It’s finally that time of year. The Edmonton Oilers are opening up training camp with a staggering 62 players at camp this fall. The official breakdown comes down to seven goalies, 19 defensemen, and 36 forwards. Of those players, 27 of them attended rookie camp. One notable omission, however, is Darnell Nurse. The restricted free agent (RFA) is without a contract, and according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, those negotiations aren’t going well.
Regardless the Oilers are hoping for a fresh start after a forgettable 2017-18 season that saw the club miss the playoffs after a promising 2016-17. The question on everyone’s mind in 2018-19 is who the real Oilers are? More importantly which year was more representative of what this club is? We’ll get that answer this year.
As we get into that, let’s take a closer look at the pre-season schedule, the training camp roster and what some of the expectations might be for this upcoming season.
Oilers 2018-19 Pre-Season Schedule
Monday, Sept. 17 @ Calgary (7:00 P.M. MT)
Tuesday, Sept. 18 @ Vancouver (8:30 P.M. MT)
Thursday, Sept. 20 vs. Winnipeg (7:00 P.M. MT)
Sunday, Sept. 23 @ Winnipeg (6:00 P.M. MT)
Tuesday, Sept. 25 vs. Vancouver (7:00 P.M. MT)
Thursday, Sept. 27 vs. Arizona (7:00 P.M. MT)
Saturday, Sept.29 vs. Calgary (1:00 P.M. MT)
Wednesday, Oct. 3 @ Cologne, Germany (8:00 A.M. MT)
Professional Tryouts (PTO) Players
There are three players at camp that are on professional tryouts (PTO’s). Here’s what you need to know.
Alex Chiasson (RW) – The last of the three players to receive their invite, Chiasson is in the running for a bottom-six job with the club. He’ll turn 28 before the season starts, and is fresh off a Stanley Cup win with the Washington Capitals. He’s a depth scorer, a power forward-type player that has limited scoring upside.
Last season he put up nine goals and 18 points in 61 games with the Capitals while averaging 11:46 in ice-time. Could he push Pontus Aberg, Drake Caggiula, or Zack Kassian for a job?
Jason Garrison (D) – The 33-year-old is coming off a rough year with the Vegas Golden Knights where he played just eight games while averaging 19:04 in ice-time. A 10-year NHL veteran, Garrison humbly played the majority of the season (58 games) with Vegas’ farm team, the Chicago Wolves.
He registered 28 points, and that translates to an NHL Equivalent (NHLe) of 19 points over a full season. With the Andrej Sekera injury, he’s competing with Jakub Jerabek, Kevin Gravel, Keegan Lowe, and Ethan Bear for a No. 6-7 job.
Scottie Upshall (LW) – In a fan poll ran earlier this week, Upshall ran away with the votes when asked which of these three players had the best chance at sticking with the Oilers. Upshall collected 57% of the votes, and it’s his abilities to help out and potentially boost Edmonton’s miserable penalty kill (PK) that has a lot of fans hopeful about his prospects.
The former sixth-overall pick in 2002 turns 35 years old in October and has 15 seasons under his belt. A key question with him is how he’s going to hold up with all the lingering injuries he’s suffered through his career. If you can believe it, Upshall has never played a full season in the NHL.
Oilers Goaltenders at Training Camp
As mentioned, there are seven goalies at camp. There’s not a whole lot of surprise that will come out of the battles in the crease. Cam Talbot will be the No. 1 for the Oilers, while Mikko Koskinen is the clear-cut No. 2. If Al Montoya can clear waivers, he’ll be assigned to help mentor and mold a young Stuart Skinner down on the farm with the Bakersfield Condors.
Related: Oilers Rookie Camp Roster & Thoughts
That leaves the 123rd overall pick from 2016, Dylan Wells, to battle it out with the returning Shane Starrett for minutes on the ECHL’s Wichita Thunder. If everything goes according to plan, that’s how the dominoes are likely to fall. That leaves Olivier Rodrigue, a late second round pick from as the lone goalie in camp that will be returning to junior.
Oilers Training Camp Goaltenders
|Mikko Koskinen||30||FA Signing (2018)||St. Petersburg (KHL)||29||1.57||.937|
|Al Montoya||33||Trade (2018)||Edmonton/Montreal||13||3.21||.893|
|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|
|Shane Starrett||24||College FA (2016)||Wichita (ECHL)||38||3.01||.912|
|Cam Talbot||31||Trade (2015)||Edmonton||67||3.02||.908|
|Dylan Wells||20||2016 Draft, 123rd||Peterborough (OHL)||56||3.62||.896|
Not At Camp: Hayden Hawkey is the only goalie in the organization that won’t be at camp. The 23-year-old will be returning for his fourth and final year with Providence College in the NCAA. Hawkey was acquired on draft day from the Montreal Canadiens for a fifth-round pick in next year’s draft.
He’s a former sixth-round pick himself in 2014 that will likely turn pro at the end of the 2018-19 NCAA season.
Oilers Defense at Training Camp
There are 19 blueliners at camp, however, there are two things to consider. As mentioned in the introduction, Nurse is without a contract, thus he’s not on the camp roster. The two sides will likely get an agreement in place well before the puck drops in October, and an educated prediction might be $3.25 million with a two-year term. The longer this drags out, it could mean a one-year deal to appease everyone. That means Nurse will have arbitration rights next summer.
Andrej Sekera is listed on the camp roster, but that’s a formality just to get him to his physical, which he won’t pass. It’s all in the process of getting him onto long-term injured reserve (LTIR). So in reality, this is a camp roster of 18 rearguards. The usual suspects – Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Matt Benning, and Kris Russell – will gear up for the season, while a handful of guys will compete for those No. 5-7 spots for opening night.
Evan Bouchard is being penciled in by a lot of prognosticators to start the year with Edmonton with a nine-game audition. That leaves Garrison, 33, with a decent opportunity to earn a contract. However, much of that depends on the Nurse situation and how long that drags out. Jakub Jerabek, Kevin Gravel, Keegan Lowe, and Ethan Bear will all get long looks for those No. 5-7 jobs.
Oilers Training Camp Defense
|Ethan Bear||21||2015 Draft, 124th||Bakersfield (AHL)||37||6||18|
|Matt Benning||24||FA Signing (2016)||Edmonton||73||6||21|
|Evan Bouchard||18||2018 Draft, 10th||London (OHL)||67||25||87|
|M-O Crevier-Morin||22||AHL Contract||Wichita (ECHL)||68||2||19|
|Logan Day||24||AHL Contract||Bakersfield (AHL)||10||2||2|
|Jason Garrison||33||PTO||Chicago (AHL)||58||8||28|
|Kevin Gravel||26||FA Signing (2018)||Los Angeles||16||0||3|
|William Lagesson||22||2014 Draft, 91st||Djurgardens (SHL)||49||1||13|
|Adam Larsson||25||Trade (2016)||Edmonton||63||4||13|
|Keegan Lowe||25||FA Signing (2017)||Bakersfield (AHL)||52||2||14|
|Jakub Jerabek||27||FA Signing (2018)||Montreal/Washington||36||2||8|
|Caleb Jones||21||2015 Draft, 117th||Bakersfield (AHL)||58||2||17|
|Oscar Klefbom||25||2011 Draft, 19th||Edmonton||66||5||21|
|Jake Kulevich||25||AHL Contract||Manitoba (AHL)||33||0||3|
|Kris Russell||31||FA Signing (2016)||Edmonton||78||4||21|
|Dmitri Samorukov||19||2017 Draft, 84th||Guelph (OHL)||62||11||34|
|Andrej Sekera||32||FA Signing (2015)||Edmonton||36||0||8|
|Ryan Stanton||29||FA Signing (2017)||Bakersfield (AHL)||46||2||8|
|Jared Wilson||24||AHL Contract (2018)||RPI (NCAA)||37||7||14|
Caleb Jones and William Lagesson have outside shots but will likely be key pieces for Bakersfield this season. There are four defenders on AHL deals entering camp; Marc-Olivier Crevier-Morin, Logan Day, Jake Kulevich, and Jared Wilson. Day, 24, was a standout at rookie camp and got a taste of the AHL last year getting into ten games with the Condors.
Not At Camp: Filip Berglund, Matthew Cairns, Philip Kemp, Michael Kesselring, Ryan Mantha, John Marino, Markus Niemelainen, and Joel Persson.
Oilers Forwards at Training Camp
There are 36 forwards at camp. This year’s team is going to be built down the middle; Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Strome, and Kyle Brodziak. The big openings are on the wings where almost nothing is set in stone. The right side is a complete wildcard, and the job is being trusted to Ty Rattie, Jesse Puljujarvi, and Tobias Rieder.
Related: Oilers Roster Predictions – Forwards
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is likely to start the year with McDavid, while Milan Lucic will look to bounce back and maintain a top-six job with Edmonton. It’s a pivotal year for the team and Lucic. If he falters again this season, it’s much more likely he’s shipped out of town. Jujhar Khaira is slowly emerging as a reliable bottom-six forward and might be able to push for third-line minutes eventually. Maybe even this season.
So that leaves the openings for Chiasson and Upshall. It’ll be interesting to see how these two do in camp. Upshall is a defensive forward at this stage of his career, while Chiasson is a bottom-six scoring forward. Both bring different things to the club, both address different needs. Can one or both of them force the team to make a move and ship out some salary via Aberg, Caggiula, or Kassian?
Oilers Training Camp Forwards
|Pontus Aberg||24||Trade (2018)||Nashville/Edmonton||53||4||16|
|Tyler Benson||20||2016 Draft, 32nd||Vancouver (WHL)||58||27||69|
|Kyle Brodziak||34||FA Signing (2018)||St. Louis||81||10||33|
|Drake Caggiula||24||FA Signing (2016)||Edmonton||67||13||20|
|Mitch Callahan||27||FA Signing (2017)||Bakersfield (AHL)||45||2||9|
|Braden Christoffer||24||AHL Contract||Bakersfield (AHL)||63||6||15|
|Josh Currie||25||FA Signing (2018)||Bakersfield (AHL)||68||20||46|
|Leon Draisaitl||22||2014 Draft, 3rd||Edmonton||78||25||70|
|Luke Esposito||24||PTO||Grand Rapids||31||1||8|
|Joe Gambardella||24||FA Signing (2017)||Bakersfield (AHL)||50||13||19|
|David Gust||24||AHL Contract||Bakersfield (AHL)||53||13||24|
|Cameron Hebig||21||FA Signing (2017)||Saskatoon/Regina (WHL)||66||41||90|
|Zack Kassian||27||Trade (2015)||Edmonton||74||7||19|
|Jujhar Khaira||24||2012 Draft, 63rd||Edmonton||69||11||21|
|Colin Larkin||24||FA Signing (2018)||UMass-Boston (NCAA 3)||27||24||46|
|Milan Lucic||30||FA Signing (2016)||Edmonton||82||10||34|
|Kirill Maksimov||19||2017 Draft, 146th||Niagara (OHL)||62||34||80|
|Brad Malone||29||FA Signing (2017)||Bakersfield (AHL)||56||13||33|
|Cooper Marody||21||Trade (2018)||Michigan (NCAA)||40||16||51|
|Connor McDavid||21||2015 Draft, 1st||Edmonton||82||41||108|
|John McFarland||26||AHL Contract||La Chaux-de-Fonds (NLA)||11||6||7|
|Ryan McLeod||18||2018 Draft, 40th||Mississauga (OHL)||68||26||70|
|Ryan Nugent-Hopkins||25||2011 Draft, 1st||Edmonton||62||24||48|
|Evan Polei||22||AHL Contract||Bakersfield (AHL)||30||4||9|
|Jesse Puljujarvi||20||2016 Draft, 4th||Edmonton||62||12||20|
|Ty Rattie||25||FA Signing (2017)||Edmonton||14||5||9|
|Tobias Rieder||25||FA Signing (2018)||Arizona/Los Angeles||78||12||25|
|Patrick Russell||25||FA Signing (2016)||Bakersfield (AHL)||68||14||27|
|Ostap Safin||19||2017 Draft, 115th||Saint John (QMJHL)||61||26||58|
|Ryan Strome||25||Trade (2017)||Edmonton||82||13||34|
|Scottie Upshall||34||PTO||St. Louis||63||7||19|
|Ryan Van Stralen||24||AHL Contract||Carleton (USports)||25||11||19|
|Tyler Vesel||24||2014 Draft, 153rd||Bakersfield (AHL)||11||3||6|
|Nolan Vesey||23||Trade (2018)||Maine (NCAA)||37||11||25|
|Kailer Yamamoto||19||2017 Draft, 22nd||Spokane (WHL)||40||21||64|
Not At Camp: Joey Dudek, Graham McPhee, Aapeli Rasanen, Patrik Siikanen, Anton Slepyshev, and Bogdan Yakimov.
Predicting the Oilers Opening Night Roster
The Nurse contract talks throw a wrench in the plans for constructing this roster. I’m still certain a deal gets done before the season starts and that means Nurse will factor into the top four. Does Garrison crack the roster? Probably not if Nurse is back for opening night. It also comes down to who do you think is more serviceable as a No. 6; Evan Bouchard, Jakub Jerabek, or Garrison?
Upshall earns a spot in my predictions, but it won’t be comfortable with guys like Kailer Yamamoto and Cooper Marody pushing for an NHL job. Ultimately I have both Marody and Yamamoto starting the year in the AHL and eventually getting recalls throughout the year. Yamamoto has a good chance at progressing through Bakersfield and eventually earning a full-time NHL job by the end of the year.
Edmonton Oilers Depth Chart 2018-19
|Goaltenders||Left Defense||Right Defense|
|1. Cam Talbot||1. Oscar Klefbom||1. Adam Larsson|
|2. Mikko Koskinen||2. Darnell Nurse (RFA)||2. Matt Benning|
|3. Al Montoya*||3. Kris Russell||3. Evan Bouchard|
|4. Stuart Skinner*||4. Jakub Jerabek||4. Ethan Bear*|
|Left Wing||Center||Right Wing|
|1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins||1. Connor McDavid||1. Ty Rattie|
|2. Milan Lucic||2. Leon Draisaitl||2. Tobias Rieder|
|3. Drake Caggiula||3. Ryan Strome||3. Jesse Puljujarvi|
|4. Jujhar Khaira||4. Kyle Brodziak||4. Zack Kassian|
|5. Pontus Aberg||5. Cooper Marody*||5. Scottie Upshall (PTO)|
* Denotes players expected to start the year in the AHL.
All in all, this is what the Oilers opening night roster could look like. Do you agree or disagree? Let us know in the comment section below.