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MAIN CAMP: Players entering Camp with plenty to prove

"No one's coming in here and going to be complacent. We all have something to prove," said Oilers forward Zack Kassian

by Paul Gazzola /

EDMONTON, AB - Zack Kassian witnessed the effect playoff hockey can have on Oil Country.

The winger was a force in the 2016-17 post-season, striking fear into Edmonton's opponents with his physical play and chipping in offensively when he could.

But after regular season shortcomings the past two campaigns, Kassian knows he and the Orange & Blue have lots to show the hockey world in '19-20.

"Everyone in that room feels like we have something to prove," said the 28-year-old in the Oilers Hall of Fame Room on Day 1 of Oilers Training Camp. 

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"As a team, we haven't performed the way we wanted to and some of us in there got a taste of playoff hockey a few years back, what the city does and how much energy they bring. 

"So, there's no doubt in my mind in there that that's our goal: to make playoffs."

The Oilers enter the campaign with a new President of Hockey Operations and General Manager in Ken Holland, as well as a new Head Coach in Dave Tippett. 

There's a fresh cast of faces vying for opportunity on the club including James Neal, Mike Smith, Josh Archibald, Riley Sheahan, Joakim Nygard, Joel Persson and Gaëtan Haas, while several farmhands are hoping to become mainstay National Hockey Leaguers like Caleb Jones, William Lagesson and Ethan Bear.

"Obviously it's a different situation this year," said Connor McDavid. 

"We have lots of change, new management and coaching staff, lots of new faces, so there's definitely going to be a big of a feeling-out phase and hopefully Training Camp takes care of that but we're excited to get going."

The Oilers Captain characterized the type of team Edmonton will have to be this season to prove they can compete for a playoff spot.

"We're going to be a hard-working group," McDavid said. "We brought in a lot of new faces. Guys that are proven NHLers. Guys that work hard and come to work every day."

Coming off a 79-point '18-19, returning Oilers such as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are using the past few disappointing results as fuel for the upcoming year.

"The last few years weren't good enough and we know that," No. 93 said. "We need to be better from it and learn from the negative things."

The centre is convinced that the influx of players can provide a jolt to the club.

"You always come in with expectations and optimism," he continued. "We're ready to bounce back and everybody has come back looking good and feeling good."

Rather than be seen as the underdog, Kassian and Co. are preaching a dogged work ethic.

"We just need to bring our compete level up," he said. "No one's coming in here and going to be complacent. 

"We all have something to prove. Everybody." 

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