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ROOKIE CAMP: Oilers prospects balance friendship with competition

"It's always friendly competition, but you're fighting for a job," defenceman Evan Bouchard said

by Jamie Umbach /

EDMONTON, AB - They've been drafted to the same club together, they've trained together, and even shared hotel rooms.

Individual prowess on the ice in major junior, college, Europe or the AHL has brought the Oilers rookies all together, but it's that skill that could ultimately be the deciding factor in each of their bids to crack the big leagues.

In a league as competitive as the NHL with a finite amount of roster spots, there's no resting on relationships.

Video: OILERS TODAY | Rookies Report 09.05.19

Defencemen Evan Bouchard and Dmitri Samorukov's healthy competition in the organization leaked into the OHL last campaign, where Samorukov got the upper hand in the playoffs during a seven-game series between his Guelph Storm and Bouchard's London Knights. 

But at this week's Oilers Rookie Camp, it's a level playing surface and a proving ground.

"I think it's nice. We can push each other, so that's good," Samorukov, who hoisted the OHL Championship last season, said on Thursday. "But we're fighting for one or two places. We're friends until someone takes a job."

Blueliner Philip Broberg has already started his season in the SHL with Skellefteå, but adds another powerful voice to the conversation for years to come after being drafted eighth overall by the Oilers at the 2019 NHL Draft. Bouchard also roomed with the Swedish prospect at Oilers Development Camp earlier this summer, getting the opportunity to know the person behind the exceptional player.

The hidden benefit to a surplus to requirements when it comes to player personnel is the elevated intensity it brings to every drill, scrimmage, and training session for rookies keen to have their play resonate above the rest.

Video: ROOKIE CAMP | Bouchard 09.05.19

"It's always friendly competition, but you're fighting for a job," Bouchard said. "Samorukov had a great year in Guelph. I saw Broberg at Development Camp and he's a great player. It makes you want to up your game that much more, and with the prospects Edmonton has on the back end, it's really going to make you do that.

Each player draws from their wealth of experience in order to put together a strong showing at camp, with Samorukov having an OHL Championship to his name and Bouchard being bolstered by a strong showing in the OHL and in the Calder Cup Playoffs with the Bakersfield Condors.

"I think that was big for me, especially at the beginning of the year getting the games and at the end of the year getting a taste of pro playoff hockey with Bakersfield," Bouchard said. "I think that was big for me and I think it really helped build my confidence coming into camp this year."

In the end, there are no guarantees.

"There's a lot of good prospects up here," Bouchard added. "Obviously I'm going to try and make the roster this year. That's the goal of everyone here, so it's going to be good competition."

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