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Oilers Rookies at Flames Rookies – Game 1

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Oilers hockey is back baby!

Well, kind of.

While the likes of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl still have almost a week to wait until main camp officially starts, the Oilers rookies have finished their first 3 practices and are heading 296km south on the QEII to take on the Flames rookies at 2pm on Sunday.

I don’t know about anyone else but I’m super stoked to watch this game, not only do I love keeping up with the prospects but this is a sign that real Oilers hockey is just around the corner.

The Oilers roster for this year’s camp doesn’t have the star power that we are used to seeing in the past. There is no Connor McDavid or Taylor Hall or Leon Draisaitl, however, this is likely the deepest roster Oilers fans have seen in years. It is full of what I like to call “real prospects”. While there aren’t many “can’t miss” prospects, there are many that have a real chance at NHL careers.

For a full camp roster, click this link:

http://cloud.edmontonoilers.com/pdfs/EDMONTONOILERSPROSPECTSTEAM_2018_Sep3.pdf

This is a smaller roster than we are used to seeing with, I believe, only one amateur tryout player that isn’t property of the organization. There is very little filler on the roster and I’m probably more excited to see this group of guys play than any other in recent memory.

At this point, the Oilers have not announced the lineup for the game but they have been running the following lines and pairings at camp:

Gambardella-Marody-Yamamoto
Benson-McLeod-Vesel
Vesey-Esposito-Maksimov
Polei-Gust-Larkin

Samorukov-Bear
Jones-Bouchard
Kulevich-Lagesson

Skinner-Wells-Rodrigue

Former Oiler assistant, and new head coach of the Bakersfield Condors, Jay Woodcroft is running camp and will be the head coach.

Of course, all Oiler fans will be wanting to see newly drafted Evan Bouchard and Kailer Yamamoto, however I will be looking to see how the likes of Samorukov, Marody, Maksimov, Benson and Lagesson play.

A couple of personal thoughts:

Cameron Hebig – A fantastic year in the WHL last year after the Oilers signed him as a free agent. With that said, he was one of the oldest players in the WHL and I am very interested to see how he plays in his first year pro, to see if he should be considered a “real prospect”. He should have a material role on the Condors.

Cooper Marody – The last piece of the Patrick Maroon deadline deal (the 3rd round pick acquired at the deadline was flipped for Marody) had a great 3 games for the Condors at the end of last year and Woodcroft has raved about his professionalism and preparation both on and off the ice. How can you not love this quote from Marody:

”I watched and clipped every one of the Oilers goals from last season, power play and even strength. I broke them down and really tried to learn the structure and learn about each player on the team. I learned about the style of game the Oilers like to play and tendencies I could pick up on”.

William Lagesson – After being loaned to the SHL for last season, Willie is back in North America, this time as a pro hockey player. He had a fantastic development year in Sweden last year, playing top pairing minutes (apx 20 per game) and gaining the full trust of his coach. Personally, based on last year’s results, I have him ahead of Caleb Jones as far as readiness for the NHL and a darkhorse to play some NHL games this year. He is a big defender in the mold of Adam Larsson (not as mean though) that is a plus defender who can also skate and move the puck.

Tyler Benson – His third rookie camp and the first one he is able to actually participate in. Benson is back Oiler fans and we should be excited. He has real NHL potential if his injury issues are behind him. He is fully healthy now for the first time in years and ready to compete. He had a strong season for Vancouver in the WHL last year and is ready to show Oiler fans and the coaching staff why he was given consideration for exceptional status in the CHL – yes, he has that type of skill in addition to high hockey IQ and a great work ethic.

One additional interesting, and potentially important point, is from a Caleb Jones quote. Jones spoke about having to learn a bunch of new systems at camp this year which is likely music to the ears of most Oiler fans. On the assumption that, in particular with Woodcroft running the Condors, the AHL and NHL teams will be looking to employ the same systems, this would imply true system changes for the big club. My thought is that Jones is talking about systems to transition the puck out of our own zone quickly and efficiently and I will be looking for that throughout the three rookie camp games.

Ostap Safin won’t see any on-ice action during the camp as he is nursing a hip flexor suffered prior to the Four Nations Cup!

The game is can be seen on edmontonoilers.com as well as on the team’s facebook, youtube and twitter pages.

Go Oilers!

Oh ya, the Flames have some players playing as well.