It didn’t start great, but the Oilers picked up their third win of the exhibition season tonight in Winnipeg, defeating the Jets 4-1. After allowing eleven shots and a goal in the opening frame, the Oilers locked it down and capitalized on their chances to take care of business.
Nikolaj Ehlers opened the scoring on the powerplay, finishing off a pretty feed from Tyler Myers. It was a goal that Laurent Brossoit really had no chance to stop, and it gave the Jets the momentum that allowed them to thoroughly dominate the first twenty minutes of play.
Brossoit was strong, however, stopping the other ten shots that came his way in the opening period to keep his team in it. Overall, LB stopped 13 of 14 shots in the victory and looked much better than he did on Monday night in Calgary. Safe to say the rust has been shaken off.
The Oilers would get a powerplay goal of their own in the middle frame as Mark Letestu cashed in a pass from Jussi Jokinen at the side of the net. Seconds later, the Oilers took the lead for good as Zack Kassian stole a puck, carried it into the offensive zone and fed a wide open Jujhar Khaira for a tap-in tally.
Edmonton added an insurance marker at 13:59 of the second period when Jussi Jokinen redirected a Letestu pass off his foot and past Steve Mason on the powerplay. Kailer Yamamoto, who had a goal called back in the middle frame, would score an empty net goal with just seconds remaining to give Edmonton the 4-1 victory in this one.
A number of Oilers really stood out to me in a positive way tonight, starting with Yohann Auvitu. I thought he was Edmonton’s best defender and that it wasn’t even close on this evening. Auvitu generated offense with both his exceptional passing skills and by skating the puck up ice.
His mobility was on full display in this game and it caught my eye in a big way. I also thought Auvitu was strong in his own end and made a few real nice hustle plays to breakup Winnipeg chances.
Both Brossoit and Nick Ellis looked good tonight, with LB keeping the Oilers in it early and Ellis slamming the door shut in just under 27 perfect minutes. It was a good bounce back effort for both netminders, who were shaky in Calgary on Monday.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins shined on this night, creating offense and looking in charge out there. His three assists were all well deserved and I thought the Nuge was in mid-season form during this contest. I thought Jussi Jokinen looked strong, especially after getting his legs going, and Kailer Yamamoto looked like he absolutely belonged on the same line as those two.
I still don’t think Yamamoto makes the team, but he’s certainly strengthened his case and I believe he will stick around longer in camp than any of us thought when he was drafted just three months ago.
Jujhar Khaira played a strong game and that’s a good sign for him. He’s certainly done enough early on in camp to distance himself from some other candidates for the fourth line left wing role. Mark Letestu, his potential center, also looked really good tonight and was in peak form on the man advantage.
Not-so Positive Impressions:
Some players were disappointments tonight, especially Chris Kelly. There is a spot to be had for the veteran, but I thought he looked slow and ineffective for the second game in a row. Ditto for Ty Rattie, who really was unnoticeable for most of the contest. I thought we might see a little more urgency from him.
Defensively, I thought the Russell-Benning pairing was way too shaky tonight. I know it was their first preseason game, but they need to be better than that. I expect they will be next time out, but I was uneasy tonight when they were on the ice.
Ryan Mantha struggled a bit to my eye, as did Brad Malone, who really didn’t do much for me in this game.
What Comes Next?:
The Oilers will be back on the ice at Rogers Place tomorrow for practice, then begin the cuts. I suspect we see a handful of younger players and AHL vets head down to Bakersfield as the Condors get ready for camp, and that only bubble players and top AHL’ers remain tomorrow afternoon.
I think AHL contracts Ryan Hamilton, Josh Currie, Zach O’Brien, Chad Butcher and Evan Polei will get sent out, mainly because they won’t be here on opening night and don’t factor into the NHL plans this season. Prospects Greg Chase, Braden Christoffer, Ryan Mantha, Ben Betker, Kyle Platzer and Patrick Russell are all candidates to head to Bakersfield as well.
Veteran wise I think Brian Ferlin, Grayson Downing, Keegan Lowe and Ryan Stanton could be on the chopping block, but suspect at least a few of those names stick around past the next round of cuts.
If I were a gambling man, I’d wager somewhere between five and ten names get sent down to the AHL tomorrow after practice as the Oil prepare to face Vancouver on Friday night.