While the off-season felt much shorter this season (funny how playoffs will do that) it still lasted too long. We are still a few weeks from the home opener but it's starting to feel like hockey has returned. For the Edmonton Oilers, last year has set a new bar; this is a playoff team. Less time will be spent in training camp on giving prospects and younger players opportunities and instead on preparing the team that will start opening night.
Having said that there are always different narratives to follow during training camp. Here are five things to watch for during the Oilers training camp.
1.) Draisaitl Back At Centre
Fantasy owners might be dissapointed with Draisaitl this season if they are expecting another 70+ point season. Early word from the general manager suggests that the team will at least start with McDavid and Draisaitl on separate lines. The good news is that this will help the team have two strong scoring lines. The bad news is Draisaitl will certainly produce less away from McDavid. It will be interesting to see how Draisaitl fairs driving his own line.
He may not be a rookie by the NHL's rules but with only 28 NHL games under his belt Jesse Puljujarvi will be looking to prove he is ready for the big league. It's no secret that the right wing depth is an area of weakness for this team. Hopefully having spent a year adapting to North American life Puljujarvi can focus on his game and have a successful sophomore season.
3.) The Defense
Sekera is out. Someone is going to have to step up on the back-end. Benning needs to continue the success he had in his first season and Darnell Nurse needs to break out in a big way. Auvitu was signed to bring some depth and potentially be a #7 but his underlying numbers could make him the "Benning" of this season.
4.) McDavid To Stome
Line combinations will change frequently throughout the year but finding early chemistry is of great importance. Last season Chiarelli brought in Milan Lucic with the intent for him to play on McDavid's wing. We quickly discovered that the two players did not click well together and Maroon took that spot. This season we will see the same as it appears Strome will start on McDavid's right wing. McDavid and Draisaitl were extraordinary together. Strome needs to show early that he can produce on a top line or he will quickly find himself somewhere else.
The Oilers signed a forward to a PTO... it just wasn't the player most were hoping for. Chris Kelly is an old Chiarelli player and while he has success on the PK, I don't see a spot for him on this team. Over the next week it will be interesting to see if any other PTO's are extended. Will Franson get an invite if the defense pairs are struggling? Will Jagr find himself training with any NHL team?
The first pre-season game is Monday September 18th with the split squad games. I wouldn't be surprised to see the roster close to complete by that Thursday. Happy training camp everyone.
Thanks for reading!