The Edmonton Oilers Rookies challenge the Calgary Flames Rookies on Wednesday, Sep. 14 in Penticton. Who are the opponents and how do the Oilers stack up?
Lance Bouma – 3rd round, 78th overall in 2008
Bouma concluded the 2010-11 season with the Flames, establishing his role as a versatile, two-way centre in 16 NHL games. The 21-year-old also skated in 61 games with the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat, scoring 12 goals and 20 points before getting the big-league promotion.
He'll be challenging for a full-time roster spot this season, but the process begins in Penticton where he’ll be counted on to produce as a veteran. Having spent four seasons with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants, Bouma should feel right at home in BC.
Sven Baertschi – 1st round, 13th overall in 2011
Widely considered to be Calgary’s top prospect, Baertschi brings a whole new element to the Flames’ in-need prospect pool. At 5’10” and 185 pounds, the 18-year-old uses his body well, especially in the corners to gain possession and create a scoring chance.
He played last season with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks, scoring 34 goals and 85 points in only 66 regular-season games. He added 27 points in 21 post-season matches, proving to be Portland’s most consistent and persistent scorer in his only Jr. campaign.
Greg Nemisz – 1st round, 25th overall in 2008
Nemisz’ OHL career came to a close in 2009-10 when he scored 34 goals and 70 points in only 51 games. He added two goals and 12 points en route to a Memorial Cup Championship with Taylor Hall in Windsor. His rookie season in the AHL proved he could do it without Hall, scoring 14 goals and 33 points with the Heat.
Like Bouma, he ended 2010-11 in Calgary, playing six games and recording an assist. Nemisz’ hands, willingness to drive the net and thrive in a two-way role should help him succeed in BC. This will be an opportunity for the skilled 21-year-old to make an impression, earning a greater look when camp continues next week in Calgary.
TJ Brodie – 4th round, 114th overall in 2008
Brodie began the 2010-11 season in Calgary, but was returned to the AHL only three games into the year. The smooth-skating, puck-moving blueliner makes pinpoint passes on the breakout, and is a danger to opposing teams across the rink.
On the power-play, he controls the puck well, dishing to teammates or putting pucks on net. He recorded an impressive 29 assists (34 points) in only 68 games with the Heat last season, making a mark as he looked for an opening on the Flames' roster.
Tyler Wotherspoon – 2nd round, 57th overall in 2011
Like Baertschi, Wotherspoon is a 2011 pick and played with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks last season. That’s where the comparison ends, mind you. The 6’2”, 203-pound native of Surrey, BC is an intense, physically-commanding rock on the blueline.
Wotherspoon needs to improve his quickness and puck-moving ability to reach the next level, but he’ll get a proper assessment when the Flames go head-to-head with speedy, higher-skilled teams.
Both teams have skill and speed, but like most any other Battle of Alberta, the game can usually be determined by willingness and toughness.
Expect Cameron Abney to make an impression as he usually does, challenging opponents in a toe-to-toe matchup. With players looking to make a mark and earn another look at camp, players will stop at nothing to show coaches, management and media what they’ve got.
Everyone is expecting a chippy contest, which means special teams will have an impact as well. We know Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will be out to shine, but others will have to step up, too. Drew Czerwonka, Kristians Pelss and Tobias Rieder (and others) will have an opportunity showcase their CHL success with the man-advantage; Calgary would be wise to play at evens.
There’s also the Oil Kings connection. In addition to Abney, the Oilers’ 3rd round pick Travis Ewanyk will get a chance to shoot on his WHL teammate Laurent Brossoit, who was chosen by Calgary in 2011’s sixth round, 164th overall.