Earlier today, players reported to Edmonton for medicals and tomorrow they will take to the ice for the club’s first practice of the 2017-18 season. After hitting the 100 point mark, making the playoffs and advancing to the second round a year ago, expectations are sky high in Edmonton.
Many people, myself included, feel that the club’s window to win a Stanley Cup is now wide open. With that said, there are still questions that surround this club. Some of them will be answered in training camp, while others we will have to wait and see on.
As we get ready for the first on-ice practice of the year, let’s take a look at the top five storylines for the Edmonton Oilers in training camp.
1.) How Does The Club Handle Andrej Sekera?: The Oilers didn’t add a veteran defender this summer, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t looking. Reports had the club interested in veteran Cody Franson, while TSN’s Bob McKenzie tweeted in response to a question that he would be surprised if the Oilers didn’t add a veteran defender before camp broke.
Last year, the club signed Kris Russell just days before the season opened and he worked out just fine. Will they do something similar this year to help fill the void while Sekera is out until at least mid-November?
2.) Is Jesse Puljujarvi Ready?: As a rookie, Puljujarvi got a big taste of the NHL before heading down to Bakersfield for over half a season. He performed well in the AHL, but there are still questions about his offensive ability at the NHL level. Is he ready for primetime? Judging by the Oilers’ moves this summer, they believe so.
Puljujarvi’s play in training camp will be a huge indicator and we should know the answer to this question in just under three weeks. Unsurprisingly, the Oilers love the kid and appear poised to give him every chance to succeed. They need him to contribute this season offensively.
3.) Is It Benning or Nurse?: If the Oilers don’t add a veteran to replace Sekera, who will step up to fill his minutes? Matt Benning plays a similar game and is a natural fit with the lefty Kris Russell as a right-shot guy. That said, the Oilers love Nurse and no doubt will want him to take on a bigger role with the club this season.
Both played depth roles last year but will be called on for more minutes this season. Who takes the opportunity and runs with it is anyone’s guess, making this one of camp’s more interesting storylines.
4.) Can Kailer Yamamoto Push For NHL Employment?: If you asked me on draft night I would have said no right away, but after a strong summer and rookie camp showing, could Yamamoto actually make the team? The club loves him and he appears to have more natural skill than any of the right wingers on the roster currently.
I still think it is highly unlikely he plays in a single NHL game this year, but there is some smoke and he is slightly older for a player just drafted. This is a sneaky storyline that could creep up on us in a hurry.
5.) Can Chris Kelly Make The Oilers?: He’ll be battling with Brad Malone, Iiro Pakarinen, Mitch Callahan and Ty Rattie, but Chris Kelly has a chance to make this Oiler roster. Edmonton needs help on draws and on the penalty kill and Kelly is solid in both areas.
Kelly isn’t the player he once was, but is a former Stanley Cup champion and respected veteran who could play a very defined role for the Oilers. I think he has a beter shot to make this team than many are giving him. He’ll be an interesting story in camp from a depth perspective.