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PRINCIPE: Going Camping

by Gene Principe / Edmonton Oilers

My idea of camping would include hooking up the trailer, cold beverages, hot food, a spot by the water and of course a camp fire complete with s'mores and all. That's what most of us have in mind when it comes to camping. Not so if you are the rookie class for camp with the Edmonton Oilers. On Thursday they were poked, they were prodded, they rode a bike and did some jumping. They showed off their strength and stamina to prove they are in the best possible shape. My idea of camping a lot easier on the body than the one the Oilers had in mind for a total of twenty six players broken down into three goalies, eight defenceman and fifteen forwards.

Now the forward everyone is interested in seeing is I'll give you one guess. That's right, Connor McDavid. It would be easy to write a blog about Connor. However, doing the math if I write a blog every week until the end of the hockey season that would be approximately 30-35 blogs. My guess is McDavid's name will be in all of them or almost all of them. He may end of being the subject matter in at least five of them, if not more, so in this blog we mention his name but not his game. Instead let's focus in on a couple of guys who are big parts of the future along with McDavid.

I almost felt guilty watching Darnell Nurse and Leon Draisaitl skate this past week at the Royal Glenora Club and then letting them skate right by me and not even interviewing them after their arrival in Edmonton. Again the focus was on McDavid's first skate with his soon to be teamates. That ties into Nurse and Draisaitl who will be teammates with this summer's top pick, but will it be this season or next? While they play two different positions the situation revolving around the defenceman and the forward aren't all that different.

Let's start with Draisaitl and next to drafting him the best move Edmonton made with him last season was spending half of it with the Oilers and the other half in Kelowna. The player I saw in game 4 of the WHL final was not the same one I saw leave Edmonton after 39 games of NHL experience. Understanding the competition was different, it was more about the way Draisaitl pushed himself to excel. He literally was dangerous every time on the ice. No wonder he was the WHL playoff MVP and parlayed that into a great performance at the MasterCard Memorial Cup. The Rockets didn't win but another MVP performance for Draisaitl. Now he's back looking for a job. A change in position from centre to wing is possible. Not an obstacle just an opportunity to play in the NHL.

That's also what Darnell Nurse is after. His taste of the NHL lasted two games. His debut in LA, with his famous football uncle Donovan McNabb in attendance, and then one night later a performance versus Arizona. At that point, another pivotal organizational decision was made to send a future Oiler back to junior. With Sault Ste. Marie Nurse's landing spot, he went to work. Not afraid to put his nose to the grindstone and get better. It's what he did for his club and his country. I mean the blueliner was in beast mode at the World Juniors. Player of the game in the gold medal final capped off his coming-out party to a nation. A sign of what's to come in Edmonton but just like Leon the question is whether that's this season or next.

Best of luck to Nurse, Draisaitl and the rest of the rookie roster, including you know who, for the Young Stars tournament in Penticton.
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