Twins Kellen & Connor Jones conduct one of many joint interviews during Oilers Development Camp. (Photo by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club)
Put a group of elite athletes together and you're going to feel the competition, friendly or otherwise. Although the 27 players attending Oilers Development Camp this week aren't yet battling for roster spots, it's clear that the on-ice battles in drills and scrimmages are spirited.
For camp invitees Kellen and Connor Jones, the competition goes a little deeper than who can clear the goal-line fastest.
The Joneses are identical twins and for the past two years have played with the BCHL's Vernon Vipers. Their hockey resumes were nearly identical up until June 26, when Kellen was selected by the Oilers in the seventh round of the NHL Entry Draft. Connor was not drafted.
The situation could have tainted the twins' brotherly love, but both players insist that their bond remains strong.
"First thing I thought about, I was just really happy for him," Connor said about hearing his brother was drafted. "He deserves everything -- all his rewards and everything that's happened so far -- so I was just real proud of him and real happy for him."
The support stretches onto the ice as well. Despite being placed on opposite teams for Thursday's scrimmage, Connor had trouble seeing his bro as the enemy -- part of the time, anyway.
"I think I hit three guys out there and I think it was the same guy. I made sure I finished my checks on him," Connor said with a grin. "But I messed up one time. I fed him a perfect pass but he was on a different team so it didn't work out too well."
"It's pretty funny," Kellen added. "I kind of know what he's doing every time. But it's lots of fun. I love playing against him as well as with him."
Although they don't always jive on the ice, the Joneses agree that this week's camp was a positive experience.
"It's a dream come true to be in an NHL dressing room," Kellen explained. "Skating with guys like (Jordan) Eberle and (Taylor) Hall, seeing those guys work, it's pretty cool being around them. Everything from the facilities to the coaches, it's pretty awesome. It's been a great experience so far and it's been lots of fun."
It's pretty funny. I kind of know what he's doing every time. But it's lots of fun. I love playing against him as well as with him. - Kellen Jones, about playing with twin brother Connor
"We're trying to learn everything," Connor added. "We've never really been around guys like this before, Simon Bennett (Oilers Strength & Conditioning Coach) and stuff like that. We're learning lots of stuff from those guys."
Following Thursday's on-ice session, the twins were anticipating a turn at bat and in the field at Edmonton Capitals batting practice with the rest of the prospects. As expected, sibling rivalry transcends the sport of hockey.
"He's a better pitcher and I'd have to say I'm a better hitter," Kellen insisted.
"He's a pretty good hitter, but I think I could get him," Connor countered. "I know exactly where to put it so he doesn't hit it, so I think I can get him."
After a few hours on the ball diamond, the twins return to the ice Friday for the final day of Development Camp.