Ryan Nugent-Hopkins battles with the Vancouver Canucks Rookies in the Oilers' opening game of the Young Stars Tournament.
For the second straight year at the Vancouver Canucks Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, British Columbia the Edmonton Oilers are the show, which can be seen as both a good thing and a bad thing depending upon how you look at it.
Just as Hall, Eberle and Paajarvi separated themselves in the 2010 Tournament, so too has RNH, Lander and Pitlick, clearly establishing themselves as the best players on the best team in the tournament.
Lander scored twice and showed leadership, maturity and poise in the Oilers Rookies' 7-2 win over the Canucks Rookies on Sunday, and Pitlick was better with each and every shift as the Oilers Rookies rode a strong goaltending performance from St. Albert’s Tyler Bunz in a 2-0 victory Monday night over the Winnipeg Jets Rookies.
Nugent-Hopkins played in both encounters and illustrated his sublime passing skills, wowing the coaches with his tremendous hockey sense and surprising media and fans alike with a strong physical game to complement his underrated defensive awareness.
So Oilers fans should be excited, but they should also recognize this is a tournament that is tailor-made to showcase an organization like the Oilers who are in a rebuild mode, and have loaded up with top end picks in the first three rounds of the NHL draft.
Simply put the Oilers have the most talent of the five organizations in Penticton, and that is a good thing.
However, the Oilers are trying to get to where San Jose and Vancouver are, which is to become an elite level NHL team.
The Sharks have only had one first-round pick in the last four years (Charlie Coyle) and the Canucks have drafter no higher than 22nd in the last three years.
Both organizations have made trade deadline deals to bolster their Stanley Cup runs over the few years and the cost has been depth draft picks.
All of which comes into fruition when evaluating teams an event like this.
You have Edmonton with a stable of emerging young NHL prospects and then the Vancouvers and San Joses who are filling out their rosters with undrafted players on ATO’s.
So be excited, but not too excited, because the rubber will hit the road when the big boys come into play.
Wilson Likes Oilers’ Forwards
San Jose General Manager Doug Wilson was a stellar member of the Chicago Blackhawks back in the Oilers' heyday in the 1980’s and was a big fan of Edmonton’s style then, and he likes what the Oilers are building now as well.
In a recent appearance on Oilers NOW on 630 CHED Wilson said following:
“The Oilers have done an outstanding job in building. You know how they want to play and with the rules the way they are now, and with their forwards it is going to be a very exciting time in Edmonton. We didn’t like playing them last year and we like playing them this season.”
Interesting quotes for Wilson who was very active in the off-season pulling off two big deals with the Minnesota Wild, that have added significant speed to the Sharks’ line-up with the additions of Brent Burns and Martin Havlat.
Gagner to the wing?
Former Oilers Assistant Coach Craig Simpson is generally regarded as one of the top analysts in the business and he said something of interest on Oilers NOW regarding the Oilers' centre position.
He is of the belief that Sam Gagner should move to the wing.
“Personally, I think if Sam Gagner is your first or second line center your team probably is not good enough. Ideally if you have a bonafide #1 and #2 center, I would consider moving Sam to wing,” said Simpson.
Simpson went on to suggest that Gagner’s size and foot speed would suit him better on the wing.
Don’t forget that Simpson himself made a very successful transition from centre to the wing and went on to have a very productive NHL career.
Do the Barons need a hammer?
The Oklahoma City Barons went the team toughness route last season, bringing in veterans Gregory Stewart and Ben Ondrus, to help support Alex Plante and Jake Taylor in that aspect of the game.
Stewart, Ondrus and Taylor have not been re-signed, and judging by Finnish forward Antti Tryvainen’s performance in Penticton things are going to get stirred up once in a while if the agitator ends up in OKC.