They came, they saw, they worked their butts off. Thirty players spent last week in Edmonton
taking part in an abbreviated training camp that culminated in a pair of games
against two traditional rivals. When
all was said and done, one player earned himself a brand new contract, two
received invites to the upcoming AHL camp, a new assistant coach joined the
team, several juniors returned to their teams with renewed vigor and the rest
are set to fill the void in Edmonton created by the NHL lockout.
Longtime Oiler Kelly Buchberger was named to the coaching
staff of the Edmonton Road Runners, the AHL affiliate that will open its
inaugural season just under a month from now.
Buchburger, the Oilers leader in career penalty minutes, is replacing Jeff
Beukeboom who elected not to follow the team west from Toronto. For the fan favorite, the offer was simply
too good to pass up and came at a time that fit Buchberger’s own schedule.
“I’m very excited,” Buchberger began. “It’s something I’ve
always wanted to do since I was finished playing here and with the way that the
league is going right now, I was given this opportunity by Kevin and Scott to
come and work with the organization and I’m looking forward to it. I take a lot of pride in working with young
players and I want to be part of it.”
With his days as a player behind him, Buchberger had
returned to Edmonton with his family and had settled back into life in the
“There was no way we were moving our family again, we’ve
been gone for five years and through four different cities and it was time for
us to settle home,” he said. “I’ve been
gone for five years but it’s never really felt like I left the Oilers, I always
felt like I had a little bit of Oiler blood in me when I was gone.”
It has been long rumored that Bucky would rejoin the
organization once his playing career had ended and after brief stops in
Atlanta, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Pittsburgh the time had finally come.
“We’ve had talks throughout the years but I’d wanted to keep
playing as long as possible but with (the CBA) and my age, I was given the
opportunity and I had to take it,” he concluded. “It’s something I really was looking forward to doing and the
opportunities don’t come up all the time.”
Twenty-eight Oiler properties hit the ice September 10 in
nearby Sherwood Park as rookie camp officially opened. Added to the list of participants were two
free agent invitees, Simon Ferguson and Martin St. Pierre, who
were trying to earn themselves contract offers now that their junior careers
are finished. Although billed as a
rookie camp, there were several players who did not fit the description but
were involved largely to fill out the spaces needed for intersquad games as
well as the two contests that wrapped up the camp.
Eight of the ten players selected in the 2004 Entry Draft
were on hand, the first time they were able to practice and play in front of
Oiler coaches, scouts and fans. For
some, it took some getting used to in order to combat their initial stage
“Yeah it’s pretty nerve racking but I just have to loosen up
and I think it will be a good thing,” said the Peterborough Petes leading
scorer Liam Reddox after day 1.
“It’s a big adjustment but I feel more used to it everyday,”
agreed Bryan Young, who was a teammate of Reddox’s in junior last
season. Young went on to say that he
believed having Reddox around made the experience a little easier to get
accustomed to. “For sure it does; when
we’re away from the rink that always makes things easier, we can go and hang
For Ferguson, the added pressure of being a free agent
brought on the nerves despite being a veteran of other NHL camps.
“I was in St. Louis and Phoenix,” the former Kelowna Rockets
power forward said before smiling and pointing out a significant difference
between the camps. “This one there are
practices! They were all just
mini-tournaments before. There’s a lot
of concentration on hard work here and that’s a good thing.”
St. Pierre, who had previously skated with both the
Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers, admits that being older was
somewhat offset by being a new face in the room.
“The first couple days everybody has jitters but today was a
bit better,” he said after skating on day 2.
“You try to give the younger guys advice but at the same time there are
older guys here as well so you try and get advice from them too.”
For many of the skaters it was their second or third time in
the City of Champions and their familiarity with the surroundings gave them an
added sense of comfort. Troy Bodie,
who won a Memorial Cup title last year with Kelowna, noticed the difference
“Yeah, at the last (camps) I had some jitters but I was able
to get them out and now I’m just playing my game,” Bodie said.
“This is my third time and so you have more confidence in
yourself and you know that you can play with the guys instead of just watching
them,” the 6’4 J.F. Jacques agreed.
“You want to be part of it and just improve yourself and show more to
For others like AHL players Mike Bishai, Jeff
Woywitka, Doug Lynch and Brent Henley the rookie camp was
“I look at it more as a way to get back in shape and get my
feet back under me,” Henley, the towering rearguard explained. “With the games I played last year, and
going from the AHL camp and the exhibition, I don’t look at this as a step
backwards because I know they’re watching and they want to see if my feet have
improved. I think it’s a good chance to
jump ahead of some of the other guys who didn’t show up.”
The 28 skaters and two goaltenders were split into two
groups and practiced simultaneously but on separate sheets of ice. At the end of each practice session there
was a brief but spirited game lasting approximately 45 minutes in
duration. During the scrimmages there
were several cuts and bruises handed out but not a single incident where two
players dropped their mitts and squared off, a sign that most knew jobs were
not on the line.
Kenny Smith had a split lip thanks to a collision
with Brad Winchester’s helmet during a drill, Jason Platt’s stick
clipped Young producing a black eye and some stitches in his eyebrow, and Bodie
was sporting an oversized bandage over a forehead wound he had received.
Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish was pleased with what he
saw but cautioned the media and the fans to not get too excited about the
players who were in the camp because, for the most part, they were in the long
term plans, not the immediate future.
“It’s such a big jump from junior to the NHL that at this
point we don’t get too excited by the hype of certain players because we know
that the jump is so extreme that there have been only a handful of players over
the last few years who have been able to make that jump,” the coach
explained. “We want to see their
development but we’re not sensing that there’s any one of the young draft
choices that’s going to help us for a few years.”
When asked about a few specific players, MacTavish was only
willing to offer brief comments.
“(Devan) Dubnyk looked very good for a first
year goaltender and (Rob) Schremp showed us what we had read
about him; he’s got good hockey sense, goes to the open ice very well and finds
the open man.”
One player who started camp off slowly was Marc-Antoine
Pouliot whose recovery from abdominal surgery in June prevented the
Rimouski star player from being in top game shape.
“The last thing we want for (Pouliot) is to get hurt in this
camp so he goes through the same thing as last year,” MacTavish pointed
out. “Hopefully next time we’ll see a
fully recuperated and healthy player.”
The scrimmages themselves were entertaining for the number
of fans who were in attendance but provided little more satisfaction than the
salad does before a steak dinner. The
main attractions were on days 4 and 5 when the Oiler rookies played their two
games against other organizations.
Oilers vs Flames
On paper, this was a game the Oiler kids had in the
bag. The Flames were without the vast
majority of their bigger named players who were in Europe, U.S. college or in
the case of Dion Phaneuf, simply unavailable due to a contract
negotiation. On the other hand, the
Oilers had several of the key prospects dressed including Rob Schremp, Devan
Dubnyk, Kyle Brodziak and J.F. Jacques.
The Oilers began the game well and throughout the opening
period they dominated the Flames in all aspects of the game. Zack Stortini, parked at the edge of
the blue paint, got a piece of a Schremp slapshot to open the scoring. Minutes later Schremp masterfully spun and
fed a pass to a streaking Eddie Caron who buried a quick shot past
Calgary Netminder Davis Parley.
Before the period was over, St. Pierre netted his first of two on the
night and the Oilers went into the second frame up three goals to none.
The Flames came out hard in the second but it was the Oilers
who struck again while shorthanded when Simon Ferguson picked off a pass
at center, broke in but was stoned by Parley only to have St. Pierre deposit
the puck home. From that point on the
score sheet was dominated by Calgary.
Dubnyk, who was solid in the first period, was the victim of
bad luck on the Flames first goal. With
Dustin Boyd barreling in on a breakaway, Dubnyk gambled with an
excellent poke check banging the disc off Boyd’s stick blade only to see it
then bounce in off either the Flame or Oiler Roman Tesliuk who was hard
on the back check.
Moments later a brutal giveaway by Max Gordichuk
handed Boyd his second goal and not half a minute later the Flames prospect
completed the natural hat trick by burying a five-hole blast through
Dubnyk. With momentum completely on
their side, the Flames went into the third period down by a single goal. Calgary would score two more to steal the
game from Edmonton with a 5-4 win.
There were a few highlights for Oiler fans on the night,
including a very one-sided fight between Brent “the Henley Giant” Henley and
Calgary’s Brandon Prust.
“I think I cut his face and his head pretty good,” Henley
understated the day after. “Everybody’s
out there trying to get a spot and if that’s his job then that’s his job. He asked me to fight and I’ve been in that
position before so you go out there, get it over with and try to play the
game. I give him full credit for trying
but…he’s got a couple years to go.”
Henley had been expecting to tussle with Thomas Bellemare,
another Flames tough guy, but it wasn’t until later in the game when that
particular player was willing to dance.
Bellemare blindsided the Oiler defender near the Flames bench after a
routine dump in play, an act that Henley wasn’t shy of speaking about.
“He had ample opportunity, he was the guy I was
looking for but in his first three or four shifts we were lined up against each
other and he wouldn’t say a word. He wouldn’t
even come into my corner when we were on the same side of the ice!” Henley
said. “Then when I’m not looking and
after I’d already had the other fight, you’re gone after your second one and
the coaches told me to stay in the game, he jumps me from behind! I think that
pretty much says what kind of player he is.”
Henley wore the captaincy with pride in the game claiming it
was one of the proudest moments of his hockey career.
“That’s the best jersey I’ve ever put on in my life,”
he beamed. “I know it’s just an
exhibition game in a rookie camp but putting it on was unbelievable. Looking at the line of guys who have had
that crest with the C on it, there’s no way to describe it better than it being
a total honor. I didn’t even know, I
pulled it on and one of the other guys said, ‘Hey, you’re the captain’ and so I
looked down and was kind of shocked.”
The player most fans were there to see didn’t disappoint in
his playmaking as Rob Schremp came out of the game with a couple of
assists and numerous highlight reel plays.
“It was a good game, fast paced and pretty physical so it
was a good first game,” Schremp said in the dressing room. “I clicked pretty good with Stortini and
Caron, he and Zack just battle it out in the corners and do all the grit and
grinding work, they were awesome tonight and it was a pleasure to play with
That line was the most effective for the Oilers on the night
and both of Schremp’s goal-scoring linemates were equally quick to share the
credit for their success.
“Getting to play with Rob Schremp is a good opportunity for
me because he’s a really offensively skilled player and we get along well off
the ice as well so it’s a treat to play with him,” began Stortini. “Eddie’s a great player to play with, I’ve
got to play with him for the whole training camp and he’s set me up on a
couple. He’s a great guy too and the
three of us have become pretty close I guess.”
“I had a great time out there, obviously I’m playing with
some unbelievable guys and that really helped me out a lot,” agreed Caron who
failed to convert on a marvelous breakaway opportunity. “We had some nice plays, I could have
connected on a few more passes and I missed on that breakaway. I made one move too many, I had the whole
net to shoot at on the forehand and all I had to do was get a stick on it but I
missed it. I took a few shots about
that on the bus this morning from the guys.”
The other player who helped himself with his performance was
Marty St. Pierre whose two-goal night probably ensured his return for
the AHL camp.
“It’s unfortunate that we lost but we tried to show a lot of
character and bounce back and personally I’m really proud of myself. Like I said this morning, I was hoping the
goals would come and they did,” St. Pierre said after the game.
“My line is playing really well right now and I have to give
credit to those guys too,” he added with a chuckle as he talked about fellow
free agent Simon Ferguson. “We were
enemies at the Memorial Cup being that he was from Kelowna but we always joke
about that, he’s a good guy off the ice and on the ice he battles really
hard. He was the cause of my second
goal by working hard and taking the puck to the net. He’s a grinder and we have another big guy on the other side in
Jacques who just creates space for us so it’s been good.”
Despite the loss, there was a sense from the players and the
team brass that the players showed many instances of exactly what they wanted
to see. The same could not be said a
Oilers vs University of Alberta
They wouldn’t admit it publicly but if the Oilers could have
only won one of the two games, the one they would have chosen would have been
Tuesday night against the University of Alberta. It was the 17th annual grudge match between the two
Edmonton based franchises and the perennial CIS powerhouse was riding a
three-game winning streak over their professional rivals having shut out the
Oilers in their last two meetings. In
response, the Oilers were dressing a number of their older prospects including
highly touted blueliners Jeff Woywitka and Doug Lynch as well as
fellow Road Runners Mike Bishai, Brad Winchester and Jeff
Despite the added firepower, it was the Golden Bears who
dominated the game from the outset and quickly had the Oilers behind by two
goals in the opening five minutes of the game.
By the end of the first period it was 4-1 for the UofA.
Simply put, it was a case of a great team overcoming a group
of excellent individuals that resulted in a lopsided 8-2 win for the Golden
Bears. The lifetime record of the
series now stands at 9-8 in favor of the students who have outscored the Oilers
by an embarrassing 21-4 over the course of their last four meetings.
The Oilers say that the game to them is a tool designed to
place their key prospects in tough situations to gauge their responses. “If we wanted to, we could dress the
Road Runners and play them straight up,” said VP of Hockey Operations Kevin
Prendergast afterwards but that clearly is not the objective of the game from
an Oiler standpoint.
Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers started the game but left early in
the second period due to injury after a goal by Brian Ballman. The University player stepped into a
slapshot at the hash marks and Drouin-Deslauriers was late reacting to the shot
because Doug Lynch screened his view.
The official word from the Oilers was that the goalie sustained a “high,
inner-thigh injury” but after the game Drouin-Deslauriers put it in much
“It hit me in the nuts,” the francophone goalie explained in
broken English. “It stung a lot, it’s
Understandably Devan Dubnyk came in to replace the starter
and actually played better than he had the night before against the Flames.
“I’m down to about 225lbs but I’ve lost a lot because I was
up to about 235lbs at one point. I feel
a lot better and I actually still want to lose a few more pounds and I look
forward to doing that. My target would
be about 215lbs. If I lose a bit more
body fat and a few more pounds I’ll be close to my ideal body weight. It’s been a real struggle for me this
summer, I’ve tried to lose some fat and I’ve enjoyed some success but I’ve
still got some work to do.”
Eddie Caron on the subject of his “weight
“Strength. Stamina. Stretching.”
Oilers fitness guru Daryl Duke’s three keys to
getting Caron to his target.
“I don’t want to think too much about it, I just want to
play my game. I think it was bad luck
but I want to turn that this year into good luck.”
Marc-Antoine Pouliot when asked if he thinks
he’s injury prone or a victim of bad luck.
“I felt I was ready after three years there. I felt that if I was going to continue to
improve my game it was a good choice for me to leave.”
Brock Radunske on his decision to leave Michigan
State after his junior year.
“Eenie, meenie, miny, moe…I like to try and keep players
away from their own conference or so French players aren’t with French players,
split them up. Some guys know each
other from mini camp last summer so I might put them back together but for the
first year kids you try and put them in with a veteran guy. It’s about making new friends and getting to
know different scenarios, east and west, Europe or whatever.”
Chief Oiler scout Kevin Prendergast on how he
decides who will be roommates.
“Pouliot. Great kid
but he sure likes to sleep!”
Jason Platt on his roommate.
“I can’t play without a visor, it’s a semi conscious thing
that it’s always in the back of your mind that you have to protect your
eyes. I always wear a mouth guard too.”
Martin St. Pierre before playing the two
consecutive rookie games without a visor.
“With my size people don’t really give me a chance right off
and it takes time but hopefully I can impress (the Oilers) right away and sign
St. Pierre on his need to make a big impression
in a short time frame.
“I always try to come down on my off wing and shoot it low
stick side and with the longer stick you get more whip and it works for me so I
might as well keep it going.”
St. Pierre on how he uses a stick that is three
or four inches taller than he is even when he is wearing his skates.
“We get to play against him four times this year so it’ll be
awesome! We’re both centers so it’ll be
a battle out there for sure, just like in the summer!”
Joe Cullen on playing against his brother Mark
who is a Minnesota Wild prospect with the AHL Houston Aeros.
“It was a good time battling each other every shift. It’s a lot better now that we’re on the same
team because we’re such good friends, it makes it easier because you never want
to beat up on your friends but you’ve got to do it.”
Jason Platt on his friendship with Eddie
Caron who’s UNH Wildcats eliminated Providence from the playoffs last year
in the final minute of game 3.
“I think it’s the best thing that could happen for me. I love the city, I like the coaching staff
and the organization too. In the
preseason games I was playing on the first line with (Adam) Pineault
and (Steve) Bernier and that was awesome to play with those
guys. The coach told me that if I work
hard and I show him what I have got all year long then I’d play with those guys
all year. I’m really happy with that, I
want to stay on that line.”
Eighth round pick Stephane Goulet on his far
better situation this year with the Moncton Wildcats compared to last year with
the Quebec Remparts.
“I have high expectations but I’ll try to keep it simple and
not try to overdo everything. I have a
role to do and so I’ll just play my role and not pay attention to what else
might be going on.”
Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers about how he will cope
in the AHL with the pressure of being labeled the “franchise goalie”.
“Last year I was supposed to go to play with the Road
Runners, Kevin called my agent, but there was a mix up with my school. I would have missed all my school so Kevin
said ‘go to school and we’ll see you after’.
Next year I will go there.”
J.F. Jacques on the possibility of signing an
amateur tryout contract with the Road Runners at the end of this season.
“I want to be out there, and fighting somebody.”
– Dan Baum in the stands at
the Calgary game unable to participate in the activities after day 1 due to
“I’m just going to come here and the AHL camp and give
everything I have and let the management decide what is best for me. They’re pros, they’ve been doing this for a
long time and they know what’s best to develop a guy so all I can do is come
and give it my best and let the chips fall as they may. Whatever happens I’m fine with.”
Defenseman Kenny Smith on the very real
possibility of playing the year in the ECHL.
“I haven’t been in a game since last April so it will be
good to get back into the battle.
During camp you play hard but you don’t do the little extras like
Brent Henley before playing against the Flames.
“Stiff but I’m going to be ready. I flew in here to play a game…I’ve got some good drugs man!”
Henley when asked if back pain would prevent him
from playing the Flames.
“I shouldn’t have played.
I had back spasms for the last half of the game. By the end of the game I couldn’t really
contribute anymore but I’m glad that I got most of the game in. I’ll take pain like that any day for that jersey
Henley after the game.
“Oh man that sucked!
I felt bad for him on that one because it was a great play. He had great patience and he waited and
waited, then poke checked him and the (bleeping) puck bounces in off the
guy. That sucked!”
Rob Schremp on the attempted save Dubnyk made on
Dustin Boyd who got credit for the first goal of Calgary’s comeback.
“It was so awesome putting it on before warm ups, it was
just a rush to be putting on an Oilers jersey.
It’s a big honor…it was awesome.”
Schremp trying to describe the emotions of
playing in his first game wearing the copper drop.
Mike Bishai (A) – After splitting time with
the Oilers and the Roadrunners last year, Bishai was everything anyone could
have expected him to be this past week.
Leader in the room and on the ice, Bishai scored both goals for the
Oilers in the game against the Bears and was even the major participant in a
line tussle after a whistle. Faster,
more agile and definitely more confident than a year ago, Bishai could lead the
Road Runners in scoring this year.
Rocky Thompson (B) – Thompson’s role here was
to lead by example and that’s basically what he did. With Bobby Allen no longer in the organization, Thompson is a
candidate for the captaincy this year if it doesn’t fall back to Dan Smith who
wore it plenty last season. A fine example
for the youngsters in the organization to learn from and a prime candidate for
a bench job once his playing days are done.
Jeff Woywitka (A) – If there were any doubts a
week ago that Woywitka is ready for the next step, there aren’t any
longer. He’s big, physical and his
transition game is nearly flawless.
There wasn’t a better blueliner on the ice. The NHL rearguards should be looking over their shoulders.
Jeff-Drouin Deslauriers (B) – Exceptional in
the intersquad scrimmages but clearly wasn’t ready for the peppering he took in
the game against the UofA. That said,
there’s little doubt that the kid from Quebec is a keeper worth keeping
and he’ll get plenty of opportunity to develop this year as the starter with
the Road Runners.
J.F. Jacques (B-) – Deceptively fast,
especially for his size, Jacques had a very good week and played well with St.
Pierre. His English is noticeably
improved and his shoulder injury is no longer an issue. The Baie-Comeau captain seems like a
prototypical power forward with the hands to give him an NHL upside.
Rob Schremp (A) – First skater on the ice each
day, last one to leave. Constantly seen
stick handling or trick flipping pucks, he is an exceptional gifted
playmaker. His playing style is drawing
comparisons to Doug Weight especially in regards to his control of the power
play from the half boards. Schremp is
quite possibly the most talented player in the organization at the moment.
Roman Tesliuk (B-) – He’s physical, he passes
and skates very well and he has an absolute cannon for a shot. He’s young and still has plenty of his
skills to refine but Tesliuk played very well against the Flames and fared no
worse than the older Oiler blueliners did in the UofA game.
Zack Stortini (A) – Perhaps no one exceeded
expectations more than Stortini who some regarded as too slow and others felt
was not skilled enough. He is proof
that effort and determination can often overcome physical limitations. He was the driving force against the Flames,
returning to the bench at the end of every shift with a grimace or a helmet
knocked askew. The question of whether
he had impressed the organization enough was answered a day after the camp
ended when Stortini was offered and subsequently signed a new three-year
Eddie Caron (B+) – Scored goals in two of the
three intersquad games and also potted another against the Flames. The only negative that could possibly be
pinned on Caron is that he came to camp heavier than he would have liked. However, to his credit, this is an issue he
is well aware of and appears determined to resolve. Prendergast commented that Caron’s strength is way up from this
time last year but that his VO2 rating and endurance have suffered because of
his “football-like exercise routine”.
There is no denying that Caron showed plenty of hockey sense and ability
Devan Dubnyk (C+) – In his first NHL camp,
Dubnyk showed the difference between potentially being an excellent
goalie and already being one.
While the older and more experienced JDD can accurately be described
that way, at 18 Dubnyk is still developing his skills and learning the
position. In just under five periods of
play in the two games he allowed eight goals, half of which he would definitely
like back. Not a bad camp by any
stretch of the imagination for Dubnyk, but a clear indication of the difference
a couple years can make to a goalie.
He’ll be the starter for Kamloops this year so next fall he should be
well on his way up.
Kyle Brodziak (C) – Brodziak was noticeable at
times in the game against Calgary but overall had a fairly average camp. He was neither terrible nor impressive on a
regular basis but simply played consistently well. He does appear to have put on some muscle mass over the
offseason, it will be interesting to see how he performs at Road Runner
Brock Radunske (C+) – The former Spartan
turned professional this summer and turned in a much better performance this
year than he did in June of 2003 at the prospects camp. At times you could see the terrific fore
checking ability that the New Hamburg native is capable of and the highlight of
Radunske’s camp was a thunderous open ice hit he laid on Calgary’s Ritchie
Regehr. Many shifts were very average
though and overall the line of Radunske, Reddox and Brodziak was fairly
Dan Baum (NA) – After Day 1 Baum did not
participate at all due to mysterious headaches. There were reports that a few weeks earlier Baum was hit in the
helmet by a puck in a pick up game but apparently any relation to that incident
is unfounded. Results of hospital tests
have not yet been made public.
Simon Ferguson (B) – The free agent forward
who won the Memorial Cup last season with the Kelowna Rockets was dominant at
times against the Flames. Ferguson also
played well in the scrimmages but excelled once it was time to played against
another organization. Twice against the
Flames Ferguson came to the defense of a teammate and got involved with scrums
after whistles. His efforts will earn
him an invite back to Road Runner camp and possibly a minor league contract.
Max Gordichuk (C) – The organization was
attracted to him because of his 6’4, 228 lb frame but they like him even more
now that they see how mobile he is for a player his size. There definitely is room for improvement
though as he was bypassed many times by speedy wingers in scrimmages and
surrendered a brutal turnover in the Flames game that triggered Calgary’s
Troy Bodie (C) – A year ago this was a player
who most would have considered a fourth liner in the AHL at best. With increased skating ability and a strong
playoff performance with Kelowna last year, Troy Bodie is changing some minds
but it will take another year of increased performance to convince most that he
can be more than a minor leaguer.
Tyler Spurgeon (C) – The hardworking, gritty
and fleet footed center plays to the best of his ability but in the games this
week that didn’t result in much, although he was credited with a second assist
against the Golden Bears. Most onlookers
feel Spurgeon can have a successful pro career but that it likely will not be
at the NHL level.
Mathieu Roy (C+) – For some defensemen, the
less you notice them the better they are playing and Roy is in that
category. As a stay at home blueliner,
Roy is very sound and makes few errors.
He’s physical, has a hard shot and appears to have some leadership
skills on the ice as well. It was a
good camp for Roy but not in a flashy way.
Brent Henley (B) – He’s not under any
illusions, he knows what his job is and he’s more than willing to do it. With over 550 penalty minutes in two ECHL
seasons, Henley’s job description is clearly defined and he two punched a young
Flames prospect as proof. The fact that
he holds playing for the organization and also for his teammates with such
passion is refreshing and inspiring to those around him. This is another player who has leadership
abilities and could one day make a fine bench boss.
Jason Platt (B-) – It was an impressive five
days for Platt whose physical strength was clearly evident when larger players
like Winchester and Radunske were stopped dead in their tracks when colliding
with the sturdy blueliner. Staunchly
defensive, Platt is a workhorse in front of the net and has the strength to
clear the front of the crease.
Martin St. Pierre (B+) – The third highest
scorer in the OHL last year, St. Pierre fell just eight points shy of the
Guelph career points record held by Jeff O’Neill. The playmaking dynamo showed what he could do in the game against
the Flames during which he notched a pair of goals and nearly had another. While most people seem to focus on his
diminutive height and the extraordinary length of his stick, St. Pierre will
seek to make an even bigger impression at Road Runner camp in a couple weeks.
Joe Cullen (C+) – While he didn’t get an
opportunity to strut his stuff in either rookie game, Cullen was impressive
during the intersquad scrimmages. He
has underrated speed, agility and showed that he could be a solid leader on the
ice despite his relative young age.
Bryan Young (C) – The Peterborough rearguard
was steady but largely not noteworthy although he does have good defensive
positioning. Cut above the eye during
drills, Young wouldn’t identify the culprit who lost control of his stick
saying he didn’t want to make any waves.
Against the much older and more experienced Golden Bears, Young was
ineffective despite being paired with older partners.
Doug Lynch (C+) – Lynch had a good camp but
did not exceed expectations in any regard. He was strong in his own end and made accurate breakout
passes. At the same time, he also
seemed to struggle against the Golden Bears despite being partnered at many
times with Woywitka. Much more will be
expected from Lynch in a couple weeks when the AHL camp begins.
Marc-Antoine Pouliot (C+) – He wasn’t 100
percent, a flu bug hampered him and he sat out the game against the
Flames. It wasn’t a wasted week for
Pouliot but it clearly wasn’t a camp where he could perform to his abilities
either. The best moment for Pouliot
came during an intersquad game when he deftly redirected a mid-air pass over
the shoulder of Devan Dubnyk who had gone down on the play.
Stephane Goulet (C) – Good size and above
average speed made Goulet a standout on day 1 but after that he quickly blended
into the crowd. An eighth round pick,
if Goulet even reaches the AHL it’s to be considered a success but there is
reason enough to believe that with a promising season ahead with the Moncton
Wildcats, Goulet just might be a sleeper pick.
Brad Winchester (B) – Winchester possesses
terrific size, a hard and accurate shot as well as a bit of a mean streak. Add those traits to his newfound confidence
following a successful second half in the AHL and Winchester appears leaps and
bounds ahead of where he was a year ago.
Few players in camp looked as ready for the new season as the former
Wisconsin Badger captain.
Kenny Smith (C+) – A strong skater and a good
passer, Smith’s camp was noteworthy for the fact that he played much more physically
than he did a year ago and looks to have much more confidence in his
abilities. A very articulate player off
the ice, he has a great attitude and will not be dejected by an assignment to
Liam Reddox (C+) – Small in comparison to all but
a couple of other camp participants, Reddox was largely ineffective in the game
against Calgary. Surprisingly he had a
much better performance the next night against the Bears but still only in the
scope of intermittent flashes. With a
couple years of junior still ahead of him there is plenty of time for Reddox to
develop physically and he will need to in order to survive.
Jean-Francois Plourde (C+) – The ECHL All-Star
came to camp this year with an obvious sense of belonging and confidence. A year ago he was a free agent looking for a
job and now he has his second professional contract in his pocket and is
looking forward to the AHL camp. The
shifty winger has a very accurate shot and has a feisty side to him that is
much bigger than his frame.
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