Does Early Success at Training Camp Mean an NHL Job for Prospects?

This is Alexei Mikhnov. Along with Patrick Thoresen, Brad Winchester and Jean Francois Jacques, he made the opening night roster for the Edmonton Oilers fall 2006 over a few other forwards who were in the running. Among that group were Marc Pouliot, Kyle Brodziak, Tobias Petersen, Rob Schremp, Zack Stortini. That’s pretty much the group.

I know each training camp is unique, but am wondering if early training camp success is a strong indicator for making the NHL team at the end of camp. Logic dictates that early success should get you more chances later in camp (and maybe better linemates), but performance would have to stay at a certain level even at the point when the NHLers become more plentiful later in the pre-season.

Let’s have a look.

In the first pre-season game one year ago, Mikhnov was a star. On September 17, 2006 (in Winnipeg), the Oilers downed Phoenix 5-0. Mikhnov scored on the powerplay in the 2nd period, and assisted on goals by Stephane Goulet and Brad Winchester in the third period. Other bubble players who hit the scoresheet were Toby Petersen (1 assist on the game winning goal), and Goulet and Winchester scored when the game was out of reach.

The next night the Oilers beat Florida 2-1. Schremp got an assist on Tom Gilbert’s powerplay goal in that game, and he scored in the next game too. Patrick Thoresen impressed with an assist on Toby Petersen’s goal in the second period.

On September 21, the Oilers lost an overtime game to Calgary. This was the game where Thoresen emerged, scoring a goal in the first and assisting on Pouliot’s goal in the same period. Schremp got an assist in this game too. Stortini and Jacques had multiple penalties in what the summary says was a pretty physical BOA.

On September 23 the Oilers played their 5th pre-season game and were on the back-half of the pre-season. Flames iced a veteran lineup, won 2-1, and kept the kids (save Bisaillon with an assist) off the scoreboard.

On September 27, they won 5-4 over Vancouver. Pouliot was the only prospect listed above who scored a goal in the game. This was a more veteran lineup for both teams, with prospects for Edmonton including Mikhnov (minus 2 on the night, 3 shots on goal), Pouliot (had the goal and was a +1), Rob Schremp (minus 2 with a sog), Tyler Spurgeon (minus 1), Thoresen (minus 1) and Winchester (minus 2). Mikhnov and Schremp both played more than 15 minutes in this game.

On September 28 they beat Phoenix 3-2. Mikhnov and Schremp scored in the first period, Thoresen with one of the assists on the Schremp goal. He also fought Mike Comrie thirty seconds into the game.

On September 30, they beat Vancouver to round out the pre-season, 3-2 in OT. Both teams iced a veteran lineup and none of the prospects put up any points.

Looking at these games, it would appear the Mikhnov played well enough right through pre-season to win the job, Thoresen caught the coach’s attention early and won the day with a nice all around game throughout camp, Jacques didn’t do much offensively but was a physical presence and Winchester was on a one-way deal.

So far this season, Brodziak grabbed the early attention and would be a good bet to maintain the momentum, Nilsson caught the coach’s attention with his skills, Stortini is a physical presence and no one on the bubble has a one way contract (unless you believe Thoresen is on the bubble and that’s a stretch). Gagner is the wild card here, I don’t really know where to place him.

Two-way contracts include Marc Pouliot, Robert Nilsson, J.F. Jacques, Rob Schremp, Andrew Cogliano, Ryan O’Marra and Kyle Brodziak. Brodziak would need to clear waivers in order to be sent down, which certainly gives him an edge (not that he appears to need it based on performance so far this training camp).

The Oilers have 10 one-way contracts for forwards. They are Horcoff, Penner, Hemsky, Stoll, Torres, Reasoner, Moreau, Thoresen, Sanderson, Pisani. Add to that list Nilsson (who looks like a lock), Brodziak (playing well and would need to clear waivers) and possibly Stortini for the 4line RW who can play the disturber role.

That’s 13. If the Oiler decide to keep 8 defenders, and to leave Pisani on the active roster, then all of Marc Pouliot, JF Jacques, Rob Schremp, Andrew Cogliano and Ryan O’Marra could be on their way to the AHL.

I doubt it happens exactly that way, but it is certainly more possible than it was one week ago. Compelling stuff, this.

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23 Responses to "Does Early Success at Training Camp Mean an NHL Job for Prospects?"

  1. Big T says:

    A couple questions:

    1) Does Pisani count as he must be on the IR and probably on the Long Term Injured Reserve?

    2) Can Grebeshkov be sent to Springfiled without clearing waivers? Seems like a good thing to do early on so he can get re-accustomed to the North Ameerican game.



  2. speeds says:

    Written Trukhno off already LT ;) ?

    One preseason game where the coach sounds pretty happy with, it’ll be interesting to see how many more looks he might get the rest of the preseason, and how long he sticks around for. Sounds like he’s been, at worst, as good as Jacques, Schremp, and O’Marra thus far.

    Not that I think he’ll make it either, but it’ll be really interesting to see how Trukhno plays in the AHL, and what he needs to add to be NHL ready.

  3. Lowetide says:

    big t: I imagine they’ll put Pisani on IR, the end of the post was kind of a “worst case scenario if you’re Marc Pouliot” idea. I don’t think he’ll get sent out, but you never know. Dennis mentions in a post below that so far they seem to be putting him with the nobodies as linemates and while I don’t really know if that’s true (I couldn’t say who he has played with to be honest) it’s also true he’s at an age when he should have a greater impact in these half NHL/half AHL games.

    Grebeshkov is on a one way deal, I don’t know if he would have to clear waivers.

    speeds: I’m hoping they send him down. Trukhno wouldn’t get much playing time with the big club at the start of the year when everyone is healthy, but if he goes down to the AHL and proves he can do things at that level he might get a real nice shot with the big club when injuries hit.

  4. Black Dog says:

    LT – I think Pisani would be considered injured so would not be on the list (and reports today are pretty bad for Fernando – prognosis is bad)

    If so and they keep 8 D then we have one spot for a forward and I guess its Pouliot’s. I can’t see them keeping Gagner and Trukhno, Cogliano, O’Marra and Almtorp are all in need of some seasoning anyways.

    Big loser is Jacques – Schremp is closer and would likely get a real shot at some point I think but JFJ – what the hell. And if Gagner gets a 9 game trial and they ship MP out too then where is he at?

    I would think MP will stick though.

  5. Black Dog says:

    As for Trukhno – best to go down and get lots of icetime – same as Cogliano – then to sit in the PB.

    LT – has Trukhno played RW at any point?

  6. Big T says:

    Is there any way to know how MP did in the conditioning tests? Just wondering how much of Pouliot’s apparent slow start could be attributed to his rumored poor conditioning.


  7. Bank Shot says:

    Pouliot hasn’t been put with nobodies. He’s been put on possible fourth lines.


    Seems like Nilsson and Brodziak have the inside tracks on lines two and three so MacT is probably looking for a fourth line combo that will click.

    Tonight: Sanderson-Cogliano-Thoresen

    All those guys are going to have to prove their effectiveness playing without Horcoffs and Hemskys because it isn’t going to happen once the season starts.

  8. ClaytonMagnet says:

    Sanderson-Cogliano-Thoresen are the third line tonight…the fourth line is JFJ and Stortini centered by none other than Ben Simon. That’s right, THE Ben Simon. You know, the 29 year old with the AHL career ppg of 0.44 who has less chance of making the club than me. Doesn’t this seem stupid to anyone else, what with all the young kids in need of as many looks as they can get? What the hell?

  9. Andrew says:

    Can anyone explain what the rule is for which players would need to clear waivers to be sent to the AHL? Lowetide indicates that Brodziak would need to clear waivers, but he’s on a two-way contract, so I’m confused. Can anyone point to an official source which answers this?

  10. IceDragoon says:


    Don’t forget about what they may be showing in practice. Tonight looks like ‘sink or swim in the pre-season pool’, followed by a few cuts.

    Game 1 had one veteran centre, Marty Reasoner, but seven of the forwards were natural centres. Game 2 had two vets in Horcoff and Stoll, but again, there were seven centres playing.

    At centre tonight we have ZERO NHL games played. Three kids who’ve shown they deserve a harder look and a 29 year old AHL depth guy… on the road… Brodziak is the only centre playing wing.

    NHL games played by some of the Canuck centres who didn’t play last night:

    Trevor Linden – 1323 rs + 124 po
    Brendan Morrison – 635 + 53
    Henrik Sedin – 482 + 43
    Byron Ritchie – 253 + 8

    Oilers playing tonight with 100+ NHL games:

    Geoff Sanderson – 1063 + 55
    Ethan Moreau – 685 + 46
    Sheldon Souray – 506 + 34
    Ales Hemsky – 275 + 30
    Mathieu Garon – 138 + 1
    Dustin Penner – 101 + 34
    Matt Greene – 105 + 18

    Total remaining line-up – 263 + 0
    (almost the same as Byron Ritchie alone)

    Should be interesting.


    MacT has a lot more to work with and some tougher choices this year. Even the veterans are excited by the level of play from some of the kids. I can’t recall this kind of praise coming from them before.

    I’d say that early success better be followed up by continuing success or it means nada.

    btw – Lain, life called and I couldn’t get to Sherwood Park yesterday.


  11. IceDragoon says:


    I believe it has to do with # of years of professional hockey. Kyle played in the ‘A’ during the lockout, so he is starting his 4th pro year.

  12. sacamano says:

    One of the Journal articles makes the point that younger guys who do well early in camp often don’t do well later once they start playing more regularly against “real” NHLers.

    Trukhno, on the other hand, was cited as a guy who seems to be exhibiting the opposite pattern (slow start, better when it really matters), and Mac-T sounds like he has noticed.

  13. Rube Foster says:

    Oh Mikhi You’re So Fine! Or at least you were for a very short time.
    I watched Mikhnov very closely at the beginning of last year and he quickly became one of my new favorites. In the flush of fall optimism, when we’re all in first place, I let myself be seduced into thinking that he had really good chance of becoming a productive player in the NHL.
    I watched him play in the Bears vs. Oiler Rookie game on a line with Schremp and he was a man playing with boys all game long. He looked like a young russian Frank Mahovlich, effortless long stride, flying the down the wing, taking the puck to the net any time it seemed he wanted – I saw him good, very good.
    He went on as Lowetide amply illustrates to look like a very good ROOKIE with a high ceiling for the remainder of the preseason. (The key to last sentence is the word ROOKIE, no matter how much upside a rookie has they inevitably still play like rookies and are prone to rookie mistakes, rookie lapses and are occasionally exposed as well… rookies. Some teams understand this as player development. The Oilers have proven that they have little patience for players who exhibit these traits – unless their name happens to be Matt Greene. Consequently we end up with rookies whose biggest attributes are that they don’t play like rookies – The Ball-peen Hammer of Thoresen. Or they end up giving the ice time to a safe plugger – the Toby Peterson Phenomenon.)
    The Oilers rewarded Mikhnov for his fine preseason showing by sitting him on his ass in the press box for the next couple of months. After a couple of nonproductive glimpses of NHL action he decided to head back to Russia for some home cooking and colder weather. We’ll never know what would have happened if he had stuck around long enough to get the playing time the Oil were giving to virtually any warm body they could find at the end of the year. By my account the early departure back to the motherland cost him at least 25–30 NHL games and any real chance he’ll likely ever have to break into the league – Alexei, if you’re reading this, fire your agent!
    We’ll always have to wonder what would have happened to Mikhnov had he been given the Toby Peterson or J.F.J. minutes. Maybe he could’ve been a player? Or maybe he would been Roman Oksiuta? We’ll never know. The way I see it there is no reason not to believe he’ll have a good career in the Russian Super League. Maybe he’ll be the russian Michel Reisen? I figure we’ll be able to watch him play at the world championships over the next few years and think of him as that cute, smart girl that you really liked and dated a couple of times way back when, but it didn’t work out for the two of you and now she’s drop dead gorgeous, married to some rich guy living in Scottsdale, drives a Mercedes and has new boobies…I hope you enjoy your new boobies Alexei.

  14. ClaytonMagnet says:


    I can get that maybe he’s showing well in practise, and because he’s a camp invite, they feel obligated to give him a look before he’s cut tomorrow. Doesn’t mean I have to like it ;) As a fan, I would rather see a bubble-ee in there (Schremp, Trukhno, O’Marra, Nilsson), than a guy that’s already proven he’s a marginal AHLer at best.

    Rube – “I hope you enjoy your new boobies Alexei.”

    -That’s great stuff right there.

  15. allan says:


    Players are exempt from waivers if they have less than the following number of years from signing an NHL contract or games played:

    Age Years Games Played
    18 5 160
    19 4 160
    20 3 160
    21 3 80
    22 3 70
    23 3 60
    24 2 60
    25+ 1 n/a

    The 5 or 4 years for teenagers is reduced to 3 if they play 11 games in a single season.

    For players 20 or older, the first year they play in 1 pro game (NHL or not) counts as the first year in this calculation.

    So, because Kyle Brodziak has played 3 years as a pro, he’s eligible for waivers. Sadly, the same goes for Grebeshkov.

    A two way contract just means that the player will be payed less in the AHL than in the NHL, where a player on a one-way deal will be payed the same regardless of where he plays. It’s not connected to the waiver system.

    It’s all in Article 13 of the CBA, available on the NHLPA website.

  16. Big T says:

    Brodziak definately seems to have the line on Pisani’s job – and that’s a good thing. Seems to be a very heady player much like Fernando. BTW – the similarity in their careers is a little eerie, no?

    As for Grebs not being available for a demotion, well, that sucks! Lowe really has his hands tied with the D this season. Who youy gonna trade for anything more than a bag of pucks?

    Staios – can’t lose him
    Pitkanen, Souray – ditto
    Tarnstrom – just signed
    Roy, Grebs would be lost to waivers
    Gilbert thankfuly can be sent to Springfield

    That leaves Smid and Greene. Personally, I still like Smid and because Greene appears to have a 10 cent brain his value can’t be too high.

    What to do???


  17. K says:

    Listening to the pre-game comments from MacT on Brodz:

    “Mentally and physically, he’s amazing. They normally both come together when you develop the mental toughness and resilience and resolve to get yourself in a position physically that you can compete.

    You’ve convinced yourself mentally that you’re capable of staying here and that you belong here and then physically you put in the work and its paid off for him, he looks really strong and a little quicker.”

    He goes on about the work ethic it takes to get to that point and that Kyle has shown that.

    Looking forward to tonights interesting line-up.

  18. IceDragoon says:

    Thanx, Allan.



    Moreau is out and Trukhno is in.

    Tonight’s Line-up

    Gagner – Penner – Hemsky
    Almtorp – Trukhno – Brodziak
    Cogliano – Sanderson – Thoresen
    Simon – Jacques – Stortini

    Souray – Gilbert
    Kemp – Roy
    Smid – Greene


  19. IceDragoon says:


    There was no link thru his name on the Oilers site. I should have checked hockeydb.

    Simon has 81 NHL games played since ’01-’02.

  20. Rube Foster says:

    I was hoping for a Cogliano – Truhkno – Sestito combo.
    For no other reason than to hear the calamity of a Rod Phillips train wreck.

  21. Dennis says:


    Bank Shot, those guys are pretty much nobodies in my book. Schremp might be a prospect but both Thor and MP are just getting their legs and MP’s supposed to make something happen with those guys?

    Sanderson’s on ‘his’ last legs and Cogliano’s as green as the trees so once again, how’s MP supposed to rise above that?

    Either the Oilers have his spot marked in and their giving guys like Truk and Gagner good linemates to see what they have in the kids OR the Oilers are setting up MP NOT to succeed.

  22. Black Dog says:

    I think MP has a spot for sure Dennis – think of it this way – if they are planning on moving MP they’d be giving him the plum assignments. Why set him up to fail – to punish him for something? What?

  23. IceDragoon says:

    A tried and true MacT method, Pat.

    “That which does not kill you makes you stronger.”

    … either that or one of my favourites…

    “Suck it up, buttercup.”


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