Thank god it’s Friday? No, thank god it’s hockey.
But that being said, the Young Stars tournament that starts tonight involving the Oilers and some other much less significant teams is a truly meaningless exercise. It might be entertaining. It might give us bored fans something to watch. But truthfully, this is just a thing to get young players ready for the real training camp.
“Training camp” is a completely different concept now compared to 30 years ago. Players now train all summer, then come voluntarily into player-run camps before team camps start. Players can all skate now and are ready to go. The idea of pre-camp, followed by youth camp, followed by training camp, followed by the pre-season… It’s amazing these guys aren’t burnt out before the season begins.
There’s not much to look at with respect to the Oilers entry to the Young Stars tournament this year. You’d expect, going by the rosters, that the Oil will have the best group of defensemen, and Kailer Yamamoto will do all the scoring. It’s a pretty bad team though. The Oilers organization has done a terrible job at acquiring forwards, especially centers, over the last number of years.
When real camp and pre-season games get going in a few weeks, it will be interesting to see what Yamamoto can do while playing with McDavid (which he will be), and it will be neat to see if one of Zygat Paigin or Ryan Mantha is NHL-ready.
Word out today is that Anton Slepyshev’s ankle sprain isn’t that serious, so he’ll have a roster spot come opening night. It’s been discussed most of the summer that the Oilers expect Jesse Puljujarvi to be a regular this year as well. So what I’m trying to say is, there really isn’t going to be competition for roster spots this season. The competition will be more who plays on what line. Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan loves the line blender, so I expect the line-matching debate to be sorted during the regular season and not during training camp. Yamamoto will be sent back to Junior, and it’s highly likely Paigin and Mantha will start the season in the AHL.
Oh, there will be some competition, I suppose. There will be a competition between Jujhar Khaira and Ty Rattie to see who the 13th forward will be. There might be a small competition to see if Eric Gryba or Yohann Auvitu will be a starter while Andrej Sekera is injured. TSN’s Bobby Mac said, was it today?... That he expects the Oilers to try to acquire a veteran defenseman because there’s uncertainty over Sekera’s health and return date. If I had to venture a guess as to what the Oilers could do, I’d suggest they will go get Jason Garrison from the Vegas Golden Knights for a middle-ish draft pick and maybe a younger defenseman (think Dillon Simpson). Garrison has a really big shot and the Oilers haven’t had a really big shot on the power-play for a long, long time.
The only truly interesting question when it comes to Oilers training camp will be here Ryan Nugent-Hopkins fits into the roster. If Oilers management had a compelling trade offer for him, they would have made the deal already. Putting a $6 million per season player on the third line seems wasteful to me, and I have a feeling Oilers management would like to bump up his stats this season to make it easier to trade him next summer.
Enjoy watching “Oilers” hockey tonight, the hot mess it will be. Some hockey is better than no hockey.