The Edmonton Oilers have released their 26-name rookie camp roster which features several free agent invites as well as a smattering of their own drafted prospects. The official list released by the club is incomplete and inaccurate as at least two more players are confirmed to be coming including a name we first revealed Tuesday night on The Pipeline Show. There is also a deletion from the list due to injury and the potential that another forward is still to be added.
I find it very interesting that there are 6 goalies going to be at the camp. Clearly this is the beginning of the AHL-backup auditions. I say "beginning" because Aaron Sorochan is not one of the six at rookie camp and he too will get a long look during main camp. Three of the netminders coming in are free agents and only one of the 6 (Olivier Roy) is ineligible for the AHL.
There are just 8 blueliners scheduled to appear, another sign that the goaltending situation is a higher priority right now. 13-14 forwards (or 12 according to "the list") will take part as well.
Here are a few tidbits of information on each player as well as some comments from head amateur scout Stu MacGregor on the group of invited players.
Edmonton prospects Bryan Pitton and Olivier Roy will be joined by Andrew Perugini, whose minor league rights are held by the Oilers, and three free agents. Pitton and Perugini split time in Stockton last year with the latter picking up 21 wins compared to the former's 9. It wasn't a good year for Pitton but he impresses me every year during camp, I honestly think he's a better goalie than his record showed.
Kris Lazaruk was the starter for the Kootenay Ice during the 2007-08 season and had decent numbers playing behind an average team. Last year he was a victim of the 20-year-old limit rule and ended up moving to Kelowna where he struggled to maintain a .500 record with a club that would eventually go on to win the WHL title. He was released when the team traded for Mark Guggenberger at the deadline but eventually found new work south of the border with the Omaha Lancers of the USHL. With no NCAA eligibility remaining, my understanding is that Lazaruk was on a list of potential recruits for the UofA but the Golden Bears opted for Travis Yonkman instead. I do not know where Lazaruk will play this year but the UofA might still be an option.
"Kris showed a lot of potential when he was younger," said MacGregor, "He didn't have a great year last year but previous to that, all 3 years in the WHL he had a save percentage over .900 including one year when it was .912 which is pretty darn good."
As Oil Kings coach Steve Pleau revealed ten days ago on The Pipeline Show, his netminder Torrie Jung will be at rookie camp for the Oilers. Jung was outstanding for the WHL club last year and was easily their MVP. He was originally a late draft pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning but with an apparent glut of goalies in their system, they allowed Jung to become a free agent by not signing him to an entry level deal. Jung went unselected in the draft and remains a UFA.
The 6th netminder coming in is Kurtis Mucha, an Edmontonian who played for the worst team in the WHL over the course of his junior career. The Portland Winterhawks have been cellar dwellars much to the detriment of Mucha. The local boy had a total of 53 wins throughout a 4-year career, never once had a save percentage over .900 and posted bloated GAAs of 3.82, 4.10 and 3.74 over the last 3 years. His numbers are horrible but believe it or not, I'm told he's actually a promising goalie. we'll get a chance to see that in a couple of weeks.
"Kurtis Mucha... many nights he was the one thing that kept the Winterhawks close," MacGregor echoed, "He's a real competitive goaltender, battles and we're just trying to make an assessment to see if he might fit within our organization.
It's too early to say how many of these goalies might move on to the main camp (if any) but there they will be joined by Nikolai Khabibulin, Jeff Deslauriers, Devan Dubnyk and Aaron Sorochan.
The Oiler properties who will be at rookie camp are Alex Plante, Johan Motin and Jordan Bendfeld. Plante is likely headed for the AHL where he will make his rookie debut. Motin is expected to join him after playing a few seasons in the Swedish Elite League. Bendfeld missed most of 2008-09 with a serious knee injury and although I've spoken with him and he hopes to play in Springfield, it's likely he's headed to Stockton of the ECHL.
R.J. Anderson completed his NCAA career with Minnesota last year and then played 5 pro games, two of which were in Springfield with the Falcons. As we saw during the summer, Anderson's appearance at this camp may be a promise being kept and a repayment for aiding the Falcons at the end of the year when injuries had the team scrounging for help. Philadelphia originally drafted Anderson back in 2004 but they opted not to sign him last year. He had a total of 26 points during his 4 years with the Gophers.
Speaking of promises kept... Jesse Dudas returns for a second rookie camp. He was badly injured last year during the game against the Calgary Flames in Camrose and missed half the WHL season as a result. Swift Current didn't want him back and he only lasted 19 games with Regina before being released. Dudas appeared in 5 games with the Charlotte Checkers of the ECHL to close out the season.
Dmitri Kostromitin is a big Russian defender that played for the Montreal Juniors last year after they selected him 11th overall in the 2008 CHL Import Draft. He was eligible for the 2009 NHL entry draft but went unselected. The 6'3 and 200 lbs blueliner had a good debut year in the CHL and is expected to return to the QMJHL but his rights were dealt from Montreal to Rouyn-Noranda this past June so he'll be getting used to new surrounding once again.
"We liked him and had him on our draft list, " admitted MacGregor, "He skates pretty good and like a typical Russian defenceman that keeps his game quiet and pretty simple. He does shoot the puck really well and he's been training with the Russian U20 team so he's at least on their radar."
Dalton Prout is a 19-year-old who has split his OHL career between the Barrie Colts and the Sarnia Sting. The Ontario native stands 6'2 and weighs a hair over 200 lbs and plays a steady defensive orientated game.
"He's a solid guy, good stay at home guy with good size and makes quiet defensive input every night," described MacGregor.
Adrian Van de Mosselaer is another Oil King that will take part in the event. The big blueliner had a strong year for Edmonton before breaking his leg and sitting out the final couple of months of the season and playoffs. He was originally acquired from Medicine Hat and is expected to be a key player for the Oil Kings this year. He had 19 points in 49 games with the OK kids in 2008-09.
Edmonton properties who will be at the camp include Jordan Eberle, Cameron Abney, Jamie Bates, an injured Toni Rajala, the recently traded Philippe Cornet (see notes below) and Milan Kytnar.
Three Oil Kings have gotten the call including former leading scorer Jeff Lee. Lee will attend UNB this season if he doesn't get a pro contract but that's something Stu MacGregor wouldn't rule out.
Brett Breitkreuz earned his chance with the way he played for Edmonton as a 19-year-old last season. The veteran will be expected to carry more of an offensive load this year but can always be counted on for putting out a consistent effort.
"He's a hardworking guy that provided lots of things for the Oil Kings and frankly, I saw lots of improvement in him," MacGregor said, "I thnk he deserves an opportunity at a camp to see what he needs to do to get to the next level. He's got lots of energy and compete in him, that's for sure."
The most recently added Oil King is Michael Burns, an underachiever last year who only managed 5 points. Burns is still growing into his 6'2 body and might be more of a late bloomer.
"I think he has potential and he got a lot better in the second half," said MacGregor, "If you've ever seen him he's got big hands and feet so he's not done developing physically yet. He's still got to add a lot to his game but this will give him an opportunity to find out how much he really wants to do it and what it's all about."
The Saskatoon Blades will be well represented at camp; Oiler prospect Milan Kytnar's two linemates have both been called on to appear. Burke Gallimore and Derek Hulak put together impressive seasons with their offensive numbers and their plus/minus stats as well. The fact that Hulak was also the captain of the Blades last year should not be overlooked as the Oilers have always been drawn to character players.
"[Gallimore] is a kid that puts up good numbers, he competes hard and he can overcome and improve his skating but he has the basics that you look at with hockey sense and he does score goals," agreed MacGregor, "[Hulak] is a skilled player with hockey sense. He plays the game with intelligence and smarts and you always hope to add people to your organization with a good work ethic and good direction."
One of the more intriguing invites to watch for might be Stepan Novotny. The winger scored 41 points last year with Kelowna and has been described as a player whose talent is only equaled by his inconsistency, both of which might be off the charts. Novotny was originally supposed to play for the Denver Pioneers in the NCAA but after his year in the USHL with Indiana (see photo) he saw that the Pioneers appeared to be a loaded club with little playing opportunity so he moved to the WHL.
"Really skilled player," MacGregor began, "This guy is an extremely skilled hockey player. He showed some inconsistency but when he's got the throttle on and he's got it going, he's a very very hard guy to keep up to. He can make reads or shoot the puck while on the move, great hockey sense and a quick release. He has to learn to use his size and compete more in the harder areas but that's what we're hoping to see."
The Oilers release has Kamloops forward Dalibor Bortnak attending but he will actually not be coming after he recently injured his spleen during the Blazers Blue/White game.
Another player who was left off of the official list that is actually going to be in Edmonton is forward Jordan Skellett of the Saginaw Spirit. This is a player the Oilers had on their radar during the 2008 draft while he was a member of the Erie Otters. The photo is of him slamming Windsor's Taylor Hall into the boards.
Finally, don't be surprised if Ian Duval is another late addition. The invitation has been issued but the new Mantiboa Bisons forward is to let the team know about his availablity very soon. The former WHL hired gun (traded for 3 times during his career) was a hot commodity at the trade deadline and helped the Kelowna Rockets win the league title. Duval has enrolled at the University of Manitoba for the 2009-10 season.
Notes: Phil Cornet's rights were quietly moved to Rouyn-Noranda earlier this summer as completion of a deadline deal. Rimouski and Rouyn-Noranda made a deal that included "futures" which have turned out to be Cornet. Cornet (seen on the right) will play with the Huskies this season...
Apparently 2009 1st round pick Magnus Svensson-Paajarvi twisted his ankle during preseason training. It doesn't sound sever or that he'll miss much (if any) time...
The Springfield Falcons have signed Kip Brennan to a new contract. The veteran tough guy will definitely add toughness to the line up and probably means the couple of enforcers who were being invited to AHL camp are no longer needed.
The Stockton Thunder are having open auditions to try and earn one of 3 walk-on invites to their main ECHL camp. If you're down in Cali and have $100 burning a hole in your jeans, contact the Thunder. Tryouts are being held on October 2nd...
The upcoming EDM/VAN/UofA rookie tournament was originally supposed to be held in Penticton B.C. but with the Calgary Flames opting not to take part this year it fell apart. However, once Vancouver agreed to include the UofA Golden Bears the event was back on...