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by Bob Stauffer / Edmonton Oilers

You have to love the passion in Oil Country!

One game into the 2013 Vancouver Canucks Young Stars Classic at Penticton’s South Okanagan Event Centre and "some" Edmonton Oilers fans are already in a panic over the likes of Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse or the lack of Oilers scoring punch after a 5-2 loss Thursday night to the Calgary Flames’ Rookies.

Darnell Nurse battles for the puck along the boards with Calgary's Sven Baertschi (photo by Jeff Vinnick)

History suggests that you shouldn’t reach too much into a short sample size, especially at the likes of a Rookie Tournament.

In 2010 when the Oilers Rookies played in Penticton, Magnus Paajarvi over-shadowed the #1 overall pick from that June, Taylor Hall, as well as Canadian World Junior Jordan Eberle.

I think we all know how that played out from that point forward!

Hall and Eberle are two cornerstone pieces of the Oilers organization, and Paajarvi heads to St. Louis in a deal for David Perron, looking to prove that he can be a consistent top-6 NHL forward.

The situation was somewhat similar at the 2011 Rookie Tournament here, as Anton Lander outshone 2011 #1 overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins early in the tournament.

Today, Nugent-Hopkins is the Oilers #1 center and Lander, who remains a good prospect, will be in a battle to make the Oilers this season.

The team Edmonton has iced for this year’s tournament is deep on defence but lacks elite offensive prospects.

The Flames Sean Monahan and Sven Baertschi, the Jets Mark Scheifele and the Canucks Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk are all what I would consider "A-list" offensive prospects for their respective organizations.

In my opinion Monahan, Baertschi, Scheifele, Horvat and Shinkaruk stand a great chance to end up as long term top 6 NHL forwards.

The Oilers do not have anybody like that here, because Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and 2012 #1 overall pick Nail Yakupov, are "A+" young guns already established as legitimate elite top 6 NHL forwards.

Make no mistake, defensively the Oilers had their struggles against a pretty good set of Flames forwards on Thursday night.

The two top prospects in the entire Oilers organization, 2011 first-rounder Oscar Klefbom and 2013 first-round pick Darnell Nurse, played together and had some shaky moments.

Klefbom looked like a guy who hadn’t played a game in 11 months, and Nurse got into penalty trouble early and had to work through it.

I would be stunned if you didn’t see dramatic improvement in both of their games before this tournament wraps up.

Former Flames GM and current TSN Analyst Craig Button has stated on more than one occasion that he thinks Klefbom is a left-handed version of Brent Seabrook.

Klefbom, who was a World Junior All-Star in 2012 when the event was held in Alberta, certainly has all the tools to be a long-term all-around top pairing “D” like Seabrook.

His shoulder surgery last season has likely delayed a full-time NHL arrival this fall, but I wouldn’t be writing up him off because of some tough moments in a very unstructured rookie game.

Nurse, who of course is two years younger than Klefbom, is not surprisingly a bit raw at this point. But you can see his athleticism on the ice, and on any other country other than Canada he would be an absolute lock to be at the upcoming World Juniors.

Bottom line Klefbom and Nurse remain "A-List" defensive prospects who will be top 4 NHL defencemen and I wouldn’t be betting against them because of a tough start at a Rookie Tournament.


Tyler Bunz (photo by Jeff Vinnick)

To me the one forward who really acquitted himself well on Thursday night was 2012 3rd round pick Jujar Khaira. The 6'3", 210-pound forward prefers playing center and looked like an absolute moose down the middle. He won numerous one-on-one puck battles and took the puck hard to the net.

When it was announced that Khaira was leaving Michigan Tech the general assumption was that he was likely headed to Everett of the WHL who own his rights.

Again, not to read too much into one game, but Khaira looked like a guy who could compete for a top-9 role in the AHL as an 19 year-old. If he does go to Everett he should be a dominating top-6 forward for Kevin Constantine.

Tyler Bunz had a very difficult rookie season as a pro after three stellar seasons playing for Shaun Clouston down in Medicine Hat.

The Oilers 5th-round pick from the 2010 NHL draft struggled with just a .886 save percentage in Stockton.

Bunz’s WHL history suggests that he consistently improved each and every season. The Oilers hope that trend continues as a pro. Bunz got off to a good start on Thursday making several stellar saves early and keeping the Oilers from being blown out.


Bob Stauffer is Radio Analyst of the Oilers Broadcasts on the Oilers Radio Network and Host of “Oilers Now” Monday thru Friday Noon to 2:00PM on 630 CHED. You can follow him on twitter at @Bob_Stauffer

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