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BLOG: Holland staying the course with Puljujarvi

Oilers General Manager and President of Hockey Operations Ken Holland sees Jesse Puljujarvi benefitting from a change in coaching and management, as well as a more consistent place in the lineup

by Jamie Umbach /

EDMONTON, AB - When asked about Jesse Puljujarvi at a hot stove event with Oilers Season Seat Holders on Thursday night, General Manager and President of Hockey Operations Ken Holland said he's prepared to allow the 21-year-old time to further adjust his game after experiencing some adversity in his first three NHL seasons.

The Oilers fourth-overall pick at the 2016 NHL Draft has recorded 37 points (17G, 20A) in 119 games with the NHL squad, adding a further 15 goals and 22 assists in 53 games in the AHL with the Bakersfield Condors, and being forced to miss the final 19 games of the 2018-19 season in Edmonton due to season-ending hip surgery.

"I was on a radio show with Bob McCown at the [Draft] Lottery and Bob said to me, 'What's the hardest part about evaluating players for the Draft?' and I said trying to figure out how they're going to deal with adversity, because most of the players we're seeing at the age of 18 have had success," Holland said. "That's why they're in the Draft. They're the head of the class of their peer group, so adversity lies ahead and how they're going to deal with adversity and how the organization and the people are going to deal with adversity."

A new general manager and head coach in the fold has Holland bullish on a rebound for Puljujarvi, and the pair are ready to stay the course with their young Finnish forward.

"Jesse was obviously a player at fourth overall, an incredibly talented player, and he wakes up three years later at the age of 21 and the career hasn't gone the way everybody has expected it to go. We just have to stick with it," Holland said. "[Head Coach Dave Tippett] and I were talking about it yesterday, and Jesse was here yesterday. I spent about an hour with him talking.

"With Jesse, he's had lots of adversity and I'm hoping with a new general manager and a new head coach, being a little bit older, he's 21 and not 18 or 19, that we can get him in the lineup on an every-night basis and he can find some chemistry with some players and earn the coaches trust and become more and more important as we go forward."

Further progression for the forward begins with knowing he has a place in the lineup and developing by prioritizing incremental gains and chemistry with linemates, said Holland.

"You have to come to the rink every day and know your jersey is hanging," he said. "You're in the lineup. That's step one. What you do to be in the lineup, then you start to find chemistry with some players whether you're on the third line or fourth line, and you slowly work your way up the ladder to being more important.

"I think that's really hard for young players to understand, because as we go to the 2019 Draft here in [nine] days, we just had the Combine, all those players think they're going to be on the first or second line the next year or year after, and the reality is it can happen but it's not going to happen that quick. They're going to have some adversity along the way, and they have to learn how to deal with the adversity."

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BLOG: Woodcroft excited to continue growing as a coach with Condors

The Bakersfield bench boss will continue to develop as a head coach alongside a young and budding team after signing an extension in Bakersfield on Wednesday

by Jamie Umbach /

EDMONTON, AB - Last April, after 13 seasons in the NHL as an assistant coach, Jay Woodcroft took his first head coaching job with the Bakersfield Condors.

He hasn't looked back, and continues moving forward following his first year being a bench boss under his belt.

Positive progression for the Condors this season in the form of a 42-21-3-2 record and a Western Conference title before finishing their first Calder Cup Playoff appearance in the Pacific Division Final earned the 42-year-old a three-year extension in Bakersfield on Wednesday to continue expanding his ability as a head coach and fostering a positive environment for the Oilers AHL affiliate.

"Last year when I was presented with the opportunity, I was excited about it," Woodcroft, speaking to Bob Stauffer and Oilers Now on 630CHED this afternoon, said. "I felt like I studied for 13 years to take a test, worked on building a resume in the coaching world, and earning a reputation by how I conduct my business on a daily basis.

"For me, the ability to do that in Bakersfield knowing the quality of players we have down there, knowing I had the autonomy to build the staff the way I wanted it to be built, it was very exciting for me. I couldn't have asked for a better group of people to work with."

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BLOG: Esposito, Iacobellis sign AHL deals

Luke Esposito notched 24 points in 63 games with Bakersfield last season, while Steven Iacobellis led the ECHL's Wichita Thunder in scoring with 23 goals and 65 points in 58 games

by Jamie Umbach /

EDMONTON, AB - The Bakersfield Condors on Tuesday announced the signings of forwards Luke Esposito and Steven Iacobellis to AHL contracts for the upcoming 2019-20 season.

Tweet from @Condors: The Condors have signed Luke Esposito and Steven Iacobellis to AHL contracts for 2019-20. #CondorstownSigning details ��������

Esposito, 25, completed his first season in Bakersfield this past campaign with seven goals and 17 assists in 61 games, including 18 points (5G, 13A) in his final 33 games, before registering a further one goal and two assists in eight postseason appearances for the Condors.

The centre from Greenwich, Connecticut signed his first pro contract in the AHL in 2017 with the Grand Rapids Griffins after four seasons and two ECAC championships in the NCAA with Harvard University.

Iacobellis, a product of Port Coquitlam, BC, signs with the Condors having led the Oilers ECHL affiliate Wichita Thunder in scoring in 2018-19, scoring 23 times and adding 42 helpers in 65 contests. The forward was named to the ECHL All-Rookie Team, finishing third in league scoring among all rookies.

The 25-year-old joined the Thunder after registering 20 points in four-straight seasons in the NCAA with the UMass-Amherst Minutemen from 2013-17, and made his AHL debut at the conclusion of Wichita's season in one game for the San Antonio Rampage.


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On a stacked U.S. National Team Development Program roster this past season, it was Trevor Zegras that earned the title of "most creative" from projected number-one pick Jack Hughes

by Jamie Umbach /

EDMONTON, AB - With all eyes on the flair and playmaking ability of Jack Hughes, the projected first-overall pick attested that he wasn't the most creative set of hands on the United States National Team Development Program roster this season.

That mantle, for the top prospect at this year's NHL Draft, belongs to Trevor Zegras.

"He's the most creative player on our team," Hughes said of his USNTDP teammate. "He thinks outside the box, he's really smart and super crafty with his hands and movements. He's really slippery. He's an easy guy to play with knowing he'll always give you great passes."

The USNTDP was stacked this past campaign, boasting five projected top-10 picks in this year's draft class that could benefit any franchise looking to profit from the program's deep talent pool.

Zegras, an offensive weapon whose playmaking, goalscoring, and two-way ability can be deployed at centre or on the wing, became one of the principle players tasked with feeding the likes of Hughes, Cole Caufield, Matthew Boldy and Alex Turcotte while chipping in a number of his own markers with 26 goals and 61 helpers in 60 contests for the U-18 program.

Video: COMBINE | Trevor Zegras

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BLOG: Anselmi striving to bring unique fan experiences to Ice District

The 17-year former MLSE executive in Toronto hoping to bring similar hype as 'Jurassic Park' for the Raptors in the NBA

by Jamie Umbach /

EDMONTON, AB - Newly-appointed Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club President of Business Operations and Chief Operating Officer (COO) Tom Anselmi has watched his projects grow from the ground up to achieve new heights.

During a 17-year stay with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE), a key role in developing the Air Canada Centre for the Etobicoke, Ontario native included a branching out from the venue to further engage fans and create buzz around the organization's many clubs that include the Maple Leafs, Blue Jays, Toronto FC, and the Toronto Raptors.

The highly-publicized Raptors, bolstered by the thousands who've occupied 'Jurassic Park' in the streets of downtown Toronto throughout the NBA Playoffs, will watch on with anticipation tonight as the league's only Canadian side goes for its first championship in franchise history tonight at home with a 3-1 series lead on the Golden State Warriors.

Video: 1-ON-1 | Tom Anselmi Exclusive

"I remember when we were first conceiving the whole Maple Leafs Square concept," Anselmi, speaking for the first time from the Oilers Hall of Fame room, said Monday. "It was really about expanding our footprint. We're in the business of limited inventory, we have 20,000 seats to sell or whatever, so how do we engage a broader audience in a bunch of different ways? This really was started to sell a 10,000-square foot sports bar with an extra 2,000 seats, then the square."

Anselmi was the brainchild behind the square's utilization as a meeting ground for fans and their teams' biggest moments, and spoke to the potential Ice District has in the coming years to mirror that excitement in the colours of orange and blue.

"Did we ever imagine what's going on there now? Not a chance. But it's great to see and it's happening everywhere now.

"It's become a really important part of the sports experience, and so here in the city of Edmonton where we're got an enclosed room that has the best of both worlds, I think it's a really interesting opportunity."

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The BCHL's leading scorer has proven his first-round status and is set to take his abilities to the NCAA and Boston College in 2019-20

by Jamie Umbach /

EDMONTON, AB - When opportunity arose on the east coast, Alex Newhook went west.

Despite his third-round selection by the Halifax Mooseheads in the 2017 QMJHL Draft, the St. John's, Newfoundland product elected to join the Victoria Grizzlies that year in the British Columbia Hockey League on Vancouver Island.

It was more or less by design, as the 18-year-old chose to retain his college eligibility and now looks beyond a first-round selection in this year's NHL Draft to his first year of NCAA hockey with Boston College beginning in September.

Video: COMBINE | Alex Newhook

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BLOG: Timing of coaching staff changes important for Tippett

"You want to make sure the people being let go would have ample opportunity," the new Oilers bench boss said to Bob Stauffer and 630 CHED's Oilers Now on Monday afternoon

by Jamie Umbach /

EDMONTON, AB - Oilers Head Coach Dave Tippett joined Bob Stauffer and Oilers Now on 630 CHED Monday afternoon, offering his perspective on the club's decision to make a pair of changes to its coaching staff last week.

While the timing was important for Oilers GM and President of Hockey Operations Ken Holland and Tippett, the move was made with the opportunities of Trent Yawney and Manny Viveiros at the forefront of their decision.

"Ken and I had a couple of good talks and wanted to move as quickly as we could just to make sure any changes we're going to make, you want to make sure the people being let go would have ample opportunity," the new Oilers bench boss said of Trent Yawney and Manny Viveiros being relieved of their duties on Friday.

"I just felt that I'd like to bring a couple of guys in that I'm familiar with. We're going to do some more talking, Ken and I, this afternoon about different scenarios we're looking at."

Included in the changes was the retention of Glen Gulutzan, whom Tippett had become familiar with during his seven-year tenure as the head coach of the Dallas Stars from 2002-09.

"He was just coming into the organization at the end of my tenure there, and he's a smart hockey guy," Tippett said. "I did a lot of talking to people around the organization and outside, and got a real good feel for Gully. He was the main driver behind the power play last year, and that was one of the real positive spots for Edmonton. There's always room for upside, but he was the driver behind that."

Continuity from Gulutzan in his ability to coach the power play and having a "pulse" on the locker room is a benefit for returning players come August and Oilers Training Camp.

"I talked to a couple of players that were very much in his corner with the work he did with the power play, so I just felt I was comfortable knowing him before and the work that he's done," Tippett continued. "The little bit of continuity of having some insight on some players coming back, it was really beneficial keeping Gully."

Both Holland and Tippett were keen to make the coaching moves early to provide players and remaining staff more runway for getting accustomed with one another before a critical beginning to the 2019-20 NHL season in October.

"I think the start of this season is going to be imperative for our team, and I don't want to have a feeling out process," Tippett added. "I want to make sure we're up and going right from the start. Getting new people in here as quick as we can will be beneficial to our group."

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FEATURE: Swede strides

Joakim Nygard spent seven seasons in Sweden with Farjestad waiting for his first NHL opportunity, and hopes to benefit from Ken Holland's success finding value in European talent

by Jamie Umbach /

EDMONTON, AB - Joakim Nygard owed it to himself.

Garnering interest overseas in the NHL last year for his services as a rapid forward with a knack for scoring goals, Nygard elected to stay for his seventh season with Farjestad BK of the Swedish Hockey League as his final test to assure himself that he was ready to take the next step.

"It's a mental thing moving to another country," he said to on Wednesday. "It's a smaller rink here and stuff like that, but I felt I'd do myself justice and stay one more year to take the next step and develop the small things in my game."

That decision resulted in the 26-year-old scoring 21 times in 52 games this past campaign - the second-most goals in the SHL - and a reaffirmed sense of readiness to make the leap when the next NHL club came knocking this offseason.

Enter the Edmonton Oilers.

"I feel like I've done it, and it feels like I'm ready to take this next step."

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FEATURE: Tipping the scales

"I try to bring that atmosphere where everybody's accountable, but they're not accountable to me or management, they're accountable to winning and the crest on their jersey," Dave Tippett said

by Jamie Umbach /

EDMONTON, AB - Three weeks ago, from the moment of being named Oilers General Manager and President of Hockey Operations, Ken Holland preached his new organization's need for consistency and stability.

The process of setting the Oilers on a new course began with the search for a new head coach that would echo those words in the dressing room. Just 21 days on from his hiring, Holland officially announced Dave Tippett as the club's 16th head coach in franchise history and the new leader behind the bench for the Oilers on Tuesday.

"This was a unique opportunity. It's a first-class organization," Tippett said Tuesday morning to the media from the Oilers Hall of Fame Room.

"You have passionate fans and I think there's a tonne of upside in this group here. With Ken coming along to give it stability, that was a big checkmark for me. There were just a lot of things that came together. In the hockey world, this is still looked upon as a great place; this is still looked upon as a very, very good franchise. That's the feedback I got, and when Ken reached out I looked at it hard and it was a great opportunity."

Video: 1-ON-1 | Dave Tippett

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BLOG: Nygard highlights speed, scoring ability as greatest assets

Speaking to Bob Stauffer and Oilers Now on Monday, the 26-year-old signing is preparing to bring a fast game to Oilers Training Camp in September

by Jamie Umbach /

EDMONTON, AB - Yo-kim Nye-guard.

With phonetics for the Oilers newest signing now out of the way, blistering speed and goalscoring ability will be the intriguing details of Joakim Nygard come training camp in September after the Swedish forward inked a one-year two-way deal with the club on Friday.

"I would say I'm a speedy player. I have good speed and have developed my goalscoring," Nygard, speaking with Bob Stauffer and Oilers Now on 630 CHED, said Monday. "I will say I've developed my defensive play too, but I would say I'm a forward that likes to get some speed and score some goals."

The 6-foot-0, 179-pound product of Stockholm, Sweden posted 35 points (21G, 14A) in his seventh season in the Swedish Elite League with Farjestad BK this past campaign, finishing second in the league for goals and adding a further five tallies in 14 playoff games to help earn himself his first NHL contract.

Tweet from @EdmontonOilers: The #Oilers have signed free agent forward Joakim Nyg��rd to a one-year entry-level contract. The 26-year-old Stockholm native is coming off his 7th season with F��rjestad BK of the Swedish Hockey League, tallying 21 goals & 14 assists in 52 games in 2018-19.

"I didn't think four or five years ago that I would one day get an NHL contract, but I've believed in myself all the time and practiced hard all the time, and now the opportunity comes," Nygard said. "Just have fun and take the chance."

An additional 11 games and five points (3G, 2A) for Nygard this season came with the Swedish National Team, while also being named to his nation's preliminary roster for the just-concluded IIHF World Championship in Slovakia as interest in his services overseas ramped up.

"It was like 20 teams or something," Nygard said. "I watched the World Championship and then I headed home and took care of everything. It was six or seven teams then that were really interested, and then I made my decision from there. I really liked Edmonton, spoke to them, and it felt really good."

At Worlds, the 26-year-old began developing a Swedish connection with future teammate Adam Larsson, who was able to help prepare the forward for his first dive into the NHL with Edmonton come 2019-20.

Klefbom added more familiarity beyond their natural connection as fellow countrymen as a teammate of Nygard at Farjestad in 2013 during the defenceman's last season in the SEL before joining the Oilers.

"I spoke to Oscar after our playoff," Nygard said. "He told me some things about the team, the town and stuff like that, then at the World Championship spoke to Adam Larsson. He told me some things too, so I've spoken to these two guys and they spoke well of Edmonton."

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