The Edmonton Oilers Rookies are back in town after a relatively successful Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, B.C. over the weekend.
After getting blown away, scoring only six goals and getting swept in three losses at the 2013 Tournament, the Oilers organization made a concerted effort to add more skill up front and it showed this year.
Friday night the Oilers stormed out of the gate, outshooting Vancouver 17-2 in the opening period. They got two goals, including the winner in overtime, from 2012 second-round pick Mitch Moroz in a 4-3 victory.
Saturday the Oilers faced a stern test from a talented Calgary squad. They rode an opportunistic power play, which scored three goals, to a 4-3 win.
Monday afternoon the Oilers dominated the shot-clock and built up a 4-2 second period lead over Winnipeg, after 2014 third-overall pick Leon Draisaitl set up a pair of PP goals in less than forty seconds. However, the Jets rallied for a 5-4 shootout victory.
|Photo by Jeff Vinnick. |
Here are some quick thoughts on the Tournament:
Undrafted free agent Vladimir Tkachev was a revelation for the Oilers Rookies. The under-sized (5-foot-9, 141 pounds) winger was a threat seemingly every time he was on the ice. As good as he was in Friday night’s game for the Oilers, a night in which he had Oilers fans abuzz on twitter; he was better Monday in Penticton while playing on a line with Draisaitl!
Despite being small Tkachev plays a courageous game, as evidenced by the hard drive to the net against Calgary where he knew he was going to get smoked. Tkachev clearly knows how to share the puck and does a good job finding openings off the rush.
If he continues to perform well in the annual Oilers Rookies-Golden Bears game on Wednesday night and then into training camp and exhibition play, it would not surprise me if Oilers management contemplates looking at signing him. He inevitably will be headed back to Junior in Moncton this year and would be a non-counter on the Oilers 50-man reserve list for this season.
There were some nervous moments on Friday night when Draisaitl left the game for several minutes. But after overcoming what we later found out to be cramps, the Oilers first-round pick from 2014 seemed to take his game up another notch.
|Photo by Jeff Vinnick. |
Top-end picks like Draisaitl, the Calgary Flames Sam Bennett (4th overall/2014) and the Winnipeg Jets Nikolaj Ehlers (9th overall/2014) should stand out at a rookie tournament, and suffice to say they did that. Bennett was the best player on the ice in the Oilers win over Calgary, and Ehlers stood out Monday scoring twice in the third and then getting the winner in the shootout.
Draisaitl showed great vision and strength, especially in Monday’s encounter against the Jets. But he will get a far better test once he gets into some exhibition games against pros.
Another centre who made a positive impact in Penticton was 2013 third-round pick Bogdan Yakimov. Yakimov was quicker and exhibited more skill than I initially thought he had. He reminded me a bit of Martin Hanzal and as I mentioned last week, the Oilers need one of Yakimov or Jujhar Khaira to support Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Draisaitl down the middle in a couple of years.
Defenceman Dillion Simpson was the most composed of the Oilers defenders in my opinion. He played a strong, heady game in Penticton.
Darnell Nurse, the Oilers first round pick (seventh overall) in 2013 clearly showed that he has all the tools in his two games in Penticton. Nurse can skate, pass, shoot and defend. He also had a hard, nasty exchange with 6-foot-5 Adam Lowry of the Jets Monday that showed his willingness to engage physically. If Nurse puts it all together ,he has the makings of a top-two NHL defenceman.
Next up for the Oilers Rookies will be a match up against the reigning University Cup Champion Alberta Golden Bears Wednesday night at Clare Drake Arena.
The Bears are loaded up front with nine of their top-11 forwards back from last season’s championship squad, with several of them like Levko Koper, Kruise Reddick, Brett Ferguson, and Johnny Lazo in their fourth or fifth years with the program.
Alberta did lose three of their top-six defencemen to graduation, but will have a couple D to watch.
Offensive-minded Jordan Rowley has been invited to the Oilers Main Camp. Rowley was PP quarterback in the WHL with Prince Albert and can really shoot the puck.
Freshman Dylan Bredo attended Oilers Summer Orientation Camp and the former Medicine Hat Tiger will give Head Coach Ian Herbers another puck-mover from the backend.
Kurtis Mucha is expected to go the distance in between the pipes for the Bears.