“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.” A. A. Milne
There are Edmontonians who can’t wait to fly south for the winter, but this bird loves the cool air and the coming frost. NHL hockey is back—albeit in pre-season form—and that trumps any weather old man winter can bring me. We begin tonight with a pile of roster questions and the answers start rolling in just after 7pm local time.
ONE YEAR AGO, SAME GAMES
- Taylor Hall—Connor McDavid—Teddy Purcell: Major firepower on 1line.
- Anton Lander—Leon Draisaitl—Nail Yakupov: There was lots of buzz about this trio.
- Ryan Hamilton—Andrew Miller—Tyler Pitlick: There was zero buzz about this trio.
- Luke Gazdic—Josh Winquist—Matt Ford: Only Gazdic would play NHL games.
- Andrej Sekera—Mark Fayne: Ended up being the most effective pairing.
- Andrew Ference—Nikita Nikitin: The Eno experiment.
- Brad Hunt—Brandon Davidson: Davidson rose rapidly after this game.
- Cam Talbot and Laurent Brossoit: Could be the NHL pairing this season.
- Benoit Pouliot—Ryan Nugent-Hopkins—Jordan Eberle: The big line.
- Matt Hendricks—Mark Letestu—Lauri Korpikoski: An NHL line, they ended up playing more third than fourth-line minutes.
- Anton Slepyshev—Bogdan Yakimov—Rob Klinkhammer: Rocknrolla.
- Phil McRae—Jujhar Khaira—Braden Christoffer: Khaira would emerge during the year.
- Oscar Klefbom—Justin Schultz: Blue money married to blown money.
- Griffin Reinhart—Eric Gryba: I liked this pairing a year ago, like it now.
- Darnell Nurse—Joey Laleggia: Both men can wheel.
- Ben Scrivens and Anders Nilsson: One job, two goalies. The Swede won it.
Among the players who dressed one year ago, 8 played for the Edmonton team, 11 for Calgary in PS 1 and 2.
OILERS OPENING NIGHT 2015-16
- L1: Pouliot—Nuge—Purcell
- L2: Hall—McDavid—Slepyshev
- L3: Korpikoski—Lander —Yakupov
- L4: Klinkhammer—Letestu—Hendricks
- D1: Sekera—Fayne
- D2: Klefbom—J. Schultz
- D3: Reinhart—Gryba
- G1: Talbot (Nilsson)
- Extras: Luke Gazdic, Andrew Ference, Brandon Davidson
- Injured: Jordan Eberle, Dillon Simpson
TONIGHT’S EDMONTON LINEUP
- Milan Lucic—Drake Caggiula—Jordan Eberle: These are the top wingers on the club, with a charging Caggiula trying to win a job somewhere. Fascinating training camp, with the college men providing a lot of the intrigue.
- Benoit Pouliot—Ryan Vesce—Jesse Puljujarvi: This line could house the opening night 2line wingers, and Vesce is getting a helluva push here. Vesce’s NHLE from last season’s KHL gig (54 points) is bloody fabulous, but he is 5.08 and 34 so let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Still, he is a righty with terrific skill.
- Taylor Beck—Jujhar Khaira—Kris Versteeg: A sign of the improved depth this season is obvious here, as the third line one year ago in Edmonton was Hamilton—Miller—Pitlick. I think Versteeg has a clear shot at an opening night job, and Khaira might not be far behind.
- Mitch Moroz—Kyle Platzer—Iiro Pakarinen: This feels like an AHL line (eight lines in use in one night, the 4line isn’t going to be stellar), but Pakarinen played in the NHL last year. Interesting to see him here, he could have played in the Taylor Beck slot or in Calgary. The times they are a changin?
- Oscar Klefbom—Adam Larsson: The brand new top pairing rolls off the line, if this duo can provide quality play and stay healthy, Edmonton could be in contention at the deadline.
- Ben Betker—Mark Fayne: Betker has improved mobility over last season, but this is a fairly shocking push based on how things looked before training camp. Fayne has apparently been clean and jerking Westfalia’s all summer long. Fascinating pair.
- Markus Niemelainen—Matt Benning: Junior defensemen will get games this week, Niemelainen has a good chance to show well in a league game. Benning is likely to hang around deep into camp, one wonders what the gap in TOI will be between second and third pairing.
- Cam Talbot (Eetu Laurikainen): Oilers No. 1 goalie begins what will hopefully be a 70-game season tonight, word is he might not get the entire game. Laurikainen could get pushed by college man Nick Ellis for a job in Bakersfield.
TONIGHT’S CALGARY LINEUP
- Patrick Maroon—Anton Lander—Nail Yakupov: This could be the third winger set opening night, and Lander gets a very nice chance to show his stuff. This group is up against it in Demonville, if they can outscore the opposition we have a news story.
- Matt Hendricks—Mark Letestu—Zack Kassian: This could be an actual 4line, the only one available on opening night. I imagine they see a lot of duty tonight on the road.
- Braden Christoffer—Jere Sallinen—Anton Slepyshev: This line feels like an AHL trio, but Sallinen is a wild card and Slepyshev did see NHL ice a year ago. I am interested to see the Finn.
- Greg Chase—Josh Currie—Patrick Russell: This is definitely an AHL line, important season for Chase and this is his first chance to shine. Avoiding penalties while drawing them will be a good start.
- Darnell Nurse—Brandon Davidson: This could be the third pairing on opening night, and for me that is probably the ideal solution. Davidson is a dandy player, Nurse a promising if flawed young blue. This could work.
- Jordan Oesterle—Eric Gryba: Both men are probably bubble players for the roster, although the club could employ 8D to start the season. I like the idea of a veteran hand, but Oesterle has his uses, too.
- Caleb Jones—Ethan Bear: At this point, I think it is an open question as to which of these two prospects is poised for a better career. Still early days, but Jones’ mobility versus Bear’s passing and shot is an interesting betting decision.
- Jonas Gustavsson—Laurent Brossoit: Both men should receive a heavy load tonight, I remain convinced the backup job is in play—beginning tonight.
2015-16 PRE-SEASON STATS
- Anton Lander 6gp, 5-1-6
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 6gp, 2-4-6
- Benoit Pouliot 6gp, 2-3-5
- Connor McDavid 5gp, 0-5-5
- Justin Schultz 6gp, 2-2-4
- Nail Yakupov 6gp, 2-2-4
- Anton Slepyshev 7gp, 2-2-4
- Leon Draisaitl 6gp, 1-3-4
- Rob Klinkhammer 5gp, 2-1-3
- Lauri Korpikoski 5gp, 1-2-3
- Matt Hendricks 5gp, 1-2-3
- Nikita Nikitin 4gp, 0-3-3
- Andrej Sekera 5gp, 0-3-3
- Andrew Miller 3gp, 1-1-2
- Oscar Klefbom 3gp, 1-1-2
- Jordan Eberle 4gp, 1-1-2
- Teddy Purcell 3gp, 0-2-2
- Mark Fayne 4gp, 0-2-2
- Taylor Hall 5gp, 1-0-1
- Mark Letestu 6gp, 1-0-1
- Ryan Hamilton 1gp, 0-1-1
- David Musil 1gp, 0-1-1
- Jordan Oesterle 2gp, 0-1-1
- Eric Gryba 5gp, 0-1-1
- Griffin Reinhart 5gp, 0-0-0
- Brandon Davidson 4gp, 0-0-0
- Luke Gazdic 4gp, 0-0-0
- Darnell Nurse 3gp, 0-0-0
- Tyler Pitlick 3gp, 0-0-0
- Andrew Ference 3gp, 0-0-0
- Jujhar Khaira 2gp, 0-0-0
- Phil McRae 2gp, 0-0-0
- Joey Laleggia 2gp, 0-0-0
- Bogdan Yakimov 2gp, 0-0-0
- Braden Christoffer 1gp, 0-0-0
- Matt Ford 1gp, 0-0-0
- Greg Chase 1gp, 0-0-0
- Josh Winquist 1gp, 0-0-0
- Brad Hunt 1gp, 0-0-0
- Cam Talbot 4gp, 3.13 .892
- Anders Nilsson 3gp, 0.00 1.000
- Ben Scrivens 3gp, 1.97 .929
- Laurent Brossoit 1gp, 2.07 .889
I find it is interesting to look back one year, not only for who scored well, but also to see who played. Caleb Jones and Ethan Bear did not have a pre-season appearance last fall (outside of rookie camp) according to the numbers.
NOT PLAYING TONIGHT
- C Connor McDavid
- C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
- C Leon Draisaitl (remains at WCOH)
- Andrej Sekera (remains at WCOH)
- D Griffin Reinhart
- D Andrew Ference
- D Joey Laleggia
- D Dillon Simpson
- D David Musil
- G Nick Ellis
- R Tyler Pitlick
- D Mark Fraser
- L Ryan Hamilton
- C-L Joey Benik
- D Frank Simonelli
- L Scott Allen
- R Jaedon Descheneau
- L Tyler Benson