ON THE ICE
Following arguably the toughest day of the year -- medicals & fitness testing -- the Oilers strapped on their skates Saturday morning for the first on-ice sessions.
View full camp roster
View Day 1 Team Rosters
With hundreds of fans filling up on a free pancake breakfast and over 5,000 filling the stands, the first group of 21 players took to the ice.
Dustin Penner, Sam Gagner, and Ales Hemsky skated together, as did Teemu Hartikainen, Liam Reddox, and Zack Stortini.
On the blue line, Ryan Whitney teamed up with rookie Jeff Petry, Jason Strudwick with Jeremie Blain, and Brandon Davidson with Jordan Bendfeld. Devan Dubnyk and Bryan Pitton manned the pipes.
Following the skate, Whitney admitted he was a bit rusty but said everyone will improve as camp progresses.
"Everyone's been skating but today's just a little up-tempo compared to the skates we've been having on our own," he explained. "It's good to get the first skate out of the way and just to go over things the way we did, instead of scrimmaging and going out there and killing each other. We really learned some new things and I think that's what's going to be good for us."
"Obviously first day of training camp, you're trying to get used to the pace and the intensity and I felt like it was a good pace out there. Guys were moving and you're just hoping to get better every day of training camp."
The second group took to the ice at 10:15am, led by the line of Magnus Paajarvi, Andrew Cogliano, and Gilbert Brule. Jeff Deslauriers, Nikolai Khabibulin and Tyler Bunz took turns in net.
For Paajarvi, Saturday's skate marked his first main training camp experience. Despite being among the youngest guys on the ice, the Swedish forward was comfortable skating with the veterans.
"I've been playing with men for three years now, so that difference is not going to be that big for me I think," he said. "It goes faster obviously -- it's older guys -- but it's alright. The drills were pretty much the same as for the rookie tournament so I was pretty comfortable out there."
10 years Paajarvi's senior, Alexandre Giroux has a wealth of pro hockey experience. After three years in the deep Washington Capitals organizaion, the 29-year-old is hoping for a fresh start with the Oilers.
"Washington was a tough team to crack up there; they had so much talent up front.," he explained. "This summer, I was looking to find a team I had a chance to play in. Edmonton was the right fit for me and we'll see what happens in the next couple of weeks."
For many fans, it was worth the wait to see the final group of Oilers take to the ice. For the first time ever, first-overall draft pick Taylor Hall donned his Oilers jersey and stepped on the ice at Rexall Place. Hall was joined by Shawn Horcoff at centre and Jordan Eberle on the right side.
On the back end, the high-flying top line was supported by a group of experienced defencemen. Summer acquisitions Jim Vandermeer and Kurtis Foster skated together, as did Ladislav Smid and Taylor Chorney.
Swedish import Linus Omark stood out in the skate, powering up the ice and dominating some drills. Another highlight was when Hall's quick snapshot shattered a pane of glass behind Olivier Roy's net.
"I didn't know I had that kind of shot in me. Maybe all the beach workouts I've been doing all summer, but it was definitely a fun practice," Hall said with a smile.
Although Hall and Eberle have played plenty together, Horcoff was a new addition to their line. All players were pleased with the combination.
"Taylor, he's a guy that's got a ton of speed," Horcoff said. "With that speed, you're going to want to give him the puck. And with Jordan, he's got a great shot and he's got a lot of really good hockey sense and seems to be a really good overall player.
"So I think for me in the middle, it's just going to be a matter of trying to support those guys as much as possible, support the puck, and get it to them when they're open because they're guys that think the game at a high level offensively."
Hall is thankful for Horcoff's veteran advice on the ice and off.
"Any chance I got to ask him a question or anything, he's always very polite. He knows what it's like to be a young guy, and for them to put us with me and Ebs, it's a pretty good honour and something that's going to help us out."
The whole Oilers crew returns to the ice Sunday when they hold three practice sessions at Millenium Place in Sherwood Park.
|Colin Fraser |
In another edition of our fan question series, Matt Dwyer of Medicine Hat submitted a question for Colin Fraser.
MATT: "You played for Red Deer in the WHL. How does it feel to be back in Oil Country, playing for the Oilers?"
COLIN: "It feels really good. I live in Sylvan Lake now in the off-season so it's as close to home as I'm going to get. I'm excited to be back in Canada, for one, and to be part of the rebuilding process here. I'm really excited. I just want to get going here -- I just want to start playing some hockey games!"
Fill out the form on the right to submit a question for one of the Oilers. We will ask one of the submitted questions after the next practice and will post the answer in the next Team Today.
Author: Jen Sharpe | edmontonoilers.com, with files from Bob Stauffer & Tom Gazzola
Exactly one week after Oilers prospects met at Rexall Place for medicals & fitness testing, the older players gathered to complete the same tests Friday morning.
Although it was established NHLers like Shawn Horcoff, Dustin Penner and Ales Hemsky performing the rigorous Wingate test & VO2 Max, the younger rookies were also present to meet with human resources and complete other pre-season duties.
GM Steve Tambellini invited all 29 rookies to main camp, meaning over 60 players will be competing for spots on the Oilers roster over the next two weeks.
With youngsters like Taylor Hall at camp, along with off-season acquisitions like Jim Vandermeer and Colin Fraser, the three team locker rooms are filled with fresh faces and an exciting atmosphere.
"It's a whole new locker room so it's a different feel," Horcoff said after testing. "I think obviously all of us going through the last year was disappointed and it left for a really long summer. But coming back now and seeing all the new faces and a lot of the young guys and seeing how excited they are just to get [here], it brings back old memories and it definitely erases a lot of the bad ones from last year."
The big news of camp so far as been the rookie trio of Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi. Vet Jason Strudwick is looking forward to having them around, even if they do make him feel old.
"I went out for dinner with them a little while ago, with Cogs and those guys. It was funny sitting there -- it was like 19, 20, 21, 23 and then me at 35. The guys kept giving me a hard time, saying they were out with their dad, but I said 'Your dad's not this good looking,' Strudwick joked.
"I'm excited to see what they can do, and I think the rest of the city is," he added. "The young guys, you just want to harness their enthusiasm."
The coaching staff is also optimistic about the season ahead.
"I think we're well organized, well prepared, and I think everybody understands what their individual marching orders are, including myself," Head Coach Tom Renney stated. "We're ready to go."
We'll deal with anything that comes our way this year, no matter what it is, as a group. - Tom Renney
One player whose status at training camp was uncertain is Nikolai Khabibulin. The Oilers goalie is currently appealing a drunk driving conviction in Arizona but was able to participate in training camp and is happy to be back with the team.
"This is something I wish I didn't have to deal with," he said. "I spent a lot of time on it during the summer and I'm taking it very seriously, but it is what it is right now and it's an ongoing process. Right now I'm just so excited to be back and practicing and be with the teammates."
Renney wouldn't comment specifically on how Khabibulin's charges may affect the team, but the coach said the organization is prepared to face any challenges that come their way.
"We're at the front end of a process here, and so is he. We'll deal with anything that comes our way this year, no matter what it is, as a group. And at some point at that time, that may or may not be one of them
Author: Jen Sharpe | edmontonoilers.com, with files from Bob Stauffer & Tom Gazzola
OILERS vs. SHARKS:
AT THE MORNING SKATE
The 2-0 Edmonton Oilers Rookies conclude their tournament schedule tonight against the 1-1 San Jose Sharks Rookies at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton, BC.
With each game in the Young Stars Tournament featuring a dramatic increase in pace, excitement, and physical play, tonight's conclusion between the Oilers and Sharks should be a highly entertaining affair.
After dressing a much different lineup last night against the Northwest Division rival Calgary Flames, the Oilers will be going back to a similar lineup that saw them win the opening game of the tournament 4-1 against Vancouver. Edmonton's "big three" of Hall, Paajarvi, and Eberle will be back in the lineup tonight, as they will all skate on the top line looking to end the tournament off on a high note.
"You'll probably see Taylor Hall
playing up the middle -- we'll try him there, with Jordan on the right side and Magnus on the left side," rookie's head coach Todd Nelson confirmed after practice. "It should be pretty interesting and we'll see how it goes."
"Excitement" seems to be the word of the day for the Oilers.
"I'm very excited," Hall said. "It's my last kind of chance to get ready for main camp and I think we've got a lot of good lines, good guys in the line-up tonight, and obviously San Jose is a big, kind of older team so it should turn out to be a good fight."
Paajarvi echoed Hall's sentiments.
"I'm just excited to play. It's kind of hard to look at the team when you're not playing but at the same time, you see the play from a whole other level and a whole other view, so it's both positive and negative. But obviously I want to play and tonight I get that chance."
The Oil have been giving each of their rookie goalies a start, and Bryan Pitton
will be the third to man the pipes when the club takes on San Jose.
"I didn't get to sit on the bench the first game but I got to watch it. Last night I got to sit on the bench, which I'd much rather be doing," the goalie said. "I was a little excited last night to get started, and tonight I've been waiting for five days now or whatever it is so I'm just ready to get going."
SHARKS 4 - OILERS 3
Penalty trouble cost both the Oilers and the Sharks some goals Wednesday night in Penticton, but after 60 minutes, the Sharks proved to be better penalty-killers and edged out a 4-3 win.
Magnus Paajarvi and James Livingston each had a goal for Edmonton, while Taylor Hall had a goal and a helper on Paajarvi's marker. Goalie Bryan Pitton made 26 saves in the losing effort.
Author: Jen Sharpe | edmontonoilers.com, with files from Tom Gazzola