Oilers skating & skills coach Steve Serdachny gives some instruction during this week's Development Camp at Clareview Arena in Edmonton, AB. (Photo by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club)
After three days of hopping over sticks, running fancy footwork drills, and weaving through pylons, the Oilers prospects were rewarded with a fun day of three-on-three competition Friday morning.
The well-attending two-hour tournament capped an upbeat and exciting Development Camp in which players, coaches and management got to teach, learn and bond on the ice and off.
The camp's 24 skaters were split up into four groups for the tournament, battling through games composed of three five-minute periods. Magnus Paajarvi
-Svensson, Toni Rajala
and Teemu Hartikainen
were early stars for Team Grey, with Hartikainen capping a pretty tic-tac-toe with the first goal of the game vs. Team Blue. The trio teamed up for another goal in third period, helping Grey walk away with a 2-0 win.
Things weren't so easy vs. Team Red however. With Jordan Eberle
and Anton Lander
at the helm, Red coasted to a 2-0 win over Team Grey.
Eberle added two more goals and Damon Kipp registered his first of the tourney in a game vs. Team Blue. Other tournament scorers included Team White's Philippe Cornet
and Milan Kytnar
, as well as Blue's Cameron Abney
, Tyler Pitlick
and Taylor Hall
Red emerged from the half-ice battles victorious, thanks in large part to Eberle's efforts.
"It was a big win for us," he said with a smirk.
Hall wasn't so lucky lighting the lamp but had "a lot of fun" anyway.
"I haven't played three-on-three in a while. Certainly the competition was good, everyone was going hard. I found it a little bit hard to score. There wasn't too many goals, but it was a lot of fun competing out there," he said.
Eberle added that the event was the perfect closer for a busy week of training.
"As much as it's good to get on the ice, it kind of gets tiring to do skating lessons all the time, but when you finally get to get the puck and you put it into a game situation like that, it makes it worthwhile," the 20-year-old explained.
As one of the more experienced players at camp, Eberle embraced a leadership role this week.
"It's the second time around, and you almost feel like a leader," he said. "A lot of these guys are younger than me, which is kind of weird to say when you're with an NHL team. I definitely felt like one of the leaders out here that guys looked up to."
Eberle's growing confidence is certainly something Oilers management and coaches are proud of. According to camp coordinator and team skills coach Steve Serdachny, the organization has made a concerted effort to build strong health, fitness, skills and leadership foundations for their youngest players.
|Jordan Eberle & Taylor Hall share a laugh during the final day of Oilers Development Camp at Clareview Arena in Edmonton. (Photo Gallery by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club) |
"There's been a philosophical change in the organization from the top down -- from Daryl (Katz, Owner) all the way through Kevin (Lowe, President of Hockey Ops) and Steve (Tambellini, General Manager) -- to really focus on the player development, developing these players, individuals, from the ground up," Serdachny explained.
"We tried to bring every resource that we have from the top all he way through the organization so we can give the players the attention and the development that they need."
Tambellini was impressed by the players and the way the camp progressed.
"Just to see [the prospects] all here at one spot and see the reaction from the fans, I thought that was wonderful," the GM said. "We touched a lot of different areas, from strength and conditioning to expectations from coaches, and I know they got a lot out of it."
Many fans were focusing on Hall, Eberle and Paajarvi's performances, but Tambellini was diplomatic when asked for an assessment of his first-rounders.
"They worked extremely hard -- they all did. Those three players obviously are highly skilled, but there's a lot more past those three also that we were looking and said 'Wow, some of these kids look a little bit more mature than what we thought.'"
After a two months dedicated to off-season training, many of the prospects will return to Edmonton in September to participate in Oilers Rookie Camp and try to crack the NHL squad.
Serdachny hopes Development Camp helps them achieve that goal.
"Our goal was to completely prepare them for what to expect coming into training camp and for the upcoming season to become an NHL player."