil Zharkov LW of the OHL. The fourth round was Erik Gustafsson D of the Swedish Elite League. Fifth round Joey LaLeggia D of the NCAA. And the final pick was John McCarron RW in the sixth round.
The few players in attendance took part in the photo shoot opportunity that for some will be the only time they get to wear an NHL jersey, but that is the furthest thing from their minds. Instead, they choose to be happy and live in the moment.
From Pittsburgh the Oilers' prospects hopped onto flights taking them to the city of champions to take part in the Oilers' development camp. At the camp, the players have the opportunity to see how they stack up against the other prospects, get one on one instruction on power skating, shooting and a variety of other hockey drills. Nail Yakupov has of course been the star attraction, but many are still thrilled to get to see Oscar Klefbom in the flesh. The camp runs through the weekend at Millenium Place in Sherwood Park and will have some scrimmaging and game simulations on the final day.
Before the camp started however, the Oilers finally did the smart thing and announced their 11th head coach, Ralph Krueger. With a coach in place, the prospects now know who they need to impress to crack the lineup next season, as well as UFA Justin Schultz, who the Oilers are trying to schmooze. This also means that July 1st when free agents are trying to decide where and who they would like to play, they will be able to make a more educated guess in terms of the Oilers. By delaying the coaching decision it surely would have impacted and in fact hurt the Oilers chances of making much improvements from the free agency pool.
The Oilers also made a change in their player development department. Long time Oiler, and likely nicest man in the entire organization, Billy Moores is stepping back and Rick Carriere steps in as head of player development. Moores is a former teacher who has worked well with all of the young prospects getting them language or life training where need be as well as helping them become better hockey players. But it was a long and gruelling season for Moores, every season and so it is not all that surprising that he would like to gradually step back and spend a little more time at home. Although I am sure that he could do this job forever, Moores isn't a spring chicken any more and he needs to keep his strength if he intends to stay on.
Sunday will be a busy day for the Oilers we hope, but you just never know with this team. I thought that they would for sure pull off a trade on the second day of the draft, but that never panned out. But stay tuned Oiler fans, there appear to be some big names on the move this weekend and maybe, just maybe some of them see the Oilers as a team on the rise.