As a hockey fan born in Edmonton in the ’80’s, living in Canuck territory, and writing about the Jets, these games are never easy for me. I owe both franchises a thanks for the hours of entertainment, as well as for the self-esteem boost that has come from the constant feeling of being smarter than at least two NHL GM’s throughout my adult life. (Special thanks to Doug MacLean while I’m at it) But for Jets fans who may not know, Craig MacTavish has made sweeping changes – dare I say, upgrades – to the roster he inherited just a few months ago. For any Oilers fans who stopped by, the Jets are doing just fine, thank you very much. No one is worried about re-alignment. Mind your own business. 1979!
Tonight we’ll see some AHL talent make their case for early call-up after both squads have made cuts from Training Camp. We can look forward to a pre-arranged fisticuffs half-time show between Peluso and Abney. Personally, I’m looking forward to the 52 minutes neither of them are on the ice.
Statistically, the Oilers’ new back-up (Jason LaBarbera) was better than the Jets’ starter Ondrej Pavelec last season. That said, it’s hard to imagine Pav being affected by shrinking pads, given he stops everything (or doesn’t) with his glove, so maybe things will equal out this year.
- Kane – Jokinen – Setoguchi
- Wright – Scheifele – Frolik
- Tangradi – O’Dell – Klingberg
- Telegin – Slater – Peluso
The Jets left wing in this game is going to give the Oilers some trouble. Two heavy fast-balls with movement and a change-up feels like a strike-out combo if we just ignore Wright – a hanging curve ball in this metaphor. This is Ivan Telegin’s first pro game since suffering a major concussion in St. John’s last year, but he certainly looked full-speed at Young Stars tournament, and I would expect him to move up the lineup quickly during the game. Kane scored two in his first pre-season game and seemed immune to the disorganization of his linemates. Jokinen draws in as his centre and we get our first look at the dystopic alternate-future in which Mark Scheifele doesn’t make the team.
O’Dell’s only pre-season game showed him to be an AHL player, despite his impressive scoring with the IceCaps. His skating is just not NHL level, and though he played a full 200′ game, he was behind the play the moment the puck was turned over. Heavy feet in transition and high-shoulders in turns meant he just never had power to change direction. Tangradi is a little more his speed and is a zone-entry monster. Klingberg also has NHL size, but just 61 points in 130 AHL games. This will be my first viewing of the Gothenburg native, and I’m very curious to compare him to the Oilers’ younger Tyler Pitlick – a speedy, large bodied, heavy hitting young man with all the tools and none of the results.
I feel like there is a drinking game related to every time Jim Slater blocks a shot but doesn’t get the puck out. We will see.
- Clitsome – Byfuglien
- Melchiori – Trouba
- Stuart – Postma
Pavelec is starting, but Pasquale is expected to get some time in net. It may be that Noel is trying to unseat Montoya for the back-up job, as Al was used in just 6 starts last season.
Clitsome and Byfuglien formed the team’s top pairing after Enstrom was hurt last season and exceeded (albeit low) expectations – likely a central reason for Clitsome’s three-year contract this past summer. Stuart and Postma were also used in the Jets stretch-run, though Postma is currently fighting for a job with Ian White in camp.
Melchiori and Trouba are the least known and thus most interesting to watch. After a shaky start for Trouba with Chiarot in game one, Melchiori seemed to calm things down for the young 1st rounder. Still, he was physically out-muscled and was often seen making casual approaches the puck that belied the speed of the contest. We hope to see Trouba adjust his game after a bit of a pride-bruiser against Washington.
- Omark – Gagner – Jones
- R. Hamilton – Arcobello – Yakupov
- Pitlick – Lander – Joensuu
- Moroz – Martindale – Abney
The recently-returned Linus Omark gets an offensive push tonight and likely sees PP time as well on a roster with only a fraction of the scoring punch of the Oilers’ NHL squad. Ryan Jones is the original Matt Halischuk – a cast-off from the Predators with reasonable vertical speed and more goals than anyone can explain through reason or math. He missed much of the 2013 season with injury and with all the changes around him, is back to fighting for minutes.
One of the players who might eat those minutes is the Oilers’ latest Finn, Jesse Joensuu – a 6’4" former Islanders’ pick who scored 25 points in 24 SM-Liiga games this past season. He’ll be matched with would-be 4th line centre Anton Lander and the young but so-far disappointing Tyler Pitlick. It has the chance to be a formidable checking line and all three have something to prove. The wingers are listed on their off-wings, but maybe Eakins prefers it that way.
Lowetide is listing Ryan Hamilton as a likely Oiler come October 1st. He plays with the Oilers’ 5th centre from 2013, Mark Arcobello – the man who got the assignment with Hall and Eberle during the lockout. With them is Yak-city, an electric player I’ve waited all summer to watch again. It’s pre-season, so I encourage you to just let yourself enjoy this kid’s incredible puck skills, galloping stride, and massive grin.
Mitch Moroz missed rookie camp with an injury, and will be trying to look out of place on a line with two guys who know where to get the best pizza in Stockton, where the Oilers’ ECHL affiliate plays.
- Smid – Petry
- Klefbom – Grebeshkov
- Larsen – Davidson
Oscar Klefbom returns from a mild concussion suffered in the Young Stars tournament, and does so on his natural side. He had a very up-and-down performance in the tournament prior to the injury, looking like a different player shift-to-shift. He definitely has NHL quality skating, but it could be a wild night if Dennis Grebeshkov has kept any of his wandering tendencies from before going to the KHL.
Smid and Petry have been the Oilers’ top pairing for a couple years now and are remarkably good considering the limited fanfare they receive.
Davidson had a strong Young Stars tournament, but struggled with contact and controlling forwards in close quarters. Philip Larsen is 23 and trying to earn a permanent NHL position. He has much the same struggles and this pair could be exposed by the big, strong, fast Jets group.
I’ll be on twitter tonight watching the game and hoping for a 10-10 tie. Come chat with me @kevinmccart