| |Prospects Phillippe Cornet, Taylor Hall & Jordan Eberle prepare to jump back into a drill during Day 1 of Oilers Development Camp. (Photo by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club)
It was a reunion hockey fans in Edmonton and across the country were eagerly awaiting: World Junior stars and Oilers prospects Taylor Hall
and Jordan Eberle
together on the ice at Day 1 of Oilers development camp.
After an impressive 2010 World Junior campaign in which Eberle and Hall finished first and second on Team Canada's leaderboard and trailed only USA's Derek Stepan in tournament scoring, the flashy forwards bring chemistry, friendship, and a healthy CHL rivalry into this week's camp.
And it didn't take long for them to become attached at the hip -- literally. In one of the first drills of the day, the players were paired up and tied together, then took turns dodging, weaving and chasing each other end to end.
Huffing, puffing and laughing, the CHL stars attracted the attention of the TV crews and fans sardined on the other side of the glass.
"It was pretty fun," Hall later said. "He got the best of me a little bit there but hopefully throughout the week I can get a little bit better."
Eberle also enjoyed the competition.
"We've known each other for a few years, played the under-18s, the World Juniors, and competed in different leagues in the CHL," he said of Hall. "It's fun when you've got a guy you can compete against like that and obviously the calibre of player that he is and what he's done in a young career, it's always fun to be out with a player like that."
Not only does Eberle enjoy sharing the ice with Hall, he's also more than willing to share some of the spotlight.
"Ever since he's been here, it seems like I can just fly under the radar, so it's kind of nice," he said with a smile. "I think the fans for sure are excited to see the new crop of kids."
Only 10 days into his term as reigning first overall draft pick, Hall is one of a dozen prospects attending development camp for the first time. He joins Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi
-Svensson on the list of young players who are expected to compete for roster spots this fall, and the prospect of joining a young, exciting team appeals to him.
One of the best things about Edmonton was that they've got a young nucleus of guys, and if I do happen to be on the team, I'm not going to be the only young guy going through this experience. - Taylor Hall
"I said before the draft one of the best things about Edmonton was that they've got a young nucleus of guys, and if I do happen to be on the team, I'm not going to be the only young guy going through this experience," Hall explained. "And that's really fun. When you get young guys, they come to the rink excited to play in the NHL, it's their first time, and there's always that sense of excitement throughout the city and with the players."
Eberle noted that with Hall, Paajarvi, and a handful of other Europeans on the ice, intensity was up at this year's camp.
"Guys that were here last year, we're a year older and everybody's stepped up their game so it's definitely a quicker pace than it was last year and it's just going to make us all better.
"You look at the roster right now, there's some spots open and it gives an opportunity for some of the young guys or some of the older guys to step up and do something," he continued. "I know everyone here, there's an excitement -- you see it in the fans when they're out there -- and we want to do well."
Judging by the crowd that packed Clareview Arena, the fans share Eberle's sentiments. An estimated 500 fans filled the bleachers and walkway behind the net for the two-hour skate, an amazing display of support for the next generation of Oilers.
"For them to come out and cheer for every goal and every save, that's pretty incredible," Hall said.
Head Coach Tom Renney acknowledged the support but remained focused on the task at hand: building better hockey players.
"People are pretty excited about this team and they're excited about the young guys that are working their way into the line-up in one way or another over time," the coach said after the skate. "But at the end of the day, it's one of those things that we've got to be careful it doesn't take on a life of its own. We've got to try to control the environment a little bit and allow these guys to have success, even at a development camp."
The action continues Wednesday at Clareview.