In all, 56 skaters will work out twice a day in the 1,250 seat Jasper Arena next Tuesday. Sometime before October 10, the first league game against Quebec Nordiques, coach-GM Glen Sather will have to separate the players from the pretenders. “There’s going to be some interesting battles,” said Sather. “We’ve got more depth than we’ve ever had.” There are 19 returning players, from 19-year old Wayne Gretzky to 30-year old goalie Ron Low. Six draft choices from ’80, headed by #1 pick Paul Coffey will be there, as well as a couple from the year before. Olympic team winger Glenn Anderson tops that list.
The Oilers will have more Finns at camp than any other NHL club. Apart from Risto Siltanen, they have added former Boston Bruins center Matti Hagman and winger Jari Kurri, who was the second best youngster in the world junior championships last spring. All three stand a good chance to make the team. Kurri’s biggest problem may be learning how to speak English.
Forward Roy Sommer, who travelled a long and winding road from Oakland to Oil Kings to the farm team in Houston last year, is one of two American born players in camp. Minnesota goalie Pete LoPresti is the other. Two round about foreigners are blueliner George Pesut–who played for Chur in the Alps last season–and Mike Kouwenhoven, who was in Holland for half of last season.
There is even a sibling act, which comes all the way from St. Albert. Mark Messier, 19, had 33 points with the Oilers last season. Oilers brother Paul, 23, is here as a free agent after a few seasons in the Colorado Rockies chain.
ROSTER (*denotes 79-80 Oilers)
- GOAL: Gord Garbutt, Peter Lopresti, *Ron Low, *Eddie Mio, Andy Moog, Bob Dupuis
- DEFENSE: Bryon Baltimore, *Colin Campbell, Paul Coffey, Jim Crosson, *Lee Fogolin, Mike Forbes, Larry Goodenough, *Doug Hicks, John Hilworth, Charlie Huddy, *Kevin Lowe, Mike McCann, George Pesut, *Pat Price, *Risto Siltanen.
- CENTER: Dave Barr, *Wayne Gretzky, Matti Hagman, *Mark Messier, Paul Messier, Walt Poddubny, Kevin Redmond, Gord Stafford, Mike Toal, *Stan Weir, Mike Winther.
- LEFT WING: *Don Ashby, *Brett Callighen, Scott Currie, Barry Dean, *Peter Driscoll, *Dave Hunter, Max Kostovich, Jarri Kurri, Dean Magee, Mark Miller, *Dave Semenko, Roy Sommer.
- RIGHT WING: Glenn Anderson, Shawn Babcock, Dale Baldwin, Blair Barnes, Rick Bourbonnais, Mike Kouwenhoven, Bill Joyce, *Dave Lumley, *Blair MacDonald, *Don Murdoch, Cal Roadhouse, Tom Roulston.
-till_horcoff_is_coach was kind enough to drop off his thoughts on day 1, and here they are:
- It started with some skating and passing warmups. They went on to do the quick-passes and single breakout plays. They slowly built to doing an entire line breakout and full line defending. Nothing special for the fans, but then again with 7 days till opening night I wouldn’t expect that.
- Overall the drills were quick paced with a heavy dose of passing. I’d say most the players showed a fair bit of vigor (as they should).
- Individual impressions from the practice:
- Whitney was someone I keyed in on. Most importantly he appeared to be striding and positioning with both feet. He looked limber and active the entire practice. Best sign of the day.
- N Schultz looked ready. On one-on-one races he blew by Eberle to notch a goal and then beat Eberle with some nice stick-work the same drill. Definitely looked like he wasn’t taking the winter off.
- Belanger looked out of place on pretty much every drill. Might be getting back into game-form but he just didn’t seem to drive hard for anything.
- As the drills became full line-on-line, the golden three stood out. Chances flying all over the place for them. Clearly in game-form and ready for the puck to drop. I missed a few but Eberle raised a few cheers with his finishes.
- Yakupov was naturally a standout. Didn’t see much chemistry with Hemsky or Gagner yet, but he did connect on a few drills with some beauties. I think he got the crowd bustling on 3 different goals. Tremendous hands receiving and releasing the puck. At the end of practice Belanger and him were doing a release drill from the hashmarks around a glove. Belanger looked reasonable right up until Yak came up. Just a sick release that was more often than not right up in the glove corner – basically combines the best of Nuge and Hall’s shots into one… quick release, bullet hard, and lethally accurate. Can’t wait to see him in action.
- J Schultz didn’t stand out much. Looked like more of a forward out there in the drills.
- Everyone else looked about as you’d expect. I’m more excited for the season after seeing Whitney look smooth and then hearing the trade. There’s still holes all over, but there’s also some hope this team isn’t broken to start the season.
Your comments and thoughts welcome, if you’re heading to the practice today please share your thoughts.
The Whitney news is terrific, and of course we’re going to have to wait until game action but early arrows are very good. If Whitney can play big minutes at evens and on the PP, the trio of pairings may end up basically sharing the EV and specialty minutes:
- Smid-Petry (both PK)
- N Schultz-J Schultz (PK, PP)
- Whitney-Fistric (PP, PK)
I like the deal more this morning than first blush. Looking at Fistric’s season a year ago it seems Dallas enjoyed a unique advantage: third pairing guy who could handle own-zone faceoffs. That helped them set the offensive zone faceoffs in their favor. I can’t imaging the Oilers using Theo Peckham in a similar way, as an example.
Mark Fistric is a solid replacement for Andy Sutton, purchased at a fair price. The fact that he can manage own zone faceoffs, play a tough physical game without taking mind numbing penalties and should be an easy sign (should the Oilers choose to do so) carries the day.