Several of the Edmonton Oilers veteran players skated Tuesday at Kinsmen Arena including forwards Shawn Horcoff
, Ales Hemsky
, Ryan Smyth
, Magnus Paajarvi
, Ryan Jones
, Gilbert Brule, Eric Belanger
and defenceman Ryan Whitney
, Cam Barker
, Ladislav Smid
and Theo Peckham
, along with Devan Dubnyk
The No. 1 pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
was also there; and it should be noted that two veteran NHL defencemen both communicated to me how “sick” RNH’s skills are.
Suffice to say Nugent-Hopkins will be one of the most closely watched players at the upcoming second annual Vancouver Canucks Young Stars Tournament that will start Sunday in Penticton.
The Oilers Rookies will face Vancouver (Sunday 8:30pm), Winnipeg (Tuesday 8:30pm), and Calgary (Wednesday 8:30pm).
Here are five players I will have my eyes on: #1. Ryan Nugent-HopkinsThere is a saying you only get one chance to make a first impression. In the case of RNH at the Young Stars Tournament, this is sort of the case, because let’s face it what Nugent-Hopkins does in pre-season and likely in his first couple of regular season games will give us a greater indication if he is here to stay for the season.
Last fall I thought Magnus Paajarvi stood out the most between the Oilers’ big three of Paajarvi, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle in Penticton, but I think most of us would agree that when the bullets started flying for real it would be Eberle and Hall who made the greatest impact with the Oilers in 2010-2011.
I would be very surprised if Nugent-Hopkins doesn’t exploit some of the lower end players in the tournament and put up a good showing in the two games he is probably going to play in Penticton.
His journey as an Oiler starts at the tournament, let’s hope it starts off on the right foot, because as we all know he is the Oilers first line centre of the future.
#2. Ryan Martindale
Personally I think the Oilers' third pick, 61st overall in 2010, might be the biggest wild card in the organization right now.
At 6’3”, and over 190 pounds, Martindale could be the long coveted big, talented centre the Oilers and the fans have been waiting for, or he could also be the second coming of 1994 first round bust Jason Bonsignore.
Last September Martindale kept on progressing as the tournament went on literally from shift to shift. He needed to because his lack of compete level and poor body language at the onset was frustrating to watch.
But he pulled it together and had a stellar first half of the season with the Ottawa 67’s, centering the top line in the OHL with 2010 LA Kings pick Tyler Toffoli and 2011 Ottawa second rounder Shane Prince.
After scoring 34 times and finishing with 83 points last season an argument can be made that he has little to prove at the Major Junior level. Martindale is also a late ’91 which means he has the opportunity to earn himself a contract and a spot in Oklahoma City.
The Oilers are at 49 contracts if you include Nugent-Hopkins and Martin Marincin, who are non-counters if they are returned to Junior. After missing the Oilers Development camp this summer with tonsillitis, Martindale needs to make a positive impression from the get-go.
It should be mentioned I have been told that the 67’s are planning as though Martindale will not be back.
#3. Martin Marincin
In my opinion the Oilers have five defensive prospects that are in the mix for years to come: Jeff Petry, Colten Teubert, Marincin, Oscar Klefbom and David Musil.
Petry is the closest and will unquestionably be a storyline when the Oilers main camp opens in just over a week. Klefbom, the 19th overall pick from the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, is back in Sweden; which means we will see Marincin, Teubert and Musil this weekend.
Most scouts see the former LA Kings first rounder Teubert as a hard-nosed shutdown fourth or fifth d-man, with Musil, the 31st overall pick, being a Jan Hejda defensive-minded type.
Marincin, who was selected in the second round 46th overall in 2010, like Martindale, is a wild card. He was averaging a point-per-game for Head Coach Dean Clark in Prince George through the first 50 games last season and then tailed off down the stretch.
Nonetheless at 6’4”, and 190 pounds and still growing there is little question that Marincin has huge upside and may pan out to be a top two defenceman at the NHL level.
#4. Olivier Roy
This is a big tournament for Roy who lost the No. 1 job at the WJC last winter to Mark Visentin, after an underwhelming performance between the pipes for Canada in Buffalo.
On a positive Roy has been a starter for the last four seasons in the QMJHL and has improved his save percentage each year, including an impressive .911 last season while posting a 29-13-2 record.
The Oilers fifth round pick from the 2009 NHL Entry Draft in Montreal, Roy, in my mind needs to show some separation from St. Albert product Tyler Bunz who took a huge step forward last season for Shawn Clouston’s Medicine Hat Tigers.
Bunz, taken in the fifth round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by Oilers Head Amateur Scout Stu MacGregor, posted a .919 save percentage while going 35-13-8 in 2010-11.
#5. Tyler Schmidt
It is incumbent upon NHL organizations to find players everywhere, and to not write off players just because they were not drafted.
A 6’1”, 215-pound left-handed shooting defenceman who spent the last five seasons playing the Tri-City Americans, Schmidt has an offensive dimension and is physical. Last season he scored 11 goals and added 42 assists, all the while picking up 159 PIMs.
The word is Schmidt is prepared to work his way up from the ECHL if need be despite the fact that he has been heavily recruited by the University of Manitoba.
Schmidt is probably an AHL-ECHL tweener to start but if he performs he could weave himself into the fabric of Todd Nelson’s defence in OKC right from the start.
Bob Stauffer is the Color Analyst on the Oilers Radio Network and Host of “Oilers Now” on the Oilers Radio Rights Holder 630 CHED