Last chance Texaco for many rookies tonight, as tomorrow morning the attention will turn to the big roster and pre-season. It’s one final chance for the kids outside ‘The Three’ to show management and coaches their stuff and do something memorable. The Oilers rookies versus the Golden Bears is a unique game in hockey—it is NOT an exhibition game or hockey’s version of flag football—and it will be worth watching.
OILERS PROJECTED LINEUP
- L1: Cole Sanford 3GP, 0-2-2—Connor McDavid 1GP, 1-1-2—Anton Slepyshev 3GP, 1-0-1.
- L2: Josh Winquist, 3GP, 4-1-5—Leon Draisaitl, 3GP, 2-3-5—Braden Christoffer, 3GP, 3-1-4.
- L3: Cole Linaker 2GP, 0-0-0—Alexis Loiseau 2GP, 2-2-4—Rihards Bukarts 3GP, 0-0-0.
- L4: Connor Rankin 3GP, 2-0-2—Kyle Platzer 3GP, 1-2-3—Greg Chase 2GP, 0-2-2.
A fun lineup with plenty of talent sprinkled onto every unit. Cole Sanford has been (to my eye) a little behind but sometimes that comes from playing with lesser linemates. He’s in a feature role this evening and should shine. Slepyshev has looked good to me, after getting past a perimeter opening period in Penticton.
Leon gets the two most productive wingers at this camp for the 2line and Alexis Loiseau—coming off a fantastic final game in the Okanagan—looks to have a quieter game ahead on the 3line. Fourth line is going to be physical and could be effective—all three of these prospects has something that makes them intriguing.
- D1: Darnell Nurse 2GP, 1-0-1—Joey Laleggia 2GP, 1-2-3.
- D2: Ben Betker 3GP, 0-0-0—Loik Leveille 2GP, 0-1-1.
- D3: Caleb Jones 2GP, 0-0-0— Ethan Bear 2GP, 0-0-0.
- G1: Eetu Laurikainen (?)
The Oilers only effective pairing during the tournament will get a feature role tonight, and as it turns out the other four defensemen tonight are prospects who need to show more in order to leave the tournament on an up note (or perhaps get a few more days with the big team in main camp).
All have issues to my eye, be it coverage gaps, happy feet or slow reaction. Laurikainen had a splendid outing and a poor one, he’ll need to play well tonight because the Golden Bears are a talented team.
Because the Oilers are the Oilers—they are an easy target for media due to a decade of losing—framing an issue is extremely effective. Recently, we’ve seen the “the Oilers don’t have anyone to protect McDavid” drum is being hammered far and wide and it’s worth a quick note.
First, you bet, the Oilers have to establish that it isn’t open season on their young center. Many ways to do it, beginning with ‘keep your head up’ and making sure the power play is effective and a deterrent (nothing pisses of another team like two power-play goals in short order, stops the running around very well). Second, the Oilers may in time find themselves an effective complementary type who can help in this area by keeping up and playing the role of policeman. They are rare and you can’t put McDavid in stasis until that player is found, and running enforcers with that kind of skill will be embarrassing for all.
The Islanders ran John Tavaras as a rookie with Matt Moulson and Kyle Okposo, so did run a slower winger (Moulson) but didn’t have a nuclear deterrent on the line. The Oilers may run Taylor Hall and Teddy Purcell in some games this season, that’s probably similar to the Islanders handling of Tavares (although Purcell is significantly older than Moulson was at the time).
NHL teams are always trying to find a Milan Lucic (Montreal found one in John Ferguson, he was hired to protect Jean Beliveau—who was 32 at the time!) but the truth is this: We may go Connor McDavid’s entire career without seeing that player line up on his wing.
This is us. The Edmonton Oilers are an easy target for opposition media and for opposition teams. Best to take McDavid’s strengths—sweet, beautiful skill—and use those things to shut everyone up with goals, wins and the playoffs.