News and notes from the Oilers Rookie Camp, including looks at Woodcroft's teaching innovations and Stukel and Iacobellis' bids to snag a roster spot with the Condors this season after positive showings in the ECHL.
EDMONTON, AB - The sides last met on Saturday on neutral ground, but the Oilers Rookies now venture into hostile territory tonight for a road tilt against the Flames Rookies at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary.
It's been an action-packed five days for the Oilers Rookies in the lead up to the final match of Rookie Camp, including a 1-0 overtime defeat back on Saturday in Red Deer that won't be entrenched in the minds of players for long.
"It was the first game for a lot of us coming out of the summer here," forward Nolan Vesey said following this morning's skate. "Hopefully tonight it won't be as sloppy and we can execute our game plan a little more."
What Saturday's suppressed opening game did produce over a lack of offence for Bakersfield Condors Head Coach Jay Woodcroft was plenty of ammunition to provide teachable moments in the practices and meetings leading up to tonight's contest.
"We really liked parts of our game, but there wasn't enough consistency through the entire 62 minutes of the hockey game," Woodcroft said. "So we're going to keep things simple and we're going to value the puck."
"We're going to make good decisions with it by taking what's given. If there's a play to be made, we're encouraging our young guys here to make plays. But if there's no play to be made, we want to make sure we put the puck in a position where we can get it back and look organized doing so."
A growth mindset has been communicated to the Oilers Rookies by Woodcroft since the onset of Camp, with the bench boss eager to see gains made in all areas of the ice from the work put in during the two full on-ice sessions between Sunday and Tuesday.
"It's the same theory we've had right from our opening meeting in Training Camp, and that's we're getting better every time we step on the ice," Woodcroft said. "We look forward to seeing guys take a step here, and we want them to show what got them here."
A POINT TO PROVE FOR RODRIGUE
It's been a long summer for Olivier Rodrigue, but not one that's been void of activity.
In addition to being dealt from the QMJHL's Drummondville Voltigeurs to the Moncton Wildcats in an off-season trade, the 19-year-old was busy at the World Junior Summer Showcase in his bid to make an early impression for this season's World Junior Hockey Championship in the Czech Republic.
"My training in June was with Hockey Canada. It was a big summer for me, but I'm ready to play," Rodrigue said. "I was with my new team for three weeks before this in Moncton, so I'm ready to face the challenge."
The Oilers Rookies are playing in Calgary, and Hockey Canada is headquartered in Calgary. You can make the connection.
"Probably there's going to be people from Hockey Canada, but I want to play my game and make sure I see the puck and compete on every shot," Rodrigue said. "I'll just do my thing and we'll see for December."
Rodrigue will get the start in goal tonight, with Woodcroft expecting a positive performance after goaltending dominated much of the discussion on Saturday in Red Deer.
"I thought all three goalies in the Red Deer game were excellent," Woodcroft said. "They've set the bar, and it's a great opportunity for Olivier to come in and show what he's all about. He gets the start in an NHL building, which will bode well for him moving forward."
Every player at this week's Camp carries the moniker of 'rookie', but some less than others.
Vesey, the 24-year-old forward who split time between the ECHL and AHL last season, is suiting up tonight with the mission of showing he has more experience than some of his counterparts ahead of next week's Oilers Main Camp.
"I feel a lot more comfortable this year at Rookie Camp as opposed to last year," he said. "I think tonight is a big game for myself. I want to leave a good lasting impression in this last game of Rookie Camp heading into Main Camp to put my best foot forward, so it's a big one."
Woodcroft has his eyes on both Vesey and his linemate Jakob Stukel, who'll play on the third line with Camp invite and Edmonton Oil Kings winger Liam Keeler.
"Both Stukel and Vesey, they have a little bit of professional experience," Woodcroft said. "So we want them to come out and demonstrate what got them here to this point. When I think of Nolan, I think of a guy who skates in straight lines. I think of a guy who's a punishing forechecker who's willing to get pucks deep to do that. He had a couple of good rushes last game, but we're looking for him to take a bit of a step here and get in on the forecheck and lead from his experiences. He's been around us and knows what we're looking to see here.
"Stuks is a very versatile player in that he can play either the wing or in the middle. He has good speed, we want to see more of that this game here. Together with Liam, we expect them to be a line that goes out and spends more time in the other team's end than they do in their end."
Forward Beau Starrett is developing a reputation as a utility man for his future AHL boss Woodcroft early after flexing his ability at both wing and centre in Saturday's battle.
Woodcroft gave the 23-year-old a look on the left wing alongside centre Ryan McLeod and winger Kirill Maksimov, and will now award him a starting opportunity tonight on that second line.
"I think he's got some length and size to him. He showed what he can do in the middle, and I kind of moved him around in that game a little bit in Red Deer," Woodcroft said. "I liked what I saw when he went to the wing and played with those two players. He can do a little bit of heavy lifting on the wall and in front of the net, and as we know he's pretty good in the faceoff circle."
Starrett is sticking to the game plan of using his size to command an on-ice presence in both zones while embracing the lessons learned in the lead-up practices and off-ice sessions that preceded tonight's Battle of Alberta rematch.
"I just have to keep doing what I was doing last game and just play simple and get pucks behind their d-men," he said.
"We just want to simplify our game and use our strengths to our advantage. McLeod is a good playmaker and Maksimov I know is going to drive the D wide and make plays down low. If we can just frustrate their D in their own end, we'll be a successful line."
The expectation is another cagey match between the two provincial rivals, but Starrett and the rest of the Oilers Rookies are keen to show their stuff offensively after being blanked in the reverse fixture.
"I think we obviously want to get a win in the win column tonight, so we just have to hit the back of the net and get pucks on their goalie and just frustrate their D," Starrett said.
"I think it's going to be a greasy one tonight, so just have to get that one going and build off that."
-- Jamie Umbach, EdmontonOilers.com
Lines at Tuesday's morning skate appeared as follows: