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BLOG: Don't sleep on Yamamoto

After posting 26 points in 27 games, NHL.com ranked Yamamoto as the No. 1 'sleeper pick' for fantasy owners heading into the post-season

by Tony Brar / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - Let's face it, we've all been there

You're scrambling through your notes and various playoff pool magazines with time expiring, hoping to get that one pick to push your team to fantasy glory.

Then, you immediately regret your decision, saying to yourself, "I should have gone with the other guy."

Don't be that person. Not this year.

Pro tip: have Kailer Yamamoto circled on your draft board.

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BLOG: Nurse inspired by Michael Jordan upon new challenge

Darnell Nurse is drawing inspiration from 'Air Jordan' to help himself take on a new challenge: playing with no fans in the building

by Tony Brar / EdmontonOilers.com

 

EDMONTON, AB - While Darnell Nurse looks to defeat the Chicago Blackhawks once when the NHL resumes play, ironically, it's a Chicago icon that helps fuel his fire.

Many sports fans see Michael Jordan as one of the greatest competitors of all time. Of course, 'The Last Dance' documentary has recently brought his competitive streak and championship mindset back into the spotlight.

Now 22 years removed from the Bulls' last championship, Nurse is drawing inspiration from 'Air Jordan' to help himself take on a new challenge: playing with no fans in the building.

Make no mistake, 18,500 screaming fans have a tremendous effect on playoff atmosphere. They can help with momentum shifts in a game and even provide a boost prior to puck drop. For example, when asked to reflect on the 2017 postseason, forward Zack Kassian was quick to reference the pre-game energy at Rogers Place in an episode of Oilers In-Depth: The Podcast earlier this season.

"It was insane," Kassian stated. "When we came out for warm-up in game one, everyone was in their seats, everyone was shaking the glass and everyone was cheering. I still get goosebumps thinking about it.

"I kept hearing from the '06 run when they made it to the finals, 'this place is crazy, this place is crazy. Just wait.' Once the playoffs started, this place was so loud. It was outrageous. The energy in the building that trickled down to the players was second to none."

Video: RAW | McDavid & Nurse 05.28.20

However, the 2020 Qualifying Round and Stanley Cup Playoffs will see players having to create their own excitement, without the help of their hometown faithful cheering them on.

While he doesn't prefer the scenario, Nurse believes creating excitement within will help he and his teammates overcome the challenge.

"Have you watched 'The Last Dance' with Michael Jordan?" asked the Oilers rearguard when questioned about the challenge of playing in front of no fans. "I think that's a perfect example (of what we can do). 

"His mindset in a lot of those games of creating your own environment, creating your own fire. I think that's a test that everyone that is in this situation is going to have to go through - having the ability to create your own excitement.

"Yeah, there are no fans there and yeah, you might be playing in a HUB city but there's an opportunity to win the Stanley Cup. That should be enough motivation to get anyone going."

And like Mike in '91, Nurse eyes his first championship ring this fall. He and his Oilers teammates will need 19 more wins to turn this Stanley Cup opportunity into reality.

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BLOG: Draisaitl staying busy at home in isolation

From binge-watching 'This is Us' to stickhandling against 'ruff' opponents, Draisaitl has kept busy in isolation

by Tony Brar / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - Like many of us, Leon Draisaitl has a little more time on his hands than he's used to.

"One show that I've been watching a lot of is 'This Is Us.' God, I got a lot of time to watch movies and shows right now, I feel like I've watched pretty much everything," said the league's leading scorer with a smile.

As for other hobbies he's picked up: "Puzzles. Lots of puzzles. Just trying to do whatever we can at home to stay entertained."

Just 25 days ago, Draisaitl received a pass below the Blackhawks' goal line and as quick as you can say 'Netflix,' he proceeded to set up Kailer Yamamoto to pull the Oilers within one. It would be his second assist of the night and the last point he's registered to date.

But now, instead of finding himself battling against NHL defenceman on the ice, he's going head-to-head with ruff-er opponents at home.

"I try to dangle around my dog once in a while with my stick," laughed Draisaitl. "I have a stick in my basement."

Instagram from @drat_29: Lots of time with this litl bugger 🐾

From stickhandling in the basement with Bowie to working out in his home gym, Draisaitl has done his best to stay in shape during isolation. The centre has changed up his fitness activities regularly to keep things dynamic - just like his play on the ice, where he truly feels at home.

"That might be the hardest part about it," said Draisaitl. "I think we all miss it. That's the hard part. We're all sitting here patiently waiting to start playing again. Stay positive, (Oilers fans). Stick with it. Just like we are. But right now, there are more important things going on in the world and we have to accept that.

"Hopefully, we can all get back to playing soon and bring this into the playoffs."

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BLOG: Smith providing Oilers with 'swagger'

"He's a real solid veteran, he's a vocal leader in that room and his play is backing up those vocals right now," said Oilers Head Coach Dave Tippett

by Tony Brar / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - Spoiler alert -- when you look up the word swagger in the dictionary, you won't see a photo of Mike Smith. His name isn't mentioned in the provided examples either.

According to the Meriam-Webster Dictionary, the first known use of swagger was circa 1596. And 424 years later, there may not be a better embodiment of the word than Oilers netminder Mike Smith.

Since the calendar flipped to 2020, Smith has been a force in the Edmonton goal. He's helped the Oilers pick up points in 14 of his last 15 starts (10-1-4) while carrying a .915 SV% and a 2.63 GAA. Those numbers are even better on home ice (4-0-2, .923 SV% & 2.37GAA), which is great news for Head Coach Dave Tippett, considering Smith is expected to get the start on Saturday at Rogers Place.

"When your goaltender plays well, and both guys have played well, it gives your team a swagger," said Tippett following Friday morning's practice. "Your goalie goes in there and you know you're going to get good goaltending every night. With Mike, his game was a down in December but he's turned the page and has played really well since. Whenever a goaltender plays well, it gives your team confidence and that's what Mike does.

"He's a real solid veteran, he's a vocal leader in that room and his play is backing up those vocals right now."

Video: RAW | Dave Tippett 02.28.20

As Tippett mentioned, December was less than ideal for Smith and the Oilers. In the five games the 37-year-old appeared in, the Oilers failed to record a win and Smith's numbers indicated that he was battling confidence (0-2-1, .828SV% & 4.17 GAA).

"I have a long history with him and the times that I think he struggles a little bit are when he wants to do well that he tries too hard," said Tippett. "He wants to be the best of the best, sometimes you get trying too hard and sometimes you just have to relax and let your talents take over and let the game come to you a little bit. That's what he's done.

"He's got back in there and he's playing calm and doing things right."

And he will continue needing to - out of necessity. Both he and Mikko Koskinen will.

It's been well documented that Tippett prefers balancing out starts between his two netminders, especially with the travel associated in playing in the Western Conference.

When looking at the Oilers schedule in March, there are 16 games on tap - 10 home, six on the road - with two back-to-back sets. Playing every second night will require both goalies to step up and earn Edmonton crucial points in the standings during this ultra-tight playoff race.

Both need to continue providing this team with swagger.

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BLOG: Holland outlines trade conditions, comments on Green

"His strengths are his ability to skate and his ability to move the puck. We're excited to make the deal," said Oilers General Manager and President of Hockey Operations Ken Holland.

by Tony Brar / EdmontonOilers.com

ANAHEIM, CA - The Edmonton Oilers announced the acquisition of defenceman Mike Green from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for Kyle Brodziak and a conditional 2020 fourth-round draft pick during Sunday evening's game. 

"Detroit is retaining 50% (of Green's salary and cap hit)," said General Manager and President of Hockey Operations Ken Holland post-game. "It's a fourth-round draft pick in 2020 and it goes to a third in 2021 if we advance to the final four (2020 Western Conference Finals) and if Mike plays 50% of the playoff games in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

"I think for a fourth-round draft pick, we have good protection on the back end."

Video: RAW | Ken Holland re: Mike Green 02.23.20

Green was in his fifth campaign with Detroit, posting three goals and eight assists in 48 games this season. The 34-year-old will become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

"I talked to (Red Wings General Manager) Steve Yzerman a few times over the last week," added Holland. "Over the last 24 hours, things heated up and we got the deal that we announced.

"You can never have enough defenceman. Obviously, I know Mike Green from my days in Detroit. His strengths are his ability to skate and his ability to move the puck. He can play on the power play if he has to. He's a good guy, a good team player - fits in good in the locker room. We're excited to make the deal."

Green will join his new club in Anaheim on Monday and it is not confirmed if he will draw into the lineup on Tuesday against the Ducks.

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BLOG: Yamamoto delivering alongside Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins

"He reads situations well and makes good plays with the puck. That's why you see a guy like Draisaitl likes to play with him," said Oilers Head Coach Dave Tippett

by Tony Brar / EdmontonOilers.com

MONTREAL, QC - Instant impact.

Since being recalled on December 29th, Kailer Yamamoto has done it all for the Oilers.

Not only has the winger hit the scoresheet three times (2G, 1A) in his first four games but his play - both with and without the puck - is earning the respect of his fellow teammates.

"He came up with a lot of energy," said Connor McDavid following an afternoon practice in Montreal on Wednesday. "He's hitting guys, creating plays, opening up ice for his linemates and even finding ways to score a couple.

"He's been great."

And when asked about the most underrated aspect of his game:

"I would say his physicality," said the captain. "I think the first thing people think about with Yamo is his size - he's a little bit of a smaller guy but he brings a lot of energy and hits guys that are maybe twice his size.

"We definitely admire that."

Video: OILERS TODAY | Yamamotivated 01.08.20

Head Coach Dave Tippett has tasked Yamamoto with 14:46 TOI per game while playing in a top-six role alongside Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The 21-year-old has shown signs of growth and maturity following off-season rehab for a wrist surgery late last season.

"He's a smart player," said Tippett. "He reads situations well and makes good plays with the puck. That's why you see a guy like Draisaitl likes to play with him because he can play a give-and-go game and makes intelligent plays. Along with tenacity, he gets to the front of the net, he finds loose pucks.

"He's willing to work."

Yamamoto also had to work his way up.

The 5-foot-8, 158-pound forward tallied 16 points (8G, 8A) in 23 games with the Bakersfield Condors before getting the call-up. He began the season with a four-game goal-scoring streak (4G, 1A) and used a solid start to build momentum throughout the season, eventually leading to a ticket to Edmonton.

"I didn't play the end of last season," said Yamamoto on his wrist injury. "So, going down there (to the AHL), getting my confidence back up and getting my game back to where it needs to be was huge. I give a lot of credit to all of the guys down there (in Bakersfield). The coaching staff helped me out a lot. I'm very thankful for them.

"Now, I'm feeling more comfortable every day with (Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins). It's a really good opportunity. Hopefully, I can run with it."

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FEATURE: Nuge deserving of huge honour

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins continues to build off of a career-year in 2018-19 and looks to make his second NHL All-Star Game appearance.

by Tony Brar / EdmontonOilers.com

TORONTO, ON - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been there before.

But the question is will he be there again this season?

The former first-overall pick at the 2011 NHL Draft eyes his second All-Star Game appearance later this month. He is one of eight players in the Pacific Division fans can vote for as part of the 'Last Men In' ballot.

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FEATURE: Keep calm and Klefbom

The Oilers defenceman is off to the best start of his seven-year career and currently averages a league-best 25:56 of ice time per game

by Tony Brar / EdmontonOilers.com

LAS VEGAS, NV - Carry on.

It's business as usual for Oscar Klefbom.

Offensively, the defenceman is currently enjoying the best start of his seven-year career. However, Klefbom's 17 points through the first 24 games of the season isn't the most impressive stat for the rearguard himself.

His 25:56 time on ice per game - which leads the National Hockey League - is a semblance of trust and responsibility put on his shoulders from Dave Tippett and the coaching staff here in Edmonton.  

"I'm really happy about the responsibility that I'm getting from being out there on the penalty kill and the powerplay, playing a lot of heavy minutes," said Klefbom following Friday's skate in Las Vegas. "If I'm out there for that many minutes, I've got to manage my minutes and obviously, do something good with it.

"We have a lot of defencemen here that want to play more and show the coaches what they're made of. Right now, I have a lot of that responsibility and I try to do my best with those minutes."

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ROOKIE CAMP: Woodcroft says Benson 'looks fantastic' early in Camp

"When he feels confident, his natural skills and natural abilities come out. His numbers speak for themselves," said Woodcroft

by Tony Brar / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - Seamless.

That's probably the best way to describe Tyler Benson's transition to the pro game.

In junior, Benson captained the Vancouver Giants in three of his four seasons with the club, tallying 184 points in 190 career WHL games - his last two seasons with Vancouver saw the winger average well more than a point per game.

However, no one questioned his talent. It was his ability to be on the ice that was the concern.

Benson battled numerous injuries in his junior career, including spinal issues and groin and shoulder injuries that lingered during his tenure with the Giants.

Thankfully for the Edmonton native, that wasn't the case in his first year of pro hockey, suiting up in all 78 games for the Bakersfield Condors in the regular season and playoffs.

"He's got to feel real good about a few things," said Condors Head Coach Jay Woodcroft. "Number one, the fact that he was healthy for the entire year. He was healthy, he put in a great summer last summer and he reaped the benefits. That's a kid who put in the work in order to feel confident.

"Confidence is earned. That's something we would say in Bakersfield, that you earn the right to feel confident. It comes from the work you put in during the summertime, it comes from your daily process, how you take care of yourself away from the rink, how professional you are and your work habits."

Video: ROOKIE CAMP | Woodcroft 09.06.19

While Benson enjoyed a productive rookie season in the American Hockey League - registering 66 points (15 goals, 51 assists) in 68 games - it didn't come without personal adversity. From mid-November to late December, the six-foot winger went 17 games without scoring a goal.

"What I liked about it was he worked his way out of that situation," said Woodcroft. "He worked his way out of it at that level. Now he has the foundation of how to overcome some personal adversity of not scoring a goal for a certain length of games.

"Then, in the second half of the season, he shot the puck a lot more. He was a threat."

After being named to the All-Rookie team with his teammate and roommate Shane Starrett, Benson went on to be a key piece for the Condors during their 2019 Calder Cup playoff run. While Bakersfield was eliminated in the Pacific Division Final, Benson's skill and confidence was on full display this past spring.  

"When he feels confident, his natural skills and natural abilities come out," explained Woodcroft. "His numbers speak for themselves. What I like about him is that there was personal growth in his game as well. Benson's overall game was a huge plus as well. I was comfortable putting those kids against anybody.

"Look at him out here (in Rookie Camp), he looks fantastic. Just like a lot of the other forwards that are going to compete to make the Edmonton Oilers, he's got to feel real good about his opportunity."

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ROSTER REBOOT: Tyler Benson

Fresh off a successful rookie pro season, forward Tyler Benson looks to crack the Oilers opening night lineup come October

by Tony Brar / EdmontonOilers.com

EdmontonOilers.com is checking in with Oilers players and prospects in our Roster Reboot series as they discuss their summer activities and gear up for the 2019-20 season.

EDMONTON, AB - If you ask Tyler Benson about his goal coming into Oilers Training Camp, one thing becomes crystal clear: he feels mentally and physically ready to make the jump.

"My goal is to be with the Oilers this year coming out of camp," Benson said in a phone interview with EdmontonOilers.com. "It's what I've been training all summer for and working out hard to do. I want to be able to show myself fully in camp and try to stick with the club as long as I can.

"Hopefully, be able to stay for the year."

In 2016, Benson was drafted by his hometown team in the second round of the NHL Draft. Born and raised in Alberta's capital city, the six-foot, 190-pound winger's roots are deep in the community.

Benson is still the Bantam AAA all-time leading scorer in Edmonton - a city where he also hopes to make his childhood dream of suiting up in an NHL game come true.

Video: AUDIO | Tyler Benson Interview 08.19.19

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