Edmonton Oilers training camp job battles
Pitlick, Joensuu fight for final spot on wing
The Edmonton Oilers are the second in our series of training camp job battles for the seven Canadian-based NHL teams leading up to opening night on Oct. 8. We’ve also covered the Calgary Flames.
Edmonton Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins felt Tyler Pitlick deserved the opportunity.
Pitlick, who projects as a checking winger in the NHL, played 15-plus minutes on the right side with first-line forwards Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall in a 3-1 pre-season win over Winnipeg on Sept. 29.
The 22-year-old Pitlick, like he has for much of training camp, seized the opportunity.
“I thought he changed the complexion of the game when we were just kind of playing OK,” Eakins told Edmonton reporters. “We’re just trying to give him a chance to succeed.”
Pitlick is hoping Eakins will give him a chance at full-time minutes this season. He also stood out in a Sept. 25 game at Winnipeg, a 3-2 Oilers victory that saw the team’s second-round draft pick in 2010 play physical, fill in at centre and generate some offence.
Pitlick has had an inconsistent pro career but Edmonton might be forced to not expose the six-foot, 200-pounder to waivers should he finish camp strong.
Breathing down Pitlick’s neck is second-year Oiler Jesse Joensuu, a left-handed shot who started the pre-season on right wing with projected starters Boyd Gordon at centre and Matt Hendricks.
The Oilers like his size (six-foot-four, 213 pounds) but he showed little last season (five points, minus-16 in 42 games).
Joensuu, 26, showed well in a 5-0 loss to Chicago on Sept. 28, starting the game on the fourth line but earning promotions as the game progressed. He fired two shots off the post was a physical presence.
It’s Pitlick and Joensuu fighting it out for the final wing spot.
Other Oilers camp battles:
It appears four players are vying for two open spots between Nugent-Hopkins and Gordon: Farmhands Mark Arcobello and Anton Lander along with prospects Leon Draisaitl and Bogdan Yakimov.
Arcobello, a smart player who has shown promise in limited NHL duty, might be difficult to cut. The 26-year-old made the Oilers out of camp a year ago but was caught in a numbers game when Sam Gagner returned from injury and was sent to the minors. All Arcobello did was average two points a game before a shoulder injury ended his season.
Lander, 23, has always been a fringe player for Edmonton. He played 56 games in the 2011-12 season but has suited up for only 38 since. The Swede averaged a point per game in the AHL last season.
The second-line centre job might be Draisaitl’s to lose, given Eakins started him between Jordan Eberle and David Perron in a Sept. 30 game at Arizona. Draisaitl, who was drafted third overall in June, has demonstrated good playmaking skills in the pre-season. Eakins said the 18-year-old hasn’t done anything to show he’s not ready to play in the NHL.
The six-foot-five, 232-pound Yakimov has nice hands for a guy that size. He had 12 points in 33 games in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League last season and added two points in seven contests at the world junior championship.
Five players battling for two spots: Martin Marincin, Keith Aulie, Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse and Brad Hunt.
Marincin has the most NHL service at 44 games but struggled in the Oilers’ first three exhibition games and isn’t a lock to be the sixth defenceman.
Some would say the No. 7 job is Aulie’s to lose. Having played 136 NHL games, the six-foot-six, 228-pound rearguard might get a longer look since he played for Eakins with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. But keep an eye on Brad Hunt, who played a solid 19 minutes against Winnipeg on Sept. 29, and could wrest away the job from Aulie. Hunt can play the point on the power play and he tallied 50 points as a second team AHL all-star last year.