Edmonton Oilers 2015-16 Training Camp Guide: Defense

The Edmonton Oilers will open training camp with twenty defenders vying for potentially eight roster spots.

Among those not attending will be William Lagesson and Philip Larsen, both staying in Europe this season.

Lagesson, 19, is a 2014 fourth round pick that could turn into a decent defender down the road. He’ll be on the radar of Sweden for their World Juniors team.

Focusing on who is at camp it’s easier to divide the group into three groups; players with a legitiment shot at making the NHL roster, players who will  generally spend the year developing in the AHL and those likely to return to junior.

Then there is Larsen who will not likely return to Edmonton but the Oilers still hold his NHL rights.



Klefbom (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)
Can Oscar Klefbom become a top-pairing defenseman this year? (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

The main camp battle  really comes down to ten defenders.

The Oilers are in the process of remodeling the defense and there is the possibility of both rookies Griffin Reinhart and Darnell Nurse making the final seven or eight, but a lot of things are going to have to take place.

Andrej Sekera is going to be the Oilers top defenseman this year if everything pans out, that’s why he was given $33M/6Years this summer.

However it’s still unclear who is going to get the spot on the pairing with him.

Mark Fayne looks like the natural fit to create a steady shutdown pairing between the two that will primarily go up against the oppositions first-line.

The second-pairing is the Oscar Klefbom and Justin Schultz pairing that was a mixed bag of results last year but showed a lot of long-term promise.

There’s been talks of a long-term extension for Klefbom similar to what the New Jersey Devils did with Adam Larsson which could land the 22-year-old a four to six year deal in the neighborhood of $4M plus per season.

This could also be the year the Oilers decide to  move Justin Schultz due to a stall in his development or realization he was never going to be “The Next Paul Coffey” as he was so unfairly dubbed.

Finally there is Erik Gryba who will anchor the third-pairing.

That means if Nurse or Reinhart make the roster it’ll either be on the top-pairing or third-pairing. It’s a stretch to put them both in heavy minutes off the go here so Fayne seems more set to start the year with Sekera.

That gives the Oilers five defenseman fighting for the No. 6/7 and possibly 8 spot. There are not enough chairs at the table and someone is going to have to get moved.

The preference is moving Nikita Nikitin but his contract ends almost all conversations, ditto for Andrew Ference.

Does that mean Brandon Davidson gets moved?

Fayne, 28, does still have some value and there could be a deal to work out there if  they can find a taker.

The likely scenario sees both Reinhart and Nurse starting the year in the AHL if they can’t move a contract.

# Name HT WT Age 2014-15 Team Cap Hit Years Remaining
2 Andrej Sekera 6’0 201 29 NHL – Carolina, Los Angeles $5.50M 6 (UFA)
5 Mark Fayne 6’3 215 28 NHL – Edmonton Oilers $3.62M 3 (UFA)
8 Griffin Reinhart 6’4 217 21 AHL – Bridgeport Sound Tigers $863K 2 (RFA)
19 Justin Schultz 6’2 196 25 NHL – Edmonton Oilers $3.90M 1 (RFA)
21 Andrew Ference 5’11 184 36 NHL – Edmonton Oilers $3.25M 2 (UFA)
25 Darnell Nurse 6’4 213 20 OHL – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds $863K 3 (RFA)
62 Eric Gryba 6’4 225 27 NHL – Ottawa Senators $1.25M 1 (UFA)
77 Oscar Klefbom 6’3 210 22 NHL – Edmonton Oilers $894K 1 (RFA)
86 Nikita Nikitin 6’4 217 29 NHL – Edmonton Oilers $4.50M 1 (UFA)
88 Brandon Davidson 6’4 214 24 NHL – Edmonton Oilers $585K 1 (RFA)


Brad Hunt (Steven Christy/OKC Barons)
Brad Hunt anchors the Bakersfield Condors defense this season. (Steven Christy/OKC Barons)

Four returnees  from the 2014-15 affiliate and two players who turn pro this season are earmarked for the AHL.

Already this blueline is getting crowded especially if Nurse and Reinhart are dominos in this camp.

Ben Betker, 21, brings a towering presence the Bakersfield Condors defense this season at 6’6 223lbs. If he can bring that nastiness from his junior career and translate it to the NHL he’s going to develop into a can’t miss player for the Oilers.

Betker skates fairly well for a bigger man and will go well with the the other two big defenseman on the farm in Martin Gernat and David Musil.

Both Gernat and Musil however have warts to their games. Gernat is still trying to learn how to be a consistent player on both ends of the ice and deliver a little more on the powerplay like he did in junior.

Musil, 22, has to work on his skating ability to really boost his stock and have a legit shot at making the parent club.

Dillon Simpson and Brad Hunt are going to be two of the clubs top dependable defenseman this season. Hunt, 27, was recruited from college by former-GM Craig MacTavish and has yet to become an NHL regular despite making the Oilers out of training camp last year.

The Oilers could shop Hunt at the trade deadline for a team looking to give their AHL team a shot at the Calder Cup.

The latest newcomer is Joey Laleggia who’s a smaller offensive defenseman who had a strong  few seasons playing college hockey in Denver. A 2012 fifth round pick, he’s a long shot at best but looked good in 5 games at the end of last season with the OKC Barons.

Lastly there’s Jordan Oesterle who got the most praise last year for his development.

# Name HT WT Age 2014-15 Team Cap Hit Years Remaining
24 Brad Hunt 5’9 188 27 AHL – Oklahoma City Barons $600K 1 (UFA)
76 Ben Betker 6’6 223 21 WHL – Everett Silvertips $683K 3 (RFA)
78 Martin Gernat 6’5 191 22 AHL – Oklahoma City Barons $745K 1 (RFA)
79 Dillon Simpson 6’2 197 22 AHL – Oklahoma City Barons $836K 2 (RFA)
82 Jordan Oesterle 6’0 182 23 AHL – Oklahoma City Barons $767K 1 (RFA)
84 Joey Laleggia 5’9 182 23 (NCAA) – Denver $883K 2 (RFA)
85 David Musil 6’4 207 22 AHL – Oklahoma City Barons $894K 1 (RFA)

Junior & College Prospects

Caleb Jones (Photo: Tom Sorensen)
Caleb Jones joins the WHL Portland Winterhawks this season. (Photo: Tom Sorensen)

Caleb Jones and Ethan Bear are fourth and fifth round picks from the 2015 NHL Draft and both look to be good prospects for the future.

Bear, 18, has one of the best point shots in the WHL and can throw some bone crushing hits. He’ll get big minutes with Everett this season and might end the year as their top defenseman.

Jones, 18, plays for the Portland Winterhawks this season after a few seasons with the US NTDP. He could make Team USA for the World Juniors this season but the focus should be on acclimatizing to the rigorous schedule of the WHL.

Jones is also the younger brother of Nashville Predators defenseman Seth Jones  and former NBA legend Popeye Jones.

Loik Leveille, 19, is an undraftee who made his way through rookie camp to main camp. He’s a two-way defenseman with a strong offensive acumen. He’s a smaller offensive defenseman but he plays a lot bigger than his size lets on.

# Name HT WT Age 2014-15 Team Cap Hit Years Remaining
74 Ethan Bear 5’11 198 18 WHL – Everett Silvertips No Contract No


81 Caleb Jones 6’1 192 18 (USHL) – US NTDP No Contract No


89 Loik Leveille 5’11 228 19 QMJHL  – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles No Contract No


Entirely possible all three get deals at some point this season when the Oilers are able to reduce the overall number of contracts.

Edmonton currently has 47 contracts of a maximum 50, 17 of which are defenseman.