EDMONTON, AB-- Oilers Rookie Camp continues back in Edmonton after the prospects showed a successful outing in Penticton, BC at the 2017 Young Stars Classic.
The rookies were perfect at the tournament, going 3-0-0 and ending the circuit in overtime against the Vancouver Canucks Rookies. Forward Chad Butcher led in scoring with seven points (3G, 4A) while goaltenders Dylan Wells, Stuart Skinner and Shane Starrett each performed exceptionally well in their respective starts.
In the final game of Rookie Camp against the NAIT-MacEwan All-Stars, Edmonton's prospects simply want to maintain their play and show Edmonton how tight the team is.
"The guys have really come together as a team," said defenceman Ethan Bear. "Everyone seems pretty comfortable with each other and I think that's going to help us play together… I'm excited for that tonight."
Upon spending a week with the prospects, rookies Head Coach Gerry Fleming got a first-hand glimpse at their budding alliance.
"You can tell they've bonded quickly and they've been a fun group to be around," he said.
SHOW ME WHAT YOU GOT
Oilers Training Camp begins Thursday and some of the rookies will be invited. While impressions have already been made, this final game is another shot at proving Oilers management what players are capable of.
"Just play like you can," said forward Kirill Maksimov, who scored the overtime winner on a great individual effort against the Canucks Rookies to close out the Young Stars Classic.
"Show your best, I think that's what they're looking for."
ROGERS PLACE DEBUT
For many of the prospects, this will be the first time they wear Oilers silks in the franchise's state-of-the-art arena Rogers Place - in front of thousands of fans.
There may be added nerves as a result but the players want to transfer that pressure into excitement.
"There's always nerves," said Bear. "Especially in a game like this where everyone cares about it so much. Everyone's pretty excited so far, all I heard was positive things… we're looking forward to it."
Edmonton's opposition boasts a lineup replete with older players who have collegiate experience. To coach Fleming, that doesn't change anything.
"The challenge is to come out and play the way that we have to play," he said. "We had success in Penticton and we can't get lost with our laurels here, we've just got to come out and play the way that we're capable of playing and see what happens."
Tonight's lineup will see defencemen Bear and Caleb Jones pair up together. The two are good friends and have shown what they can do offensively in their junior careers but also want to display their defensive prowess as well.
"Their defensive skills are underestimated,' said Fleming. "They take good angles, good sticks, they compete down low, they box out early and do a lot of good things defensively. Because they're so good offensively, sometimes their defensive play gets overlooked."
Wells will get the start in net and is expected to play the full game.
"Really liked his rebound control and the way he tracks the puck," Fleming said of the keeper. "He does a lot of good things in the net and we'd like to see that again tonight."
Edmonton's roster of rookies swept the Young Stars Classic in Penticton, BC this past weekend, and will now look to go 4-0 this camp against a group of collegiate athletes. This is the final exhibition game before Oilers Training Camp opens tomorrow.
The MacEwan Griffins are the defending ACAC Champions, after capturing their first championship since 2004 last March, defeating the NAIT Ooks.
NAIT finished first during the 2016-17 ACAC regular season, posting a record of 22-6-2. They also led the ACAC in goals for (138). MacEwan finished in second place, three points back of NAIT and led the ACAC in fewest goals allowed (69). They finished with a record of 21-7-1.
The Oilers Rookies boast three of the top five scorers from Penticton in Chad Butcher (seven points), Joseph Gambardella (4) and Kirill Maksimov (4). Edmonton's roster is highlighted by 2017 first-round pick Kailer Yamamoto (22nd overall) and standout goaltender Dylan Wells of the Peterborough Petes, who had a .916 save percentage last season and a record of 33-15-2.