Their Time to Shine

Leon Draisaitl Connor McDavidMcDavid and Draisaitl Gang up on the Golden Bears

The annual Oilers Rookies Vs. U of A Golden Bear’s game is always an interesting affair.  The automatic assumption is that the more talented Oiler rookies will dominate a team that is used to playing with each other.  However, many times that has not been the case and the Oiler Rookies have been given a sound humbling on more than one occasion.

But on this night talent one over familiarity and structure with room to spare as elite prospects Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl combined for 7 points leading the Edmonton Oilers rookies to 6 -3 victory in front of 14, 000 plus fans and move one game under .500 in their head to head match-ups with the Bears (12-13-0)

While the score ended up lopsided it started out fairly even. The Oilers rookies seemed to be carrying the play and getting the chances but it was the Bears who got on first when (ironically) Ethan Bear lost a puck battle in front and Rhett Rachinski snapped the loose puck home 5:04 of the first.

In spite of the deficit, Draisaitl and McDavid continued to press the Bear’s D and it wasn’t long before penalties became an issue.  The Bear’s goal scorer Rachinski took a penalty at 9:17 of the first and they didn’t have long to wait for retribution when the Deutschland Dangler, Leon Draisaitl took a nifty feed from Braden Christoffer and buried it.

The Oilers rookies continued to play with power when Riley Kieser took a penalty at 10:30 and the Oilers quickly capitalized when the next one, Connor McDavid, made a reverse angle behind the net pass to Alexis Loiseau who finished the play with some nifty hands of his own.

In the second frame puck possession basically belonged to the Bears as they handily out shot the Oilers rookies by a wide margin but really didn’t benefit on the scoresheet as Eetu Laurikainen was very solid in net. Joey Laleggia showed nice offensive instincts when he took a Leon Draisaitl feed walking in to score early in the second period.

U of A veteran Jordan Hickmott answered shortly after but for all their territorial dominance the Golden Bears were still a goal behind.  And that was unfortunate because the Oilers rookies blew the game wide open with 3 goals in the third, and they were all illustrated a style that is needed on the big club.

Josh Winquist showed some good hockey sense when he was in the right place to capitalize on a juicy rebound for the fourth goal.  Connor Mcdavid and Cole Sanford executed an odd man rush to perfection for the fifth goal. Not to be outdone,  Anton Shlepyshev was finally rewared for his numerous drives to the net with a bit of a moldy one he scored falling down, for his first of the night, and the sixth Oiler goal.

My Three Stars:

  1. Leon Draisaitl: A goal and thee assists for a dominant performance.
  2. Connor Mcdavid: Dazzling display of offensive skills including a super speed Forsberg move… and three assists.
  3. Eetu Laurikainen: Very steady in net, bailed out his youthful D.

Making a Case for Promotion

Leon Draisaitl was a dominant force throughout the game and while footspeed has been a gripe against him, he certainly kept pace with a speedy Bear squad.  Finishing the night with a goal and 3 assists. Draisaitl could have had even more if his linemate Christoffer hadn’t bobbled the puck a couple times.  As rookie camp has progressed, he’s only looked stronger, and I expect when main camp continues will make it very tough for the coaching staff to send him down.

Needing Some Seasoning

Darnell Nurse did not dominate last night as some might have expected and at times looked a little out of sorts, bobbling the puck somewhat and not looking confident.  Too early to say but some time in the minors may not be the worst thing for this player.

Likes to Go to the Net

Pic courtesy of Conway’s Russian Hockey Blog.

Future power forward Anton Shlepyshev was using his size and speed to bulldoze towards the net whenever the opportunity was there.  On one occasion he drew a penalty, on another he was rewarded with one Smytty would’ve been proud of.  This guy plays more of a North American than Euro game from what I can see and even reminds me of somewhat of Glenn Anderson with his style.

A Bit of a Project

Ethan Bear struggled a fair bit in this game, sending a pizza up the slot that led to a grade A scoring chance, but Laurikainen bailed him out.  He was also at fault on the first Golden Bears goal when he lost his man in front.  The scouts like his physicality but his hockey sense at this stage is lagging. Looks like he is a good 3 – 4 years away.


Lindsay Ryall Written by:

Born in Edmonton, raised in the pumpkin capital of Canada in rural Ab. and an Oiler fan since their first season.

  • CofC

    Agree with article with one exception:

    Darnell Nurse was head and shoulders above other defensive prospects taking part in the game; A couple of points here:

    1) Playing a position where team weaknesses are exposed (Defence), Nurse was alone in his skill and vision; Chaos reigned supreme defensively on this night, yet I shudder to think what the outcome would have been had Darnell not been playing. There is no doubt in my mind that playing with more skilled line mates under a solid system/structure/coach would have shown Nurse in an entirely different light (no different than McD playing with AHL or junior caliber players vs NHLers, except that it’s all the more apparent and exposed on D).
    2) Nurse’s ability to move the puck up the ice, particularly carrying it, is a gift – a true sight to behold. Rarely have I seen an opposing team’s defence on their heels and backed up deep into their end like I did when Nurse decided to carry the puck against the Bears. This might be less apparent against NHL-claiber players, but I sincerely hope his creativity isn’t stifled as he develops as a young Oiler. Yes, continue to grow his defensive responsibility and promote clean, quick, precise breakouts, but let the young man fly…(!)
    3) The puck, on two occasions, bounced over his stick and came out of the O-zone; This is clearly not reflective of his usual puck handling skill, it is something we see happen on occasion at every level of play including the NHL and by seasoned veterans, and in no way should be an indictment of his ability to perform at the NHL level; Does he have some maturing to do? Yes – there is no rookie, no matter how skilled, that can step into the NHL claiming that there is nothing more to learn, period. However, his skill set is unique and superlative, and whether he spends time seasoning in the AHL, or gets his feet wet early in the NHL, he will clearly be a force to reckon with.

    There are many barriers to Nurse taking the next step to the NHL this October, including cap hit and veteran contracts; And certainly it won’t hurt him to spend some time on the farm; But let’s not get caught up in the media spin of “he bobbled the puck twice in a fairly insignificant game so he’s not ready for the NHL”… The guy’s a machine – we’ll see him on the big team very soon, make no mistake.

    • Lindsay Ryall

      C of C,

      Thanks for reading, I do appreciate it as well as your feedback which was well constructed. Just so you know, I didn’t meant for my comment to read as an indictment of Darnell Nurse. I believe he is in many ways our most important prospect, and like yourself, I can’t wait to see him in the NHL. I was only suggesting he may need more seasoning in the minors (may). Is is crucial to the Oilers future success on D, no doubt about that.