Last time I went to summer camp to ogle Taylor and Jordan was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. The opportunity is once again at hand, and while this time my thoughts will not be prurient in nature my eyes will no doubt be all over the attractive young things.
The apple of everyone's eye will surely be Taylor Hall, who today signed a three-year entry-level pact with the Oilers. While hardly as dramatic as Wayne Gretzky signing a 21-year personal services contract at centre ice - today's press conference lasted less than five minutes, half of it garbled questions from reporters who, as usual, were not equipped with microphones so the viewing/listening audience could actually follow along - the signing was a necessary step which has been taken care of with minimal drama. No terms were announced, but it's assumed that Hall's deal will be similar in scope to those signed by recent first-overalls like Patrick Kane, Steven Stamkos, and John Tavares: the rookie maximum topped up by readily-achievable bonuses which should bump the overall cap hit to the $3.75 MM range.
The camp will be interesting for more than just Hall, however. Many names that Oiler fans have been following with interest in recent times will be on display at Clareview Arena the next four days. The Oilers might rank DFL in the NHL standings, but the prospect group Stu MacGregor has assembled is one of the finest around.
The summer camp roster currently consists of 28 players, all but three of them Oilers' draftees. The group is made up of 18 forwards, 7 defencemen, and 3 goaltenders. Let's have a look by draft class:
2010: All eleven players drafted 10 days ago will be here: F Taylor Hall, F Tyler Pitlick, D Martin Marincin, F Curtis Hamilton, F Ryan Martindale, D Jeremie Blain, G Tyler Bunz, D Brandon Davidson, F Drew Czerwonka, F Kristians Pelss, and F Kellen Jones.
2009: All seven draftees will be here: F Magnus Pääjärvi-Svensson, F Anton Lander, D Troy Hesketh, F Cameron Abney, D Kyle Bigos, F Toni Rajala, and G Olivier Roy.
2008: Three of the five picks will be at camp: F Jordan Eberle, F Philippe Cornet, and F Teemu Hartikainen. Absent will be Johan Motin and Jordan Bendfeld, presumably because both have already played a pro season in North America.
2007: F Milan Kytnar, who played as an overage junior last year, will try to impress. Linus Omark has been excused, presumably due to his age and extensive professional experience, even though it has all been in Europe. William Quist, meanwhile, has disappeared off the face of the earth.
2006: D Jeff Petry, who recently signed after completing his four years of university, will attend his first camp as a pro. G Bryan Pitton is the one player with a full season (actually two) of North American professional experience under his belt, presumably because a) goalies are different, b) the Oilers need a third goalie to spell off Roy and Bunz, c) Pitton needs all the exposure (and practice) he can get, and d) goalies are different.
2005: F Chris Vande Velde is another college grad getting his first shot at the pros.
The group also includes three undrafted free agents, including:
D Damon Kipp, a big hitting defender who has played at the University of New Hampshire the past two years. At 205 pounds, Kipp is the second heaviest player at camp, far in arrears of Bigos' imposing 230-lb. frame.
F Connor Jones, Kellen's twin. I don't know if they're identical, but both are listed at 5'9, 165. The pair formed a deadly scoring duo for the BCHL's Vernon Vipers, two-time national Tier Two champions. Although the Oilers drafted just one of them, apparently the two come as a package. They're no Sedins, for sure; at best we can hope for the Ferraro twins redux.
F Mike Connolly, a former Camrose Kodiaks scoring star who has posted consecutive 40-point seasons at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Here's what the prescient Jonathan Willis had to say about Connolly a year ago:
Mike Connolly's ranked lower despite his fine offensive totals because he's an overage player (born in July of 1989) but he's had a fine transition from the AJHL to NCAA hockey. I don't think he'll get drafted, but even if he doesn't I would be very surprised if he doesn't show up at some team's summer camp.
Surprisingly there's nary a mention of last spring's college free-agent signings Matt Beca, Eddie DelGrosso, Jesse Gimblett, and Jeff Riley. Not sure why not. I do know that logistically the camp would likely benefit from a fourth goaltender and an eighth defenceman, which come to think of it sounds like Jason Strudwick's position description. This would be a great place for Struds to show his highly-praised leadership skills, no?
I'll be heading down to Clareview for tomorrow morning's skate, scheduled from 10:00 to noon, and perhaps others later in the week. If you'd like a report on a particular aspect of a particular player, please leave a request in the comments.