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PRINCIPE: Time to Go Camping

by Gene Principe / Edmonton Oilers

Well the first thing I'll notice at the start of Edmonton Oilers training camp is the fruit and veggies for the media. No more donuts and muffins unless of course Dallas Eakins has weakened his stance on the physical fitness of reporters, cameramen and writers. I saw Dallas in Penticton and he hasn't let himself go so I'm guessing the high fat, high calorie snack food is out. Coming into last season there was a fascination with the latest Oilers coach. Coming into his second season he'll again be a storyline but not the biggest one.

Once the Oilers are poked and prodded by the medical staff then it's our turn. After they do their best physically then we'll ask of them to do the same thing mentally. Craig MacTavish has made it clear on many occasions and did so once again after the 2014 Young Stars tournament that the second line centre spot is the biggest dilemna the Oilers could potentially have. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is #1, Boyd Gordon, Marc Arcobello and maybe Anton lander appear to be #3 and #4 centreman. RNH needs help down the middle. A secondary centre to take some of the pressure off him. Leon Draisaitl has an open invitation to have that spot. He will have to, as the old saying goes, do it the old fashioned way and earn it.

Edmonton isn't in a position to just give away spots or ice time. It applies to the kids, the veterans and those that are in between. It makes me think of Nail Yakupov who is still more young than old but is also starting his third season with the Oilers. Personally speaking I really like Nail. Not just because he has a great name for puns but because he's a great kid. Very friendly, very accessible to the public, always willing to stop for a photo with a fan. He's just a genuinely nice young man. Kind of odd to think of a soon to be 21 year old as having a comeback year but it's what he, the team and the fans want. He's arrived in Edmonton early and ready to look more like the rookie Yakupov and not the sophomore one.

On defence Edmonton doesn't have that number one stud who plays 30 minutes, kills penalties, quarterbacks the powerplay and also does everything in between. Instead the Oilers will put together a combo of personnel to make up the blueliners. Justin Schultz started to show some more offensive flair late last season. The more he moves forward the more the Oilers will as well. Jeff Petry is back, as is Andrew Ference. New to the fold are Nikita Nikitin, Mark Fayne and Keith Aulie. They add size, experience and in Fayne's case a real defensive oriented specialist. There's also Oscar Klefbom working for a full time gig but the growth of Martin Marincin's game may put that on hold for now. Not to mention Darnell Nurse auditioning for a spot, interesting times on defence.

In net Edmonton knows who their two goalies will be but we're just not sure what order they will be paraded out the Oiler doors and onto the ice. It's a great dynamic for the team to have two netminders who are hungry to be #1. Both Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth have had success at the NHL level. They'll attempt to continue that and gain ground in the race to be the Oilers top netminder. It's hard to handicap which of these goalies has the inside position to playing more games than the other. A win/lose situation for the goalies but not for the team. The Oilers can't lose, figuratively speaking, with two strong netminders taking each other on. Should be a great battle to not be the backup.

Other things to look for are the newly signed Benoit Pouliot and traded from Tampa Bay Teddy Purcell. There's no Sam Gagner and it will be weird not to see the recently retired #94 Ryan Smyth. Lots of change and lots to look forward to for the upcoming Edmonton Oiler season.

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