Edmonton, AB - All 34 prospects attending Development Camp convened at Rexall Place bright and early Tuesday morning to complete an in-depth examination prior to Wednesday's on-ice sessions.
In similar style to the NHL's Scouting Combine, the Oilers' medical, strength and conditioning consultants put them through their paces in an intense, three-hour-long session that included a grueling workout and an equally as challenging (almost) meet-and-greet with the media.
Welcome to the club's mid-summer training camp.
Dressed in an orange and blue t-shirt, shorts and running shoes, Nail Yakupov stole the show. Not only is he excited to be an Oiler, but he can't wait to demonstrate his elite skill-set to the team's diehards this week in Sherwood Park.
So much so that he showed it off to us at the podium beneath Section 119 in the River Cree Club.
"There are great rinks in the NHL -- 20,00 people watching you because they want to see great games, beauty games with a lot of goals," he said. "Why not? If fans want to come and see our practices, I think it's great. It's great for us. You want to show (the fans) some beauty fakes. It's great; I want to play for the fans.
"I want to be the best I can be with everything -- in the gym, on the ice, with the media. When you get to the NHL, it's the next level. I'm a rookie with the Edmonton Oilers now and I'm here to practice and show how hard I can work.
"I feel great, I feel amazing. I want to play for the Edmonton Oilers."
In addition to getting the chance to develop their on-ice ability, the prospects will get a deep education on social media practices, nutrition and everything else that goes into being a pro.
Tyler Bunz, selected 121st overall in 2010, has a leg up in that regard. From Grade 5 to Grade 8, he didn't indulge at all in any sweets with empty calories. As a kid!
"It was a seven-day-a-week program," he said, noting the Capital City Bulldogs' dedicated agenda. "Every week we were doing dry-land training and on Saturdays and Sundays, they were nine-hour days where we were on the ice every day. We even went outside to the outdoor rinks, on the cement, and trained some more. It set me off in the right direction."
Bunz, 20, understands his path to the NHL better than most his age. As a goaltender, it's reasonable to assume that his pro career (which begins this season) will start in either the ECHL with the Stockton Thunder or AHL with the Oklahoma City Barons.
Once he's mastered it, he'll get his shot with the club. But the process starts now at Development Camp.
"You've got to be a sponge and soak everything up," he explained. "For me, I've worked with (Oilers Goaltending Coach) Freddy (Chabot) for a couple years now and he's a very smart man, he knows the position well and has done a great job with the goalies in the Oilers organization. I'm going to listen to him and make sure what he says, I take back to my summer training. I need to make sure I come back en pointe and ready compete for a spot in the AHL in September."
Another Oilers prospect that's hoping to make an impression is 18-year-old Oscar Klefbom. After spending the past two seasons in the Elitserien, the Swede is making his first appearance in Edmonton for an Oilers function.
Like Bunz, he's hoping to learn as much as possible.
"It's been good," he said of the process and close communication with Senior Director of Player Development, Billy Moores. "They have some clips on me from the World Juniors and from back home in Sweden. They know what I have to do better if I'm coming over to North America. We have really good contact and it works really well.
"I have to work on more details [to make the NHL]. I think I've been better at working on the details, so it's been good and I'm excited. It should be a fun week."
On-ice sessions begin Wednesday at Millennium Place in Sherwood Park at 9:30am. All slots, including Monday's 3-on-3 tournament, are open to the public.
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com - Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick