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Youth set to ignite Battle of Alberta resurrection

Both the Oilers and Flames have stockpiled young talent, which could help reignite the rivalry

by Chris Wescott @TheChrisWescott / EdmontonOilers.com Head Writer

Brandon Davidson is a born-and-bred Alberta boy with fond memories of the Edmonton-Calgary rivalry.

"My memories of the Battle of Alberta would be all the bloodbaths," said the Oilers defenceman, who got his first real taste of the Battle of Alberta last season.

"I saw it in the stands and around the city," Davidson said. "It's a very competitive and prideful event when these two teams get together. It's something I look forward to. I circle it on the calendar, personally. The stakes are just a little higher. It's a battle of pride for the most part."

Davidson's excitement level for the Battle of Alberta rivalry is echoed around the Oilers locker room. But, quite frankly, it's also a rivalry that hasn't been where it once was. A bitter, bloody affair has been quelled of late due to struggles by both franchises.

"It's a rivalry that a lot of people love but I think it's died a little in the past because of the position of the teams," said Oilers winger Jordan Eberle.

Heading into the 2016-17 season, there's a possibility the rivalry turns around and hits a new level.

"The one thing you want for the Battle of Alberta to get back to where it was is you need the teams to get back into the playoffs," said Flames Captain Mark Giordano. "I think both teams are optimistic with their young players."

That's the key to reigniting the Battle of Alberta - the glut of young talent on each roster. The Oilers will roll out players like Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Darnell Nurse. The Flames will parry with the likes of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett and Matthew Tkachuk.

"There's a lot of skill and there's a lot of skilled guys at a young age that want to make a difference. That's what makes teams grow," said Monahan.

 

"You don't look at it when you're on the ice as their young guys. Their young guys, I'd say, are their best players. They're going to log the big minutes."

"With the high draft picks and both teams having a really good group of young players coming up as stars in this league, it definitely makes it more intriguing," added Flames centre Matt Stajan. "Obviously, as the teams get better and we're battling for playoffs and both teams are in that battle, it's going to continue to be more of a battle. That just goes without saying."

The youth shall inherit the earth, and this rivalry as well. With two teams so close geographically and so steeped in a tradition of hatred and competitive fire, this showdown is sure to heat up.

"You look at the rosters, there's a lot of young players on each team that are going to play against each other for a long time," said Nurse. "It's definitely going to be a rivalry that picks up steam and is going to be a great battle for a lot of years to come."

The 21-year-old Oilers defenceman already sees the rivalry taking an upward trajectory.

"You play the team so much," he said. "They're in the same division and we play each other so often over the course of a year. You're going to build up a dislike for each other. Towards the end of the year (last season) it was starting to get there. As the years go on and each team gets better, it's going to be a rivalry that really takes shape."

Battle of Alberta 2016-17 begins Wednesday night in Edmonton, with the opening of Rogers Place. Then the battle heads to Calgary on Friday night for a rematch. Both teams are eager to show they've made strides to move up the standings and they're ready to make it hard on the other team to gain the advantage.

"They're in a situation where they're getting better as a team. We're definitely better as a team. You can see it rekindling a little bit," said Eberle.

"We want to be the best team in Alberta and we want to be the best team in the League," Davidson said. "It takes steps and I think over the past few years we've been working on those steps and I think Calgary has, too. This is a game to really assert yourself and take pride in the Battle of Alberta.

"I think the flames (of the rivalry) have reignited and the battle is back."

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