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Prospects eager to get started

by Meg Tilley / Edmonton Oilers

Surreal.

It’s an appropriate word to use when a prospect tries to describe his emotions and the feeling of finally making it. Regardless of their draft year or college free-agent signing, it’s a special moment that’s not soon to be forgotten.

But after the celebrations die down, the ink dries and the dust settles, it’s eventually time to get to work and show their NHL organization why they selected them in the first place.

That’s the case for a few of the newest members of the Oilers prospect pool at this year’s Orientation Camp. Day one and already they’re eager to make their mark.

“I think being here at the camp, it’s the start of the big summer you’ve got to have to get ready for the main camp,” said Oilers prospect Drake Caggiula.

Caggiula, who finished his senior season as a forward with the 2016 NCAA champion University of North Dakota Hawks hockey team, signed with the Oilers as a free agent on May 8.

A new edition to the Oilers prospect pool, Caggiula is participating in his very first Orientation Camp. It’s an important part of the process, one that the 22-year-old sees as the gateway into the world of professional hockey.

“I know Orientation Camp kind of gets you accustomed to the way things are run around here,” he said. “You get to meet some of the people and it’s just kind of the first step for the summer. It’s kind of good to get in here and see what the expectations are for fitness testing… and kind of get your feet wet and hopefully prepare yourself as best you can for September.”

It’s also a first for Oilers prospect Tyler Benson. As one of the 36 prospects that will be embarking on the week-long camp, he said that he’s got a small idea of what to expect and hopefully get out of the experience.

Oilers prospect, Tyler Benson.

“I talked to a few guys that have been involved in it already,” said Benson, Edmonton’s 32nd-overall selection at last weekend’s NHL Draft in Buffalo. “They said it’s pretty tough, it’s a long week, but I’m excited for it and it sounds like it’ll be a little bit fun too, so it’ll be good.”

Benson, a forward with the Western Hockey League’s Vancouver Giants, is eager to get started, having had a difficult start to the 2015-16 season trying to recover from an injury that led to a string of adversities throughout the remainder of the season.

“I just want to be able to prove myself out there,” he said. “I wasn’t able to do that much this year. I want to show myself well and show the Oilers that they made a good decision.”

Benson and Caggiula won’t be alone in their pursuit to make a lasting impression on the Oilers coaching staff. Though an expectation of hard work lies ahead for all 36 prospects, an environment of team bonding will be the main objective.

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