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.