27 NHL hopefuls took to the ice at Rexall Place this morning as the on-ice portion of Oilers rookie camp officially got underway.
It was a fairly quick practice with guys getting on the ice at 9:30 and off again an hour later for a flood. There was a scrimmage to end the day .
The fans care more about the fake game but it's the systems drills that the coaches were keying in on. Coach Tom Renney was on the ice and afterwards he talked about how he was paying more attention to the 5-man units during the breakout drills than any one player in particular.
When asked what he thought of Jordan Eberle's performance, Renney chuckled and admitted that at this point he's still trying to figure out who is who and isn't really aware of the young guys in the system.
Forward Line Combinations
Milan Kytnar played between Jordan Eberle (RW) and Philippe Cornet (LW) on what was, as should be expected, the best line today. There is some nice chemistry between Eberle and Cornet that they first showed last September in Camrose. If the latter makes it to the WJC roster for Canada, someone with Hockey Canada should take note and try them together there as well.
The Saskatoon twosome of Derek Hulak and Burke Gallimore played alongside Oil Kings forward Michael Burns. Hulak played in the middle position there with Gallimore to his right .
Former Oil King captain Jeff Lee was flanked by Saginaw's Jordan Skellett (LW) and 2009 draftee Cameron Abney (RW) of the Everett Silvertips.
Kelowna winger Stepan Novotny and 24-year-old Jamie Bates were the wingers for Brett Breitkruz of the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Defensive pairings featured Alex Plante with Dalton Prout, Jordan Bendfeld played alongside Jesse Dudas (who wore #82 throwing fans for a loop as he was listed as #47), R.J. Anderson was partnered with Adrian Van de Mosselaer leaving Swede Johan Motin to play with Russian Dmitri Kostromitin.
The game saw the teams playing with two full lines each which meant, 15 minutes into it they were bagged and the tempo sagged dramatically. The first goal came off the stick of #73, Burke Gallimore (photo), who snapped a deadly accurate shot just under the crossbar from 20 feet out to the left of netminder Kurtis Mucha.
About 10 seconds after Gallimore's goal Mucha was beaten again. Not his fault though as #66 Dalton Prout coughed up the puck to #59 Brett Breitkreuz in front of the net. The Oil Kings forward quickly spun and jammed it towards the goal and through the Portland Winterhawks netminder.
The third marker was a laser beam wrist shot from the top of the circle that beat Olivier Roy cleanly. Off the bottom of the crossbar and in. It was the second of the morning for Burke Gallimore who did what a goal scorer needs to do at a camp like this: score goals.
Jordan Eberle got his team's first goal and he scored it from his knees. It's wasn't as mind-blowing as it might sound though. At this point of the scrimmage guys were coasting all over the place and so when he got a lose puck at the hashmarks, turned and fell, he still had time to not only regain control but to also get a shot off with no one within 5 feet of him. Eberle's wrister beat Andrew Perugini 5-hole.
The final goal of the day came off the stick of Milan Kytnar who won a minor side-of-the-goal puck battle and put the puck on the net and saw it go in. Not a fancy goal, just a guy working hard and getting rewarded for it. Kris Lazaruk was in net at the time.
That was it. No really notable collisions and no eye-popping saves by any stretch of the imagination today.
After the practice I spoke with 3 participants and you can hear those interviews by clicking on their names: Stepan Novotny, Derek Hulak and Philippe Cornet.
Really quick first impressions: Russian defenceman Dmitri Kostromitin is noticeable. He's 6'3 off the ice and he looks pretty imposing while skating around and bumping into guys. He puts the candy-cane stripes on his stick so he's easy to spot too... Johan Motin needs stickum for his gloves, the Swede kept losing his stick during the drills. I liked that he brought some feisty attitude with him, he was whacking guys as they came across the line towards him... Cam Abney is tall. He's listed as 6'4 which made him the tallest player on the ice. Already one of the more respected pugilists in the WHL, once he fills out his frame he really could be a dangerous tough guy... There are too many goalies here this week. 6 is two, too many. They play two games which means 4 guys can play half a game or 3 guys can play a period each... why bother? Pitton and Perugini should not be here right now, they're not rookies and the team already knows them. (just my opinion)... forward Toni Rajala has yet to arrive in Edmonton as he was scheduled to see his doctor today in Finland before making the trip to North America...