This season can’t start soon enough. We’ve spent so much time speculating on line combinations, player acquisitions and realistic expectations this summer. I think most of us are ready for some meaningful hockey.
Aside from the addition of Connor McDavid, I think the best thing going for the Oilers is the coaching staff. McLellan has really taken control of the team, and I really do think the club will push for wins rather than continuous development. Part of this is also the new GM and the franchise’s renewed commitment to success. As much as we harp on Eakins, Nelson and even Kreuger, I think it was obvious that management (and ownership) was more focussed on development rather than actual wins.
The only reason I like following the annual training camp is to see which player will get the most written about them. This year, it’s been Anton Slepyshev, who really has impressed over the past few weeks. I’m not convinced that he’ll be a full time NHL player this coming season, but I don’t think he’s far off either. Last season, Jujhar Khaira, Bogdan Yakimov and Vladimir Tkachev got a lot of attention. The first two didn’t do a whole lot in this year’s training camp, while Tkachev went undrafted.
The key thing to remember is that training camp really is for the “Group A” guys to get going and for the “Group B” guys to demonstrate they haven’t regressed in any way. If I’m management, I need the AHL bound players to show well in camp and give some assurance that the development system is working. Very rarely do we see someone make the team out of training camp, and when they do, they don’t seem to last long and remain as a fringe player. Patrick Thoresen and Lennart Petrell come to mind.
The roster is starting to take shape now that a number of players have been shipped out. Here’s my guess for the opening night:
I’d much rather see Draisaitl start and finish in Bakersfield this coming season, but he appears to be in McLellan’s plans. If he stays, my concern is that he’ll be developed somewhat on-the-fly as a center, whereas a stint in the AHL would be beneficial for his development. He’s been outstanding over the past few weeks, and will likely be used the same way Pavelski was in San Jose: paired with another center but taking faceoffs in specific situations.
And the uhh…defence:
Not good enough in my opinion. What’s frustrating is that there were options this summer, but instead Chiarelli shipped out Marincin, overpaid for Reinhart and brought in Gryba. Things might be okay if Schultz and Nikitin bounce back, but the club is taking a risk with this group. It’ll be interesting to see how McLellan matches his defence pairings with the forward line and which 5-man units get favorable zone starts.