Tuesday, March 30, 2010

VandeVelde and Nash Look to Future

After signing Jeff Petry to a pro contract last week the Edmonton Oilers are left with a pair of NCAA properties that they'd like to ink ASAP. One of them is North Dakota senior Chris VandeVelde and the other is Cornell junior Riley Nash.

Both were guests on The Pipeline Show on Tuesday and discussed what they perceive to be their future with the organization that drafted them.

I think it's fair to say that the two players see things a bit differently.

Vande Velde was a 4th round pick by Edmonton in 2005, a high school kid from Moorhead Minnesota who was identified early on by scout Chris McCarthy. He played a full season in the USHL with the Lincoln Stars (Photo: USHL Images), represented his country at the 2006 Viking Cup in Camrose and then moved on to North Dakota.

As a member of the Fighting Sioux, "Vandy" started slowly. He recorded just 9 points in his freshman season, most of those coming in the final month of the year. As a sophomore, Vande Velde improved to 32 points and he followed that up with 35 as a junior. Much was expected of the big center in his fourth and final year and he delivered - 41 points in 42 games as a senior, the leading scorer on his team and by all accounts, a leader off the ice as well.

Vande Velde talked to us about his career at UND and where things sit with the Oilers. Fans of the club can expect to see the big, strong center to be wearing Springfield gear as early as this weekend.
"My agents, they're just working on it right now in Detroit with Edmonton right now so... it could happen anytime, probably tonight or even tomorrow."
Riley Nash was a 1st round pick, 21st overall in 2007. Edmonton packaged the 30th and 36th overall picks that year and gave them to Phoenix in order to move up and secure Nash out of the BCHL - a decision that was criticized by many.

Nash has spent the last 3 seasons in the ECAC Conference of NCAA hockey with the Big Red of Cornell. He's told us in interviews on our program before that a primary reason for choosing Cornell over more prominent hockey programs like Denver and North Dakota was for the opportunity to play with his older brother. Brendon Nash has reached the end of his NCAA career and has signed on with Montréal thus prompting the obvious question: will Riley follow suit and turn pro by signing with Edmonton?
"I'm in no hurry to sign anything, especially when we have all summer."
Oiler fans who had hoped to see Nash report to Springfield for the rest of this year shouldn't get their hopes up. In fact, Edmonton supporters might be best to prepare themselves for the possibility that Nash might never be seen wearing the orange and blue. Dean asked the Kamloops product directly if he was considering completing his NCAA eligibility and not signing with Edmonton by August 15, 2011 thus becoming an unrestricted free agent.
"When you're 3 years in it's obviously something that crosses your mind. I like Edmonton, I like what they're doing and I think that they have a lot of good years ahead of them but... at the same time I've got to see what's best for me. My main goal is to play in the NHL in the next few years and that's what it comes down to. I want to help an organization in the NHL and fulfill that dream so i have to look at all aspects of it. I've talked to my advisor and we kind of go around in circles about it and what's going to happen here. Like I said before, I'm in no hurry to sign anything because there is a lot going on but at the same time I'd like to get on with my professional career."
What struck us as odd out of that is his statement of wanting to help "an organization in the NHL" but not once in the interview does he mention a desire to play for the Oilers. Nash went on to say that he didn't feel as though he is...
"at the top of the priority list right now because [Edmonton] has got a lot of issues and a lot of good young prospects."
It's just my opinion but I've always got the feeling that the player and the organization have rarely been on the same page. The Oilers have wanted Nash to turn pro every year since his freshman season, Nash has balked at the idea and now seems poised to return for a fourth.

If Edmonton cannot sign Nash by August 15, 2011 then the player will become an unrestricted free agent. The Oilers have the 2010 and 2011 drafts as well as the 2011 NHL trade deadline as peak opportunities to move him if they so desire. If they can't, the team will be granted a compensatory pick in the 2012 draft as a result of failing to sign their first rounder. That would be the 21st pick of the 2nd round (51st overall).

You can hear the interviews with both Chris Vande Velde and Riley Nash in their entirety by clicking here.

(Photos: Emily Green/FightingSioux.com, Mark H.Anbinder, Cornell Athletics)

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