First, I would like to say how happy I am to be a part of the Beer League Heroes team. My main focus is going to be on the players in the Oilers system, more specifically in the CHL, NCAA, USHL, and over seas, with maybe a small dip into the on goings of Bakersfield of the AHL, and Norfolk in the ECHL.
With summer now here, and the Free Agent Frenzy down to a whimper, I thought it would be a good idea to profile the Oilers current crop of prospects, heading into the rookie tournament in Penticton. And what better place to start than the recent development camp held here in Edmonton.
I was fortunate enough to make it down to Rexall for the Sunday sessions, and I have some thoughts on a few of the players that were present, both property of the Oilers, and camp invitees.
- Darnell Nurse – 6’3″ 213 lbs. Hamilton, ON – Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) #7 2013
- Loik Leveille – 5’9″ 228 lbs. St. Jerome, QC – Cape Breton (QMJHL) Invitee
- Kevin Davis – 5’9″ 172 lbs. Kamloops, BC – Everett (WHL) Invitee
- Ethan Bear – 5’9″ 198 lbs Ochapowace, SK – Seattle (WHL) #124 2015
- William Lagesson – 6’2″ 197 lbs. Gothenburg, SWE – Dubuque (USHL) #91 2014
- Ben Betker – 6’5″ 223 lbs. Cranbrook, BC – Everett (WHL) #158 2013
- Joey Laleggia – 5’8″ 182 lbs. Burnaby, BC – Denver (NCHC) #123 2012
- Caleb Jones – 6’1″ 192 lbs. Frisco, TX – US NTDP (USHL) #117 2015
- Josh Healey – 6’0″ 195 lbs. Edmonton, AB – Ohio State (Big 10) Invitee
- John Marino – 6’0″ 181 lbs. Brockton, MA – South Shore (USPHL) #154 2015
Obviously, the standout from this group was Darnell Nurse. He was easily a man amongst boys at this camp. I’m not entirely sure how much Nurse benefitted from this camp, but I can tell you that the other players there are better for being matched against him, and just being around him during the camp. Watching Nurse take drills, there is a very real chance he challenges for a spot in the opening line up this fall. The only thing stopping him is the depth added to the blue line this off season. Failing that, I expect to see him crack the team full time before the end of the season.
Ben Betker looks like he could be a player for the Oilers in the near future. He’s a big body, towering over the other prospects at camp, and at 21, he could still have some weight to add to his already solid 223 lbs. frame. Another run through at main camp this fall will really benefit Betker, who I think needs a solid 2-3 years in the AHL to really develop into an NHL player for the Oilers.
Joey Laleggia is another player who looks to be perhaps a year or two away from knocking on the Oilers door. He posted 15-25-40 last year in 37 games for the University of Denver before joining the Oklahoma City Barons late in the year for 5 games, adding a goal and an assist. He’s a quick, agile defenseman, who can join the rush for an added scoring threat. I liken his game to that of Justin Schultz. However, unlike Schultz, Leleggia is going to play 1-2 years in the AHL. But he’s going to be better for it.
Caleb Jones looked like he was there to make an impact in his first development camp. He used his size and positioning well in puck battle drills, even given the unenviable task of going up against Connor McDavid. Given time with Portland of the WHL, as well as a large role with the US World Junior team, Jones looks poised to gain some serious experience this season.
Ethan Bear is built like a tank, and could be a nice project for the Oilers over the next few years. He’s tenacious in puck battles, as was evident when he went one on one with Darnell Nurse at Development Camp, holding his own. At 18, he needs to remain in junior for a few seasons before jumping to pro, but the depth Edmonton has added this offseason assures there is no need to rush Bear, allowing him time to truly develop, and see what kind of player he can become.
One invitee to camp that caught my eye was Loik Leveille of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in the QMJHL. Totaling 13-41-54 last season in 68 games for the Eagles, its a bit of a surprise Leveille went undrafted this year. He has decent speed and agility from what I saw, but lagged behind the other aforementioned prospects. He plays physical, and isn’t afraid to drop the gloves. It’ll be interesting to see if the Oilers continue to scout him next season, and if his draft stock increases with another year in the Q.
- Leon Draisaitl – 6’1″ 214 lbs. Cologne, GER – Kelowna (WHL) #3 2014
- Alexis Loiseau – 6’0″ 171 lbs. Havre-Aux-Maisons, QC – Rimouski (QMJHL) Invitee
- John McCarron – 6’2″ 232 lbs. Macomb, MI – Cornell (ECAC) #153 2012
- Lane Bauer – 5’8″ 195 lbs. Anchorage, AK – Edmonton (WHL) Invitee
- Michael Rebry – 6’0″ 186 lbs. Clear Creek, ON – Western Mich. (NCHC) Invitee
- Connor Rankin – 6’0″ 191 lbs. North Vancouver, BC – Calgary (WHL) Invitee
- Luke Esposito – 5’8″ 182 lbs. Greenwich, CT – Harvard (ECAC) Invitee
- Jakob Stukel – 5’9″ 178 lbs. Surrey, BC – Vancouver (WHL) Invitee
- Evan Campbell – 6’1″ 205 lbs. Port Coquitlam, BC – UMass-Lowell (H-EAST) #128 2013
- Cole Sanford – 5’7″ 163 lbs. Vernon, BC – Medicine Hat (WHL) Invitee
- Braden Christoffer – 5’8″ 188 lbs. Sherwood Park, AB – Regina (WHL) Invitee
- Tyler Soy – 5’9″ 167 lbs. Cloverdale, BC – Victoria (WHL) Invitee
- Tyler Vesel – 5’9″ 182 lbs. Rochester, MN – Nebraska-Omaha (NCHC) #153 2014
- Tyler Robertson – 6’1″ 189 lbs. Sherwood Park, AB – Edmonton (WHL) Invitee
- Kyle Platzer – 6’0″ 172 lbs. Kitchener, ON – Owen Sound (OHL) #96 2013
- Greg Chase – 6’0″ 190 lbs. Sherwood Park, AB – Calgary/Victoria (WHL) #188 2013
- Connor McDavid – 6’1″ 190 lbs. Newmarket, ON – Erie (OHL) #1 2015
Leon Draisaitl came into camp this year as one of to players to have tasted the NHL last season, with the other being Darnell Nurse. Leon looked refocused, performing at a level above the other attendees, aside from Nurse and McDavid. It may be hard for Draisaitl to crack the line up out of camp this year, even if he does switch to the wing, which has been talked about. For Draisaitl, starting the year in Bakersfield would in no way be a bad thing. In all fairness, he’s one of the players that could have really benefitted in a rule change, allowing NHL teams to assign one or two 19 year olds to their AHL affiliates. That being said, I don’t see him playing a full year in the AHL if he can adapt to the speed of the pro game a little bit more than last season.
Kyle Platzer is fast. Fast and has a nose for the net. I really liked what I saw from Platzer at the development camp. Although it didn’t seem like it after he was drafted, his offensive upside is very real. Platzer is going to fall into that same range as Ben Betker, needing a solid 2-3 years in Bakersfield before realistically challenging for a spot on the Oilers.
It’s always talked about what a steal Henrik Zetterburg was for the Detroit Red Wings in the 7th Round of the Draft. And while I would never be naïve enough to compare Greg Chase to Zetterburg, I will say the Oilers managed to dig a legitimate player out of the 7th Round in 2013. Greg Chase looked to be on the same time frame as fellow 2013 Draft picks Betker and Platzer, projecting to challenge for a spot in 2-3 years. He plays an agitator type game, while chipping in some nice offence.
The star of the development camp was, of course, Connor McDavid. Watching him skate, move the puck, and really just lean on his stick, you can tell he’s ready to step in now to help the Oilers. There really isn’t a whole lot to elaborate on in regards to his time at camp. He excelled at everything.
This years camp had quite a few invitees brought in to fill out the forward lines. Sherwood Park native Bradon Christoff of the Regina Pats once one invitee that really seemed to have some hustle. That’s not to say the other kids at the camp didn’t. I’ve watched Tyler Robertson since his time with the Spruce Grove Saints, and he is a very good player. But Christoff really stood out for me with the way he attacked every drill the coaches put him through. With 59 points in the WHL last season, I wonder if he gets invited back to main camp in the fall. He certainly looks like he could be a promising prospect.
- Jordan Papirny – 6’0″ 169 lbs. Edmonton, AB – Brandon (WHL) Invitee
- Keven Bouchard – 6’1″ 207 lbs. Metabetchouan, QC – Val d’Or (QMJHL) #183 2014
- Zachary Nagelvoort – 6’1″ 207 lbs. Holland, MI – Michigan (Big 10) Invitee
- Miroslav Svoboda – 6’2″ 191 lbs. Vsetin, CZE – Trinec (CZE U-20) #208 2015
Watching him at camp, Keven Bouchard seems to still be working on his movement, particularly side to side while in his butterfly. Rebounds seemed to give him some problems, but this again is more than likely do to his mobility, which should improve. One thing that I really like about seeing Bouchard, was his willingness to talk to the coaches, asking what part of his game and stance need work. Perhaps it’s just a matter of needing playing time, which he should get in Baie Comeau.
Miroslav Svoboda made his way to Edmonton to take part in his first development camp. He looked very good in the drills he was given, and seemed to have good mobility and positioning. He looked more ready than Bouchard, but there’s still work to do with him.
Jordan Papirny was an interesting invite to fill out the goalie ranks. I’m a little surprised he wasn’t on any teams radar at the draft, following his outstanding play in the WHL Playoffs. Watching Papirny, he seemed to me, to be the best goalie at the camp. There’s a big part of me that hopes the Oilers bring him back for main camp, or at least give him a very good look as potential goalie depth in their system
And that concludes my look at the 2015 Development Camp. Obviously, it’s hard to judge just where a player is progressing by only seeing one day of practice, but I liked what I saw on the ice. Aside from needing more forward depth, the Oilers look like they have some decent players coming through the ranks. As I said before, I’ll be taking the summer to profile the prospects the Oilers have right now, including some of the camp attendees I didn’t touch on here.