It may seem early (have the Oilers even published their training camp invite list?) but as the days roll by in August talk of training camp and job openings will become as commonplace as a lineup at the Tim Horton’s Drive-Thru.
It’s not my favorite time of year (draft day, trade deadline day, every day of the playoffs the Oilers are alive) but it’s a blast anyway, and there’s always surprises.
2000-01, Craig MacTavish was a rookie head coach and Michel Riesen led the team in pre-season goal scoring (7gp, 4-2-6) helping his entire line (Brian Swanson, C; Dan Cleary, RW) to make the jump to the NHL as a unit.
2006-07, with all of us Oiler fans arguing over the first rounders again (“Schremp isn’t going to get sent out you idiot”, “Pouliot’s time is NOW”), Patrick Thoresen played at a higher level and earned himself a full season in the show.
Who will be the surprise this fall? Who will disappoint? Here’s the early line.
- RW Ryan DePape, 19: WHL kid gets a training camp look from the Oilers, similar to Bisaillon and Colton Yellowhorn before him. Former linemate of Jonathan Toews, big winger who had a solid year for the PA Raiders last season. Chances of making the Oilers: Zero.
- RW Colin McDonald, 23: Oilers signed him to a 2-year entry level contract on July 17. He’s a coke machine who might end up putting up better results than he did in college, but he’d have to be considered an extremely long shot for the Oilers this fall. Tom Gilbert was more highly touted than McDonald coming out of college last year but was sent out September 30th (not the final cut but close). Fernando Pisani was an early cut in fall 2000 coming out of college, heading down September 11, 2000. Chances of making the Oilers this fall: Zero.
- RW David Rohlfs, 23: Big power winger who spent a significant amount of time in college playing defense. Had a fine offensive season (17-17-34) playing RW alongside TJ Hensick and Kevin Porter at Michigan. Chances of making the Oilers this fall: Zero.
- LW Liam Reddox, 21: A full season in the AHL would be a very good sign for this young prospect who got buried a little one year ago. He does have an interesting resume though, hopefully he can find a role in the AHL as a disturber with some skill (and stay healthy). Chances of making the NHL this fall: Zero.
- C Fredrik Johansson, 23: A checking center from the SEL, he’s behind a lot of people here even before we discuss the NHL depth chart. A chance he goes home after camp. Chances of making the Oilers this fall: Zero.
- LW Stephane Goulet, 21: Big winger scored 15 goals in the ECHL last season. He has good footspeed and was a scorer (51 goals final year) in junior, but he needs to get some clearance from all these other prospects in the AHL this year. Chances of making the Oilers: Zero.
- D Theo Peckham, 19: All positive reports on this guy, all he’s lacking is experience and that’s what he’ll get in the minors this season. Oilers have signed plenty of veteran AHL rearguards so he could play in the ECHL. Chances of making the Oilers this fall: Zero.
- RW Troy Bodie, 22: Huge winger got into 14 AHL games but spent most of the year in Stockton. Famous junior player whose style used to be called “north and south winger”, which is to say he patrols his wing and isn’t too fancy. Chances of making the Oilers this fall: Zero.
- D T.J. Kemp, 26: Oilers signed him July 17. He’s an AHL defender. He’s a depth signing for the new AHL farm club, but he does apparently have a two-way contract that will pay him $100,000 if he makes the big club. He’s an offensive defender (5-33-38 in 65gp), 5-11 and 200 pounds. Kemp finished tied for fifth among league D-men in assists and was named to the AHL all-star game. Chances of making the Oilers this fall: Zero.
- G Glenn Fisher, 24: .919SP in college this past season, and he’ll be the only first year pro among the Oilers’ goalie prospects. The NCAA leader had a .935SP and Fisher was tied for 17th in college hockey a year ago. Chances of making the Oilers this fall: Zero.
- D Allan Rourke, 26: He’s played over 400 AHL games and 42 in the NHL (11 last year), so Rourke is certainly a candidate for callup to the Oilers this season. Has size but apparently doesn’t use it enough and his numbers indicate he’s an average offensive player (50gp, 5-15-20) for the AHL level (76 AHL defenders had more than 20 points in 06-07). Chances of making the Oilers this fall: Zero.
- LW Tim Sestito, 23: 2-way winger with grit who hasn’t played much in the AHL since turning pro. He once desribed himself as a player thusly: “I think mainly I’m out there to get things going with a hit or a forecheck and specifically to keep the puck out of our net. I think my defensive part of the game is getting better and if I can chip in with some points, that’s always a plus.” Chances of making the Oilers: Zero.
- C Sam Gagner, 17: Turns 18 on August 10. The last junior who made the Oilers the same season he was drafted by the team was Jason Arnott. He can make an impression though (Hemsky sure as hell did) and that may bode well for next fall. Chances of making the Oilers this fall: Zero.
- G Jeff Deslauriers, 23: He’s buried now at the NHL level. The only chance I could see of him getting into NHL action was as a injury replacement or backup, but with Garon signed and Dubnyk about to play in the AHL for a full season JDD’s time with the Oilers organization is running out. His .908SP last season in the AHL represents his pro high water mark, but 20 goalies had a better number in the American League last season (all playing 25 or more games). Chances of making the Oilers this fall: Zero.
- D Sebastian Bisaillon, 20: Came out of junior and played pretty well last season, but he clearly was the Last Chance Texaco option (the Oilers had no defensemen left to recall). A season in the minors (probably AHL) is straight ahead. Chances of making the Oilers this fall: Zero.
- D Danny Syvret, 22: Is now pretty much buried for this upcoming season. Syvret got some NHL time in 06-07, but from what I saw he has strength issues to go along with the size problems. Hasn’t really delivered offense in the AHL (50gp, 4-14-18). Chances of making the Oilers this fall: Zero.
- D Bryan Young, 21: Played in 3 pro leagues (including the NHL) this past season and the Oilers would probably like to see him spend a season in one spot and he certainly needs pro experience. Chances of making the Oilers this fall: Zero.
- C Ryan O’Marra, 20: If he makes the Oilers this fall, it’ll be a miracle. O’Marra is a really good NHL prospect, but he had a terrible injury season and any good organization is going to want to see him get his 500 at-bats. A healthy AHL season and a cup of coffee at the end of the year would be a terrific storyline. Chances of making the Oilers this fall: Zero.
- C Tyler Spurgeron, 21: I’d actually give him a slight chance to make the Oilers if he were a year or two older (or if the Oilers didn’t already have Brodziak on the roster). One day soon he’ll shock the HF group by getting a callup before one of EDM’s highly rated prospects. Chances of making the Oilers this fall: Zero.
- G Devan Dubnyk, 21: .921SP as a rookie pro was 3rd best in the ECHL. Dubnyk had a terrific camp last fall and impressed the coach a lot. The best he can hope for I think is another strong camp and possibly a chance to get his first NHL action during the season. Chances of making the Oilers this fall: 2% (injury).
- LW Ryan Flinn, 27: Signed a one year deal July 17, here’s a guy who I can see playing a few games in the NHL this season. Very unlikely to break camp with the team, but there’s a small shot for him as an enforcer/cheap 14F type of player and he certainly would have to be considered a callup option when that ridiculous Boogaard is in town. Has played 31 games in the NHL. Chances of making the Oilers this fall: 3%.
- D Mathieu Roy, 24- One thing he has going for him is that his skillset fits nicely with the Oilers most pressing need on D. The other thing he has going for him is that he’s passed a ton of guys with better pedigree since being drafted and he has shown well whenever he got the opportunity. He’s played at least a game with the Oilers in each of the last two seasons, and I’d bet on him playing a few (or more) this season. Chances of making the Oilers this fall: 4% (injury).
- C Rob Schremp, 21: The injury came at an awful time for Schremp, it really did. It will definitely have short term impact on his NHL career and depending on how quickly guys like Cogliano and O’Marra develop it may have long term impact. This isn’t Larry Walker stepping in a Mexican gopher hole tragic because Schremp isn’t that good a player, but for those who have been waiting to see the second coming of Comrie it’s a tough blow. Chances of making the Oilers this fall: 4% (miracle recovery).
- LW Slava Trukhno, 20: I can hardly wait to see this guy play. He got into two pre-season games a year ago, and impressed speeds at the Golden Bears game. Trukhno would have to shoot lights out in camp this year to make it, but his wide range of skills married to team need and his gritty play married to the coach making the decisions gives him at least a slight chance. Chances of making the Oilers this fall: 5%.
- LW JF Jacques, 22: It kills me because I really like this kid’s future, but it’s extremely unlikely he makes the big club out of camp. Reasons include he won a job at the end of the roster last season and stagnated (Oilers will probably think it will be better to have him dominate in the AHL and then insert him right into the lineup) and a solid depth chart ahead of him in the NHL. Chances of making the Oilers this fall: 9%.
- C Andrew Cogliano, 20: Of all the first year pro’s, Cogliano has the best shot imo to make the team out of camp. The two things that will hurt his chances are that he wouldn’t play enough in EDM at the start (the Boyd Devereaux syndrome) and that the Oilers are pretty deep at center. Little doubt we’ll read some articles that have MacT singing his praises and I bet he plays some for the big team in 07-08. Chances of making the Oilers this fall: 10%.
- C Jonas Almtorp, 23: He’s the Euro Thoresen for this camp I’d say. He impressed everyone a year ago and had a solid year in the SEL. Almtorp’s big advantage over a lot of these guys is that he’s a little older and having him sit 40 games as the 14F isn’t going to hurt his development like it would with, say, Cogliano. Chances of making the Oilers this fall: 15%.
- D Tom Gilbert, 24- His scoring rate in the AHL (49gp, 4-26-30) and his NHL time (12gp, 1-5-6, minus 1) added to his age suggests it’s go time for Gilbert. A “perfect storm” offseason for the Oilers appears to have robbed him of his first real NHL shot, but if he has a strong camp I can see EDM making room early by either going with 8 defenders or dealing someone away. Chances of making the Oilers this fall: 50%.
- C Kyle Brodziak, 23: I think he has an excellent chance to be an end of the roster player out of camp for the Oilers. If not, he can continue to build a strong resume at the minor league level. More and more, Kyle Brodziak looks like this decade’s Rem Murray. Chances of making the Oilers this fall: 60%.
- RW Zack Stortini, 22 in Sept: Pretty much all his arrows are pointing in the right direction. Coach likes him, his skill development won’t be hurt by long stretches in the pressbox and he’s already played in 29 NHL games. Chances of making the Oilers this fall: 90%.
- D Denis Grebeshkov, 23: Physical player who can move the puck, he has a nice range of skills and has to be considered an important acquisition since all of the guys like this Edmonton picks up seem to be players (from Staios to Hejda). Because of the recent pickups on D it’ll be tougher for him to make the grade, but because he’s an actual defenseman (and he has a one-way deal) things look good for him. Chances of making the Oilers this fall: 95%.
- LW Robert Nilsson, 22: He looks to be the guy who will get first shot at the 2line minutes this fall, but it isn’t going to be easy. Because the Oilers have so many options (including don’t forget veteran Fernando Pisani who played extremely well with Stoll and Torres) the results will need to be immediate and impressive. I like Cogliano’s future with the Oilers way more than Nilsson’s, but the time is now (or never) for Kenta’s kid. Chances of making the Oilers this fall: 100%.
I’ll update this list as we roll along, deleting those who are cut/traded and added the training camp invites. Two favors: I’d love your input, this stuff is fun to debate, and secondly if I missed anyone let me know.