Oilers Mid-July update

By Guy Flaming





Mid-July Report

The NHL Entry Draft is now behind them, the
Edmonton Oilers have not traditionally been a player in the annual UFA
whirlwind that begins July 1. Even the new yearly tradition of a prospect camp
has been cancelled. What is there to get excited about in Edmonton for Oiler
fans this summer?

 

Rita Deal Imminent

 

Word is
that the Edmonton Oilers and 1999 first round selection Jani Rita are very
close to finalizing a deal for the coming season. No word on the possible contract terms but Hockey’s Future was
told in May by Rita’s agent, Craig Oster, that a one-way contract was
definitely what they were after.

 

It’s certainly something we’d hope for and something that we think
that Jani has earned,” said Oster.

 

An
announcement of a completed agreement could come as early as next week.

 

Draft
Picks Edmonton Bound

 

The top three Oiler draft picks from last
month will be in town at the end of July for some orientation and instruction
from the club’s fitness guru.

 

We’re bringing (Devan) Dubnyk, (Robbie) Schremp and (Roman)
Tesliuk in at the end of July for three to four days to do some work with
Daryl Duke,” VP of Hockey Operations Kevin Prendergast told Hockey’s Future
recently.

 

During
their visit the trio of Oiler prospects will also meet with local media for the
first time.

 

Roadrunners Roster Taking Shape

 

A handful of new rookies are scheduled to
join the Oiler’s AHL affiliate to make their professional debuts in
2004-05.
Jeff Deslauriers headlines
the short list but is being joined by center
Kyle Brodziak and former
Providence rearguard
Jason Platt.

 

There is another defense position waiting
for one of two players to claim but only one will get the opportunity this
year. The spot was supposed to go to
Matt Greene but with his decision to return to North Dakota for another year,
the opening will be there for either Harvard graduate
Kenny Smith or Swedish banger Mikael Svensk. If terms cannot be reached with Smith, then the Oilers will
seriously look to the possibility of bring Svensk over to North America for the
coming season.

 

The blueline will look significantly
different this year with the free agent departure of captain Bobby Allen and
the decisions of Mikko Luoma and Jan Horacek to return to Europe. The Roadrunner blueline so far consists of
the aforementioned Jason Platt,
Doug Lynch, Jeff Woywitka, Mathieu Roy, Brent
Henley
and returning veterans Peter Hogan, Dan
Smith and Rocky Thompson.

 

Two of the nine players are likely
scheduled for action in the ECHL with the new Edmonton affiliate in Greenville.

 

Up front the Oilers are still looking to
add a few players to the team via free agency to fill holes created by the UFA
status of Chad Hinz and Michael Henrich.

 

At this time we’re pretty set as to what kind of team we’re going to
have down there,” said Prendergast. “We
have some free agents on a holding pattern and we probably won’t make any
decisions on them until mid-August.”

 

While
there was no confirmation on exactly who the players are, indications are that
two are players who just completed their junior eligibility in Canada and one
is a veteran AHL skater that are being pursued by the Oilers.

 

Time
finally ran out on Henrich, a former first round draft choice who never lived
up to expectations of his draft position.
Hinz on the other hand, was a valuable asset but becomes a victim of the
numbers game.

 

“Chad’s
been a great player for the organization and he’s given us a lot but we felt
that with the amount of young players we’ve got coming, he would command too
much ice time in order for us to develop some of our players,” explained
Prendergast.

 

In
between the pipes there will be two new faces compared to the start of last
season. Newcomer Jeff Deslauriers will
split time with AHL veteran Tyler Moss who has agreed in principal to returning
to the club to tutor the younger keeper.

 

“It’s not finalized yet but Tyler wants
to come back and Scott Howson is just working on the deal right now with is
agent,” said Prendergast. “He
understands the situation with Deslauriers going in there and he was receptive
to the idea of helping Jeff come along but still play a fair amount of games
himself.”

 

Once again on the outside looking in is Mike Morrison, who was also considered the third
goalie last year for Toronto until he played his way onto the club and
established himself.

 

“At this point we’re going to look for
another spot for Mike to play,” Prendergast said. “At this time we felt that he’s not going to be one of those two
guys so we’re looking around to get him a job with another team, either an AHL
team or an ECHL team as long as we know that he’s going to get to play.”

 

WJC
Summer Camps Set

 

Edmonton will have two players in attendance
at the Team Canada summer camp during August in Calgary. Center
Marc-Antoine Pouliot and goalie Devan Dubnyk will try to make positive impressions on the
coaches and scouts that will be preparing the national team roster for the
World Junior Championships in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

 

Pouliot in particular will be looking to have
a much better camp than last summer where he suffered a hip flexor, an injury
that served as a harbinger for the health troubles that hampered the talented
Quebec player all year long.

 

South of the border, Robbie Schremp is one of
19 forwards invited to the USA tryouts being taking place at the same time in
Grand Forks and Thief River Falls, Minnesota.
The Americans host an annual three-country tournament with the National
clubs from Sweden and Finland instead of just inter-squad games like their
Canadian counterparts.

 

Like Pouliot, it will be Schremp’s second
attempt at cracking the roster of his national team.

 

Making
The Cut

 

It’s reality TV meets Fantasy Island but for
six men, this fall they are going to have the opportunity of a lifetime. Scotty Bowman and Mike Keenan are headlining
the newest reality show that’s coming to CBC this fall called Making The
Cut. Tryouts were held nationwide
during June for anyone willing to be put to the test by several former NHL
coaches and scouts. From those cross
Canada tryouts, 68 players were chosen to attend a training camp to earn one of
six invitations to an NHL training camp.

 

Reaction to the idea has been varied but
there are those that believe the show’s head scout, Jack Birch, and his staff
will be able to dig up more than a few worthy players in their search.

 

“There’s always somebody that might deserve
an opportunity and it gives guys who, for whatever reason felt that they might
have never got a break, it gives them an opportunity to show something,” said
Prendergast when asked about the idea.
“It’s our national pasttime so who knows?”

 

Several impact players in the NHL went
undrafted in their time so it stands to reason that there will be more than a
few players worth watching during the course of this TV show. Candidates will be trying to emulate
undrafted success stories like those of Curtis Joseph, Mike Keane, Adam Oates,
Eddie Belfour, John Madden, Joe Mullen and 2003-04 NHL MVP Martin St. Louis.

 

But will the Oilers be one of the team’s
interested in taking on one of the show’s finalists and giving him an actual
camp tryout?

 

“I don’t see why we wouldn’t take one, we’d
certainly like to have a look at them,” admitted Prendergast. “I know Jack Birch really well and he knows
what type of players it takes to play in the NHL. I don’t know why we wouldn’t want to get involved with a player
who has worked that hard to get there and give him an opportunity. Certainly if you go through the whole country
and there’s six players there, there’s got to be something worthwhile to look
at.”

 

Lorne Davis, a scout for almost 40 years,
sees the show as interesting entertainment but isn’t getting his hopes up too
high for the next great Oiler.

 

There can still be surprises but I think it’s still a long shot
really,” Davis said.

 

Prospect Camp Still A Possibility?

 

Hockey’s Future has learned that, believe
it or not, the second annual Oilers prospects camp might still be held this
year after all. So far it’s still in
just the department of possibilities, but with the expectation of there not
being a main training camp this fall, the Oilers may still invite their players
to town.

 

We’re
looking at the possibility of having a rookie camp in September, if we can get
some money together,” Prendergast commented.

 

September
would eliminate the possibility of college players like
Colin McDonald, Matt Greene and Brock Radunske from participating. Likewise, most European clubs are on the
verge of commencing their seasons so
Jesse Niinimaki, Dragan Umicevic and Fredrik
Johansson
would
also probably be unavailable.

 

However,
it would let hometown fans get their first glimpses of the class of 2004 and
also more of top prospects like
Pouliot,
Zack Stortini and J.F. Jacques.

 

The
prospect camp was originally schedule for July but was cancelled for financial
reasons as the team has begun its drastic scale back on all expenses heading
into a 2004-05 schedule that might not include income from NHL games.

 

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