Today is the day. It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a chance to begin the process of redemption for the Edmonton Oilers. Training camp opens in Northern Alberta today, with the Oilers reporting for medicals and to talk with the media. 62 players will attend camp, with one giant omission.
This morning, to get you set, I’ll go position by position and preview what the final 23 man roster will look like. Let’s begin with the goalies, shall we?
In Camp: Cam Talbot, Mikko Koskinen, Al Montoya, Dylan Wells, Shane Starrett, Stuart Skinner and Olivier Rodrigue
The pressure is squarely on Talbot to bounce back this season. After posting a .908 save percentage last season, Talbot needs to be better to give his team a chance, especially at the start. He’s the only real lock for a roster spot this fall.
Koskinen is likely to join him after signing a one-year deal in May, but he’ll need to fend off Al Montoya. Montoya is likely to be waived and sent to the AHL as number three goalie, but a trade is possible too if a younger option steps up.
Starrett, Skinner and Wells will come to camp fighting it out for minor league positions, with the AHL backup job being the top one up for grabs. I’d wager on Starrett getting the nod there while Skinner and Wells split time in the ECHL.
Rodrigue, in my opinion, won’t be here long as the Oilers try and tighten the roster up quickly. He might be the best young player in the group, however.
Where They End Up: Talbot will start while Koskinen backs up in Edmonton. Montoya leads the way in Bakersfield while Starrett backs him up, with Skinner and Wells handling the ECHL duties. Rodrigue will return to the QMJHL for the season.
In Camp: Andrej Sekera (IR), Kris Russell, Kevin Gravel, Adam Larsson, Jakub Jerabek, Jason Garrison (PTO), Ryan Stanton, Keegan Lowe, Ethan Bear, Even Bouchard, Oscar Klefbom, Dmitri Samorukov, Jared Wilson (AHL Deal), Caleb Jones, Matt Benning, Marc-Olivier Crevier-Morin (AHL Deal), Jake Kulevich (AHL Deal), William Lagesson and Logan Day (AHL Deal)
Sekera will report but obviously will not be on the ice or playing until at least January, probably even further out than that. Russell, Larsson, Klefbom and Benning are the only locks for the roster this fall in my mind. Darnell Nurse still isn’t signed and there doesn’t appear to be a solution coming soon.
Jerabek, Gravel, Garrison, Stanton, Lowe, Bear and Jones will be competing for bottom of the roster roles, while Bouchard has a chance to earn some NHL games with a strong preseason. Stanton, Lowe, Garrison and Gravel are likely fighting it out for the seventh defender role, while Bouchard and Jerabek are probably battling for a third-pairing job.
Wilson, Crevier-Morin, Kulevich and Day will all report to camp, but I’d expect them to be cut early and head to Bakersfield for Condors camp. Day, in my mind, is the most intriguing of that group and I believe is the one with NHL potential.
Where They End Up: Klefbom, Larsson, Benning and Russell will all open the season in the NHL, with Gravel and Jerabek joining them after Nurse signs his bridge deal. Even Bouchard will get nine games before returning to the OHL’s London Knights, while both Bear and Jones start the season playing featured roles in Bakersfield.
Garrison won’t make the team or earn a contract, while Stanton and Lowe head to the minors to handle the veteran roles in Bakersfield. Lagesson kicks off his North American pro career in Bakersfield, while Samorukov returns to the OHL along with Bouchard.
In Camp: Ty Rattie, Scottie Upshall (PTO), Mitch Callahan, Jujhar Khaira, Ryan Strome, Tobias Rieder, Brad Malone, Milan Lucic, Kyle Brodziak, Leon Draisaitl, Alex Chiasson (PTO), Evan Polei (AHL Deal), Cameron Hebig, Josh Currie, Zack Kassian, Joe Gambardella, Pontus Aberg, Tyler Benson, Dave Gust (AHL Deal), Patrick Russell, Tyler Vesel, Luke Esposito (PTO), Kailer Yamamoto, John McFarland (AHL Deal), Ostap Safin, Braden Christoffer (AHL Deal), Ryan Van Stralen (AHL Deal), Colin Larkin, Cooper Marody, Nolan Vesey, Ryan McLeod, Kirill Maksimov, Drake Caggiula, Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jesse Puljujarvi
Gust, McFarland, Christoffer, Polei and Van Stralen likely won’t be here long, and will almost be locks for the first cuts from camp as they get set to make their mark in Bakersfield and Wichita this winter.
I think both Upshall and Chiasson have a chance to make this team and earn contracts, while both Kassian and Aberg need to be careful moving forward. Both of those players are candidates to be moved in the coming weeks, especially Kassian due to his contract.
Malone has a chance to earn a roster spot as an extra forward, while Callahan will be looking to rebound from the most disappointing season of his professional career. He’s a guy I liked a lot coming into last year’s camp and who I wouldn’t sleep on.
Dark horse candidates to emerge and challenge for a spot? Patrick Russell, who has a good shot and can PK, Cooper Marody, who is an older prospect and who has some skill and Tyler Benson, who appears ready to roll after years of injury issues.
Where They Will End Up: The AHL group will be moved early into camp, while I think we can expect Larkin and Esposito to join them. It wouldn’t surprise me if Esposito landed an AHL contract here.
Safin, Maksimov and McLeod will end up back on their respective junior clubs this campaign, while guys like Benson, Currie, Gambardella, Russell, Yamamoto, Hebig and Marody kick off their years in Bakersfield.
The Final 23:
Here’s my prediction for what the 23-man roster will look like when the Oilers heads to Germany two weeks from Saturday.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Connor McDavid – Ty Rattie
Milan Lucic – Leon Draisaitl – Tobias Rieder
Drake Caggiula – Ryan Strome – Jesse Puljujarvi
Scottie Upshall – Kyle Brodziak – Alex Chiasson
Oscar Klefbom – Adam Larsson
Darnell Nurse – Matt Benning
Kris Russell – Evan Bouchard
Jakub Jerabek, Kevin Gravel
Not Attending Camp:
There is a group of players that will not be attending camp. That group is led by Nurse due to his contract situation. I’m betting that he’ll be in town by the start of next week with a new deal.
NCAA players are not allowed to attend an NHL training camp, so that eliminates the following players from this process: Hayden Hawkey (Providence), Matt Cairns (Cornell), Phil Kemp (Yale), John Marino (Harvard), Joey Dudek (Boston College), Graham McPhee (Boston College) and Aapeli Rasanen (Boston College).
KHL’ers Anton Slepyshev and Bogdan Yakimov are still under Oilers control, but neither has a contract and have begun their seasons in Russia. Seventh round pick Patrik Siikanen has already begun his season in Finland, while Joel Persson and Filip Berglund have done the same in Sweden.
Skyler Brind’amour (BCJHL) and Michael Kesselring (USHL) won’t attned either as they prepare for their upcoming junior campaigns.
An interesting omission from this list? Vincent Desharnais. The shutdown defender is entering his senior season with Providence of the NCAA, but isn’t listed anywhere on the Oilers camp roster.
The full roster is here.