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PRINCIPE: Raw Rookies

by Gene Principe / Edmonton Oilers

When the Edmonton Oilers rookie roster for the 2014 Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, B.C. was unveiled a few things stood out.

One is the fact that Edmonton has four goalies (Laurent Brossoit,Kevin Bouchard, Ty Rimmer and Frans Tuohimaa) at the event, which is more than any other team. Unofficially, they also have more father/son NHL combinations. Dillon/Craig Simpson, Alex/Mike Krushelnyski, David/Frank Musil, C.J./Craig Ludwig, Jackson/Paul Houck (Paul was drafted by Edmonton and played 16 games with Minnesota). Not to mention another father/son team from football if you count Darnell/Richard Nurse. They also have the only twins in the tournament in Connor and Kellen Jones. Those are some of the fun facts but this is business for these kids and this team.

Photo by Oilers TV

Edmonton will also be showcasing one of the two Germans who will be in Penticton. No disrespect to Dusseldorf's David Wolf who will be 'Hungry Like The Wolf' to impress the Calgary Flames, but Edmonton Oilers fans will be focused on Leon Draisaitl. The kid from Cologne is hoping to smell success. The road to that has wound it's way from Europe, to Saskatchewan and now into the interior of B.C.

Edmonton needs another top centreman. Draisaitl is 'that guy' but when will he be 'that guy'? Is this season too early to expect the 18-year-old to ride shotgun with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? It's very hard to predict.

Draisaitl has done all the right things to get drafted and has continued to do the right things by staying in Edmonton and not going home for the summer. He's been training, working and preparing to give himself the best possible chance to make the jump. Like Taylor Hall, RNH and Jordan Eberle, his coming-out party in Penticton will be interesting to see if the centreman's start to September sets the stage for main camp.

The summer before the 2014 draft in Philadelphia, New Jersey was where the best young hockey players in the world gathered to hear their names called. The wait wasn't long for Darnell Nurse. In the seventh spot is where he went to Edmonton. He’s a player with everything the Oilers needed in one package on defence.

The second blueliner to be chosen after Nashville took Seth Jones at number four, Nurse is big, strong, athletic and edgy. He has sufficient scoring upside and the ability to play bruising defence. He’s still just a kid but built like a man. He’s ahead in his physical curve and now trying to add the rest of what he needs to play in the NHL. On his first shift at last year's event Nurse took a penalty. Afterwards he admitted he was nervous putting on the Oil drop for a first time in real competition. The blueliner went on to impress at his first NHL training camp but he was always headed back to Sault Ste. Marie. Now that's not necessarily the case. He has a chance and that's all he can ask for from the Oilers.

Those are just two of the intriguing storylines that Oilers fans will be watching. Others include Oscar Klefbom’s continued rise in the organization, how Bogdan Yakimov fares, what 'goalie of the future' Laurent Brossoit looks like and with everything proven at the junior level why Mitch Moroz is ready to keep his career on the upswing.

It all begins Friday in Penticton, where the NHL dreams of 29 young men continue.

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