Kailer Yamamoto returns for his second rookie camp with the Edmonton Oilers and highlights a deep crop of prospects that are in attendance. The other big name is Evan Bouchard, who is penciled into having a real opportunity of cracking the opening night roster whether some fans agree or not. More on Bouchard later. With Yamamoto the goal is clear — force the club’s hand again and will your way back onto the NHL club.
Related: Edmonton Oilers – Top 10 Prospects
Last fall Yamamoto was brilliant coming off being drafted 22nd overall in the 2017 NHL Draft. He had an excellent training camp, started the year with the club, but ultimately it was felt he needed more time to develop. What happened next? Yamamoto torched the WHL and put up 64 points in 40 games. If he played a full season in the WHL that would’ve been good enough to finish top five in league scoring.
Yamamoto is penciled into the Bakersfield Condors lineup to start the year. But, if the Oilers right wing depth chart proves to be as weak as it looks in the early going, the youngster should expect a phone call shortly after he celebrates his 20th birthday this fall.
One name you won’t see on the rookie camp roster is Ryan Mantha. There’s legitimate concern the talented offensive defenseman’s hockey career might be over. If you’re not aware, Mantha developed a blood clot in one of his eyes and that has caused some visual disturbances. For now, Mantha is on the sidelines, and many folks in the hockey world are hoping this is just a temporary setback in his career.
Here’s a full breakdown of the Oilers rookie camp roster, some news and notes, and expectations for the 2018-19 season.
Oilers Rookie Camp Goaltenders
The Oilers are carrying three netminders through rookie camp. Dylan Wells appears in his third rookie camp and is expected to turn pro and play for the ECHL’s Witchita Thunder. The 20-year-old is expected to split the starting duties in the ECHL with Shane Starrett who is not at camp. Under the OHL rules, Wells can go back to junior, if Edmonton decides to do so, and play as an overager.
Related – Edmonton Oilers Top Prospects: #11-20
Stuart Skinner is fresh off a dazzling campaign that saw him take the Swift Current Broncos to a WHL Championship and an appearance in the 2018 Mastercard Memorial Cup. The 19-year-old was the fifth goalie taken off the board in 2017, and like Wells, turns pro this season. He’s expected to split starting duties with NHL veteran Al Montoya (if the latter clears waivers).
Olivier Rodrigue impressed the Oilers enough that they traded the 71st and 133rd overall selections in the 2018 NHL Draft to move up to 62nd and snag him. The 18-year-old is expected back as the starter for the Drummondville Voltigeurs in the QMJHL. Rodrigue also has a shot at making Canada’s roster for the upcoming World Junior Championships (WJC). He’s one of eight Oiler prospects with a legitimate shot to make a WJC team for their respective countries.
Oilers Rookie Camp Goaltenders (3)
|Olivier Rodrigue||18||2018 Draft, 62nd||Drummondville (QMJHL)||53||2.56||.903|
|Stuart Skinner||19||2017 Draft, 78th||Swift Current (WHL)*||56||3.07||.905|
|Dylan Wells||20||2016 Draft, 123rd||Peterborough (OHL)||56||3.62||.896|
* Skinner started 2017-18 with the Lethbridge Hurricanes but was traded to Swift Current before the WHL Trade Deadline.
Oilers Rookie Camp Defense
There are nine defenders at rookie camp, but all eyes are on the Oilers first-rounder Evan Bouchard. The 18-year-old has walked into a glorious opportunity to potentially start the year with Edmonton thanks to the Andrej Sekera injury. Ethan Bear who played 18 games with the Oilers in 2017-18, and Caleb Jones both have outside shots to crack the Oilers lineup. However, both are expected to start the year in the AHL.
Another hopeful is William Lagesson who emerged as a top-flight shutdown rearguard while playing for Djurgardens in the SHL last season. The 2014 selection has plenty of defensive upside and could get a handful of games with the Oilers in 2018-19. Another Euro is Dmitri Samorukov, who’s expected to play top-pair minutes with the Guelph Storm and be a returnee for Russia at the WJC this coming season.
Edmonton also has four blueliners on AHL contracts that will participate in rookie camp. Marc-Olivier Crevier-Morin played 68 games with Wichita last season. The 22-year-old played 195 games in the QMJHL with the Gatineau Olympiques scoring 56 points. He’ll likely be a tweener between the AHL and ECHL. Same can be said for Logan Day, who was signed out of Endicott College, and who played ten games with Bakersfield to end the 2017-18 season.
Jake Kulevich, 25, is the oldest player at rookie camp. He played four seasons with Colgate College before playing the last year and a half with the Manitoba Moose in the AHL. Kulevich wasn’t tendered an extension by the Winnipeg Jets organization and thus walked via free agency. He’ll likely factor into Wichita’s lineup this fall. Jared Wilson is a new name. The 24-year-old Calgary-native finished four years with RPI before playing ten games with the Toledo Walleye to end 2017-18.
Oilers Rookie Camp Defense (9)
|Ethan Bear||21||2015 Draft, 124th||Bakersfield (AHL)*||37||6||18|
|Evan Bouchard||18||2018 Draft, 10th||London (OHL)||67||25||87|
|Marc-Olivier Crevier-Morin||22||AHL Contract||Wichita (ECHL)||68||2||19|
|Logan Day||23||AHL Contract||Endicott (NCAA III)*||26||15||38|
|Caleb Jones||21||2015 Draft, 117th||Bakersfield (AHL)||58||2||17|
|Jake Kulevich||25||AHL Contract||Manitoba (AHL)||33||0||3|
|William Lagesson||22||2014 Draft, 91st||Djurgardens (SHL)||49||1||13|
|Dmitri Samorukov||19||2017 Draft, 84th||Guelph (OHL)||62||11||34|
|Jared Wilson||24||AHL Contract||RPI (ECAC)*||37||7||14|
* Ethan Bear played 18 games with Edmonton during the second half of 2017-18
* Logan Day played ten games with Bakersfield to close out 2017-18
* Jared Wilson played ten games with Toledo in the ECHL to finish 2017-18
Oilers Rookie Camp Forwards
There’s 15 forwards at rookie camp highlighted by a good crop of selections over the past three draft years. Tyler Benson, Kirill Maksimov, Ostap Safin (injured), and Kailer Yamamoto headline camp, but this year’s camp also provides the organization a chance to get a longer look at some key pieces for Bakersfield. Joe Gambardella is hoping to shake off any worries about a concussion problem from last year. He should factor into the top nine for the Condors.
David Gust was a welcomed surprise, and now the hope is he can build off a 24 point season and be a consistent contributor in Bakersfield. Cameron Hebig is turning pro, and after scoring 41 goals and 90 points in the WHL, there’s hope he can help the Condors power play that desperately needs a spark. Colin Larkin, 24, is a returnee who played 16 games with Bakersfield after finishing up at UMass-Boston. The older brother of Dylan Larkin will be a middle-six guy for the Condors.
You can go ahead and throw Evan Polei and Nolan Vesey into depth roles with Bakersfield as well. Polei, 22, went undrafted but had a strong season with Wichita and willed his way into a bottom-six job with the Condors last season. The younger brother of Jimmy Vesey, Nolan asserted himself into full-time duties down on the farm after a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Ostap Safin and Kirill Maksimov are two promising players we’ve raved about since they were drafted 115th and 146th respectively in 2017. Safin will miss the on-ice festivities with a hip flexor injury. If Safin returns to the QMJHL, the hope is that he’s traded to a deeper team that might give him some better players to play with. One team in mind is the Halifax Mooseheads, who are a Memorial Cup contender this year. Regarding Maksimov, he could end up scoring 50 goals in the OHL.
Aside from Yamamoto, the guy who will have a lot of eyes on him, and one that has a real shot at cracking Edmonton’s roster, is Cooper Marody. The Oilers acquired him in a deal with the Philadelphia Flyers, and Marody was one of the best collegiate players last season. In a brief three-game appearance in Bakersfield, Marody put up just as many points. He’s currently No. 5 on the organization’s depth chart at center.
Ryan McLeod is coming off a stellar OHL campaign that saw him post 26 goals and 70 points. The younger brother of New Jersey Devils first-round pick Michael McLeod has a real shot at making Canada’s squad at the upcoming WJC. He’s a two-way forward with plenty of skill and offense. Scoring 80-plus points is a possibility in his draft-plus-one year. Lots of folks had McLeod as a late first-rounder, but he fell into the Oilers lap at 40th this past June.
Tyler Vesel, 24, is one of the older players at rookie camp. The long wait is over, and Oiler fans will finally get to see a full season in the pros for Vesel. The 153rd overall selection in 2014 is a diminutive forward that has shown excellent offensive abilities with the Omaha Lancers, and then in four years with Nebraska-Omaha in the NCAA. He scored six points in 11 games at the end of the year with the Condors and should be a top-six threat this coming season.
Related – Oilers Roster Predictions: Forwards
Lastly, there are two new guys. One of them is Luke Esposito, who is on a tryout as he tries to earn an AHL contract for the upcoming season. Esposito has an NHL bloodline that includes his two uncles (Paul and Mark Messier), his grandfather (Doug Messier), and great uncle (Murray Murdoch). The soon-to-be 25-year-old played his junior days with the Chilliwack Chiefs in the BCHL and then played four years with Harvard University.
The last year of which he was a point-per-game player. He split the 2017-18 season between the AHL and ECHL playing for the Grand Rapids Griffins and Toledo Walleye respectively. The other new addition is Ryan Van Stralen who just wrapped up four years at Carleton University. The 24-year-old got an audition with Wichita to end the 2017-18 season and knocked it out of the park putting up 15 points in 16 games. Good enough to earn an AHL deal.
Oilers Rookie Camp Forwards (15)
|Tyler Benson||20||2016 Draft, 32nd||Vancouver (WHL)||33||11||42|
|Luke Esposito||24||ATO*||Grand Rapids (AHL)||31||1||8|
|Joe Gambardella||24||College FA (2017)||Bakersfield (AHL)||50||13||19|
|David Gust||24||AHL Contract||Bakersfield (AHL)||53||13||24|
|Cameron Hebig||21||WHL FA (2018)||Regina (WHL)*||66||41||90|
|Colin Larkin||24||College FA (2018)||UMass-Boston (NCAA III)*||27||24||46|
|Kirill Maksimov||19||2017 Draft, 146th||Niagara (OHL)||62||34||80|
|Cooper Marody||21||Trade (2018)*||Michigan (NCAA)||40||16||51|
|Ryan McLeod||18||2018 Draft, 40th||Mississauga (OHL)||68||26||70|
|Evan Polei||22||AHL Contract||Bakersfield (AHL)*||30||2||5|
|Ostap Safin||19||2017 Draft, 115th||Saint John (QMJHL)||61||26||58|
|Ryan Van Stralen||24||AHL Contract||Carleton (USports)||25||11||19|
|Tyler Vesel||24||2014 Draft, 153rd||Neb-Omaha (NCAA)*||36||11||32|
|Nolan Vesey||23||Trade (2018)*||Maine (NCAA)||37||11||25|
|Kailer Yamamoto||19||2017 Draft, 22nd||Spokane (WHL)*||40||21||64|
* Luke Esposito is on an amateur tryout (ATO)
* Cameron Hebig was traded from the Saskatoon Blades to the Regina Pats
* Colin Larkin finished the 2017-18 year with 16 games with Bakersfield
* Cooper Marody was acquired via trade with the Philadelphia Flyers, played three games in Bakersfield last year
* Evan Polei played 32 games with the Wichita Thunder in 2017-18
* Ryan Van Stralen concluded the 2017-18 season playing 16 games for the Wichita Thunder
* Tyler Vesel turned pro at the end of the NCAA season, finished with 11 games with Bakersfield
* Kailer Yamamoto started the 2017-18 season with the Edmonton Oilers
Edmonton Oilers regular contributor providing insight on all things Oilers including club history, prospect profiles, trade breakdowns, and everything else in between. Check back regularly for new and exciting content. Follow on Twitter @SanderTHW.