Maybe it's the calm before the storm. There hasn't been much news since the organization announced Pat Quinn and Tom Renney as the next era of bench bosses for the Oilers. Fan expectation is running rampant as Oilerville ponders the fate of impending UFA goalie Dwayne Roloson, what will happen at the draft, who will and won't be signed to new contracts for next season and a subset of the market is interested in knowing more about prospects camp in July.
Plenty of other folks in the main stream media and the blog world have tackled the Roloson situation and I really don't have anything much new to add to that conversation. My understanding is that while Roloson may have once been asking for a 2-year deal it's possible he's upped his request to 3-years (though he'd "settle" for 2). As others have reported already, it's my belief that the Oilers will not entertain ideas of more than one season for the rapidly aging Roloson.
I get the impression that Edmonton is at the crossroads where they definitely want to know what they have in Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers and that if he plays well early on, he could find himself playing much more than most believe right now. In other words, Roloson's role (or that of another veteran goalie) might be more as a safety net for JDD in case he struggles as opposed to the other way around.
Not to suggest that Deslauriers is going to be handed the starters's job out of camp, that would be ludicrous at this point, but I won't be surprised if early on he receives more starts than most are currently expecting.
Cleaning out the Farmhouse
Several contracts will be coming off the books at the end of June as the Oilers want to distance themselves from the 50-contract limit and many of those cuts will come on the farm. The Springfield Falcons had a horrendous season and the focus from above will be to replace many fringe players with more talented and effective newcomers.
While the team won't make any special announcements for who won't be resigned it's common sense to expect a few prospects not to have their contracts renewed. I don't expect to see Mathieu Roy brought back again. Wingers Stephane Goulet (pictured) and David Rohlfs have probably played their last game as part of the organization as well. I believe that tough guy Hans Benson will not be returning to Springfield and rearguard Sebastien Bisaillon will be looking for a new team as well. The writing was on the wall for goalie Glenn Fisher when he was lent to Las Vegas in the ECHL.
It will be interesting to see what will happen with Edmonton product Tyler Spurgeon. A heart and soul type player, injuries slowed his development and with new managment looking to cut where possible I won't be surprised if Spurgeon is not re-signed. I'd feel bad for Tyler but I honestly don't see him with the Oilers come July.
The two prospects I think Edmonton would like to keep in the mix are Colin McDonald and defenceman Bryan Young. McDonald enjoyed a nice turnaround after the coaching change in Springfield last year and with Rob Daum at the helm I think the belief exists that they can still get the former 2nd round pick to take his game to another level.
As for Young, I know the scouting staff has always believed in the stay at home defenceman and his own-zone first attitude is a positive on a team laden with more offensive minded blueliners. Young might be asked to accept a minor league contract which would keep him in the AHL but out of the NHL. It's a tactic Edmonton has unsuccessfully tried in each of the last two years, first with Freddie Pettersson who promptly bolted for the Swedish Elite League followed by Troy Bodie who also declined, was then signed by Anaheim and actually made his NHL debut with the Ducks last season.
And then there is the case of Josef Hrabal who was injured for much of 2008-09 and then returned to Europe before the end of the season. Very recently Peter Adler via David Staples from the Edmonton Journal had a piece on the Czech defenceman where he spoke about his desire to impress the Oilers at main camp in September. Call it a gut feeling, but I don't think he'll get the chance... I think his stay in the organization has reached an end; he's been lost in the pack and will end up being quietly bought out.
Possible New Falcons
Clearly Kevin Prendergast and the Oilers have to find better AHL veterans if the Falcons are going to have any kind of success. I'm told the team has some players in mind who have a proven track record in the AHL that they are pursuing. I believe the Oilers would like to sign 3, possibly 4 players for Springfield who would play key roles both up front and on the back end.
A couple of possible candidates include a former Edmonton Road Runner named Martin St. Pierre. Well known for using a stick that was about 7 feet long, the 5'9 center played 18 games with the Road Runners during the NHL lockout after an impressive 4-year OHL career in Guelph. St. Pierre has spent the last 4 seasons with Chicago and Boston playing mostly in the AHL but managing to appear in 35 NHL games along the way. He's quick, talented and exactly what the Falcons need to jump start a miserable power play. He's also someone who could fill in with the big club in a pinch if necessary. Getting him might mean a contract that pays pretty well on the AHL side but is probably worth the effort for the results he's shown in the league.
How about someone like Chris Minard who has scored almost 100 goals over his last 175 AHL contests? He was a big part of Wilkes-Barre's offence last year and even suited up with the Pittsburgh Penguins for 20 games. The veteran has 7 years of pro experience under his belt and appears to still be getting better - he could be exactly what the doctor order for the Falcons.
Darren Haydar has been a force in the AHL over the last few seasons. He led the league in scoring by a country mile with 122 points in 2006-07 with Chicago and had 80 points last year with Grand Rapids. Like St. Pierre, Haydar is small but at the AHL level he is a scoring machine.
Downsized Prospect Camp
The annual summer get together between the organization and it's younger properties has been pushed back to July this year. This will enable the team to include the players that they will draft on June 26th. I wonder if it's also so time and money isn't spent on players who are about to leave the organization like the list above. If the camp was held in May or June like in that last few years, that would have been the case and there is no fiscal sense in throwing money out the window.
The list of camp participants will be limited to current prospect in the CHL excluding recently signed Milan Kytnar who is involved in a camp overseas. There are three such players: Jordan Eberle, Philip Cornet and Alex Plante. Also on hand will be the 5 NCAA prospect Edmonton currently has: Riley Nash, Jeff Petry, Matt Glasser, Robby Dee and Chris Vande Velde. The Oilers currently posses 8 draft picks and should that not change, all 8 will be invited to the camp. The two goalies will be Andrew Perugini and Bryan Pitton otherwise the only other pro players who will attend will be Jamie Bates and Jordan Bendfeld, the latter after missing most of the 2008-09 season due to injury.
Normally the Oilers will invite a half dozen or so players to camp to have a closer look but this year that number has been axed to just 3. The lone collegian is former Camrose Kodiak Jesse Todd who just finished his freshman season at Merrimack.
The other two players are both CHLers. Jesse Dudas was injured at Oiler camp last fall and was promised another shot - this is the Oilers holding true to their word. In the same vein, Oil Kings forward Jeff Lee joined the Falcons late in their season when they were desperate for healthy bodies. In exchange, the Oilers assured Lee's agent of a camp invite had he not signed with anyone else by then.
The prospect camp is set for the week beginning July 5th in Sherwood Park.
Speaking of Riley Nash, sources indicate to me that he will indeed return to Cornell for at least his junior year with the Big Red.
"With the 10th Overall Selection..."
It's interesting how much seems to have changed over the last month or so when it comes to players and their stock for the draft. Although there appears to be pretty much a consensus inside the top 8 or 9, the order those top players will actually be chosen seems very much up for debate.
I've heard from NHL people who believe Brandon forward Brayden Schenn will be chosen anywhere from 3rd overall by Colorado to a couple spots later to one of any number of teams including Toronto who might move up. The L.A. Kings might be happy to trade back with the Leafs because according to one source, they apparently like Nazem Kadri but not enough to take him in the #5 spot. The Phoenix Coyotes have been playing host to Russian defenceman Dmitry Kulikov fueling speculation that the Drummondville import might go higher than so far predicted. Swede Oliver Ekman-Larsson is loved by many in mock drafts and can be found well inside the top 10 on many of them but outside by just as many others. One insider predicted that if the Leafs fail to move up to grab either Tavares or Schenn that they may go off the board a bit and choose Peterborough power forward Zack Kassian - much earlier than anyone is thinking right now.
Basically, the names I keep getting suggested to me as the cream of the crop are (not in any specific order): John Tavares, Victor Hedman, Matt Duchene, Evander Kane, Brayden Schenn, Jared Cowen, Magnus Paarjarvi-Svensson and Dmitry Kulikov.
If you're one of the teams picking 9th-12th, the next handful of players to be considered the 'Best Player Available' may include London Knights forward Nazem Kadri and a trio of defencemen consisting of Swedes Oliver Ekman-Larsson and David Rundblad as well as John Moore of the USHL's Chicago Steel.
Kadri broke his jaw early in the season which probably eliminated him from WJC roster contention. After John Tavares joined the Knights, Kadri seemed to make it his personal mission to up his game and not play second fiddle. Scouts I've talked to have suggested that during the OHL series between London and Windsor, Kadri actually outplayed Tavares and won more than a few scouts over in the process.
He didn't get selected for the Swedish entry at the WJC in Ottawa and at the midseason point he was ranked well outside the first round by ISS, however, Oliver Ekman-Larsson's (pictured) stock has been skyrocketing as June 26th gets closer. He's a terrific skater and has solid offensive ability but some I've chatted up have questioned his mental toughness and wonder if he'll last in the NHL.
David Rundblad is ranked 10th overall by The Hockey News but that's higher than everywhere else that I've seen. He's been described to me as a really steady 2-way blueliner who played "in the SEL on one of the best teams and never looked out of place at all". He's a bit bigger and heavier than Ekman-Larsson and isn't getting near as much pre-draft hype but no one has mentioned the same concerns about Rundblad's mental toughness either.
There's a reason why we asked John Moore to do some blogging with us - he's a smart, humble, respectful kid who won us over when we had him on the show. That's the same sort of feeling scouts got when talking to him at the combine or at other times in the season. Not only is he a first class person but his skating is considered world class and the NHL team that takes him knows he's got two solid options of where to play next year - Colorado College or Kitchener. "We've only seen the tip of the ice berg with this kid, because he has no idea how good he actually is."
A wild card to keep in mind could be Brandon forward Scott Glennie who, despite a lackluster combine interview, possesses a few things the Oilers traditionally hold dear; speed, size and hands. Some have suggested that he benefited greatly from playing with Brayden Schenn and Matt Calvert all year but while both were tied up with Hockey Canada, Glennie showed he was able to do it himself.
For the Oilers, a five-name list doesn't really narrow it down all that much but what I do know for certain is that Edmonton's scouting staff will meet again all next week beginning on Tuesday night and I'm sure they'll be debating right up until Friday afternoon.
If I am reading the tea leaves correctly, I doubt that offensive but small players like Golden Gopher Jordan Schroeder and Ryan Ellis of the Windsor Spitfire are in the mix for Edmonton, at least not with the 10th overall pick.
Like I said, things have changed a lot over the last month. On Tuesday Dean and I will be unveiling our revised mock draft and you'll notice several alterations from a month ago when we started the process in its daily form.
(Photos Courtesy: Edmonton Journal, Brandon Wheat Kings,Springfield Falcons, Edmonton Oilers, Edmonton Oil Kings, QMJHL, ECHL)