TALKING POINTS: Holland speaks ahead of Oilers Training Camp
Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Ken Holland spoke to the media at Edmonton Country Club ahead of Thursday's Main Camp
EDMONTON, AB - Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Ken Holland spoke to the media at the Barry Katz Golf Tournament at Edmonton Country Club.
Holland commented on the upcoming Oilers Training Camp, which begins on Thursday, Sept. 12, provided an assessment on Oilers Captain Connor McDavid and gave his thoughts on the Oilers prospects, who just wrapped up Rookie Camp.
Read or watch Holland's interview below.
Some questions and answers have been condensed for clarity.
Q: What did you think of the Oilers Rookie Camp games against the Flames Rookies?
A: Both games were close. Goaltending, obviously, all three guys played excellent in the games. Obviously, you'd like to score some goals. I thought some players played pretty well and others didn't play as well as we'd hoped or expected. There's still a long way to go. There are three weeks to go. Some of those players that played in those games are players that we want to see play in the NHL pre-season games.
Q: How many guys are you bringing to Main Camp from Rookie Camp?
A: I think we're going to cut two or three kids here. We were talking, (Dave) Tippett, Keith Gretzky and myself. Most of them through the weekend. We're going to make some moves on probably Sunday or Monday as we move into pre-season games. I think for some young players, it's valuable to be around the NHL players. Get some experience even if they don't play NHL games. Just to feel the pace for three or four days before they go back to junior hockey. So, that's what we'll do.
Q: What's the feeling for these guys when they first get into Camp? Is it often the reaction, especially as rookies, that they might be a little intimidated and how they react to that, is that important?
A: I think that's why the rookie game or prospect games are so important for those young players. It's an opportunity to get their feet wet and get a little comfortable. Then obviously things are going to get cranked up. Over the next four to six weeks, every week starts to get cranked up. Early in pre-season, it's half NHL, half American Leaguers. You get near the end of pre-season, you start getting closer to a roster. Then you got Opening Night. Then two weeks into the season, the veterans start to get their games cranked up. You try to see which players can keep going and as you go along, some young players start to get to a point in the Camp where it's a bit much at that point and time in their career, and it's a learning experience. That's what I'm going to watch here for the next month.
Q: What does somebody have to do to emerge as a winger in the bottom six?
A: When you're in the bottom six, you're looking for a lot of things. One of the things is penalty killing. We've signed some players that have penalty killed in other cities. Can we find some chemistry between pairs? Then we want to get some secondary scoring. You'd like to be able to have some size and maybe spend some time in the offensive zone. So, over the seven pre-season games, that'll be an opportunity. Those guys are going to play lots of games. They're all going to play probably four, five or six games. We're trying to see who's going to make the team but at the same time, who's going to complement one another to form line combinations. And then obviously, who's going to play more minutes and what role are they going to have on the team? Those are the things that we're going to try to figure out over the next three weeks.
Q: Would you rather not have your star players kill penalties?
A: My take would be for the most part, no, but I do think that sometimes yes. But I think for the most part you want people with different roles. In Detroit, we had (Henrik) Zetterberg and (Pavel) Datsyuk and they killed penalties. Mike Babcock, at times, had our best players killing penalties than not. It depends on the game. It depends on if we can find some people who can really do a good job on penalty killing, those best players will get out for the last 20 or 30 seconds leading into a 5-on-5 shift. But for the most part, I'd like to have people who have different roles. It makes for good chemistry on the team.
Q: How many pre-season games would you like to see Connor McDavid play?
A: If he was healthy, probably two or three but obviously it's a unique situation. Either one at most or very likely, zero. We've got three weeks to go. We're going to be conservative. We'd rather be safe than sorry. If he's not ready for opening night, he's not ready for opening night. He was in Toronto all summer. He's got a group of people that were working with him on his rehab. I got constant videos, one or two videos a week of him skating and training. Our training staff and doctors were in communication. We had some conference calls early in May and June. Then they communicated, our staff with their staff, and everything we've heard all along has been positive. He's involved. He's scrimmaging, doing things 3-on-3 down low so I think he's in a great spot but we may as well be conservative and safe.
Q: How would you characterize the Jesse Puljujarvi situation now?
A: I believe there are teams out there that are interested. I didn't get anything that I felt that was worth pushing to the final stages and getting a deal done. So, you get into late August and everything kind of goes quiet. Now everybody's at prospect tournaments all around the League, so it's quiet. I'm not going to force something. If it's there, I'll explore it. If it's not there, I'm prepared to sit.
A: My philosophy has always been to be very patient with young players. Now, I did put Dylan Larkin on the Detroit Red Wings when he was 19. So, for every rule, there's an exception. I thought he played very well in the two rookie games. I think he was our best-conditioned athlete of all the rookies. He put work in this summer. I want to watch him play in the pre-season. You got (Joel) Persson who came over from Sweden, (William) Lagesson, (Ethan) Bear, (Caleb) Jones from the American League, Bouch, (Dmitri) Samorukov, (Brandon) Manning and all those other players that were on the team.
Tipp and I are looking forward to watching pre-season and seeing how it all shapes out. We're going to carry seven and he (Bouchard) is not fighting for a seven spot. He's fighting for a (top) six spot. My philosophy always is when you're putting the roster together, I'll say to the head coach: 'You're playing tomorrow, tell me who's in the lineup.'
If a young player isn't in the lineup, he's going to the American League. If he is in the lineup, then we have a further conversation about where he fits. I'd rather make the call during the season to call the player up than to make the call during the season to send the player down. I think it's easier for their mind and mentality to be working their way up than down. Young players have to take a job from a veteran.
Q: Mike Smith and James Neal are two guys that could help with the leadership of this club. How much do you think they will help lead?
A: Well, I think it's important to have veteran leadership. In today's world, everyone talks about the 'leadership group.' There's a group of people in that locker room that really drive your team. Certainly, those are two vets who have had lots of success in their careers. Tipp has coached both of them at some time in their career. So, they're going to be really important on the ice and off the ice to the success of the hockey team.
We're excited they're here. That's part of the reason that we did the deals and did the signings, is we were trying to bring in some people with some veteran leadership. I always think it's important to have some older people in that locker room because when things get rocky, and over an 82-game season there's a good chance there is going to be some rocky patches, players that have been through it can keep everybody calm.
Q: No prospect tournament for the Oilers and Calgary. Do you want one going forward?
A: Yeah, I've enjoyed the two games with Calgary. The Traverse City tournament is a pretty special tournament. There are eight teams, it's a tournament format. I guess for me, we've told the young players that the Development Camp in June is education. This is evaluation. So, three or four games you would prefer to evaluate versus two but I certainly enjoyed watching the two games. That's something I'll look into here over the next couple of months.