The Edmonton Oilers continue to inch closer to finalizing their roster and have already reduced their training camp roster from 60 players to 40. Five players were sent back to junior in their first round of cuts, followed by another 15 this week.
Those sent back to junior could all factor into their respective country’s World Junior Championship (WJC) roster. Dylan Wells and Stuart Skinner could represent Canada, while Kirill Maksimov and Dmitri Samorukov could play for Russia. Ostap Safin might play for the Czech Republic.
It’s the next round of cuts that’ll be the most interesting though. Edmonton is currently carrying 24 forwards, 13 defensemen and three goaltenders but that number could trickle down south of 30 very quickly. Several intriguing names at camp have been quite impressive and have turned some heads.
Caleb Jones Showing Maturity in His Game
The latest round of cuts was highlighted by Ethan Bear. The 20-year-old had an extraordinary year with the WHL Seattle Thunderbirds scoring 28 goals and 70 points. He was a force on the power play and led Seattle to the Memorial Cup tournament. Bear wasn’t expected to make the opening night roster but is an essential piece in Edmonton’s defense pipeline.
It’s worth noting Caleb Jones is still with the Oilers training camp roster. Both Bear and Jones were picked in the 2015 NHL Draft and have been neck and neck with each other regarding their development.
The rest of the players aren’t overly surprising. Goaltender Shane Starrett will join the Condors, and it’s likely he ends up in the ECHL. Bakersfield already has Nick Ellis and Ed Pasquale ahead of him on the depth chart. Defensemen Ben Betker and Ziyat Paigin join Joe Gambardella, Greg Chase, Braden Christoffer, Chad Butcher, Zach O’Brien, Even Polei, Josh Currie, Ryan Hamilton and Kyle Platzer in Bakersfield.
Edmonton’s training camp roster now sits at 42 players (four goaltenders, 14 defensemen, and 24 forwards). The list of players remaining at training camp is about to have a clear divide. Bakersfield will get the majority of their regulars after the Oilers play two preseason games against the Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets.
Auvitu, Mantha Impressing Oilers
The other interesting names are Yohann Auvitu and Ryan Mantha. Auvitu has looked very good in preseason and might end up ahead of Eric Gryba and Mark Fayne on the depth chart.
With a solid two-way acumen, hard shot and some offensive flair, Auvitu continues to make the decisions harder for Todd McLellan and Peter Chiarelli. The 28-year-old is a left shot defender with a $700,000 cap hit. He’s a cheaper option than both Gryba ($900,000) and Fayne ($3.625 million).
Complicating matters, Auvitu is not waiver-exempt and could be claimed by another club if he’s re-assigned to the AHL. It’s likely Edmonton tries to send Mark Fayne down, who let’s face it, the Oilers could care less if he was claimed.
Mantha hasn’t looked bad either. He’s got a combination of size, power play skill and a hard shot that’s hard to ignore. He’s hanging around camp and vying for one of those final spots on Edmonton’s defense.
Yamamoto Complicates Edmonton’s RW Situation
On forward, Kailer Yamamoto is making people think long and hard about the situation on Edmonton’s right wing. Yamamoto’s shown flashes of offensive brilliance through the pre-season, and his two-way abilities are vastly underrated.
On the flip side, Jesse Puljujarvi, who many thought would’ve factored into Edmonton’s top nine, is struggling. He’s been given every chance to succeed playing on a line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jussi Jokinen but hasn’t been effective.
There’s a real possibility Yamamoto sticks around while Anton Slepyshev is on the mend. Could Edmonton’s 2017 first rounder outduel their 2016 first rounder for a spot? The reality is Puljujarvi might need some more development time in the AHL.
Outside of that Jujhar Khaira seems to be cementing himself into that fourth-line left wing job. He’s developed some early chemistry with Mark Letestu and Zack Kassian. That line could be one of the NHL’s better fourth-lines. The trio combines two-way abilities with a hard forecheck and a physical style.
Chris Kelly is hanging around in camp still on his PTO, but it’s hard to imagine him winning a spot. Edmonton’s had some hope for Iiro Pakarinen who has an excellent two-way game. He’s been a contributor to the Oilers penalty kill as well, but he just hasn’t been able to stay healthy. The final spot is still entirely up for grabs.
Players Remaining at Oilers Training Camp
The expectation is Edmonton gets under 30 roster players soon in the coming days. In reality, there’s maybe 16 forwards or so that could entertain a conversation to be on Edmonton’s opening night roster. On defense, about 10 guys are vying for spots, if you stretch it.
This is where the separation starts to happen. There have been some guys like Auvitu, Mantha, Jones, and Yamamoto that are deserving of some extended looks. Some others like Ty Rattie, Grayson Downing, and Keegan Lowe look well on the outside looking in.
Regardless, here are the remaining players at camp:
Forwards (24): Tyler Benson, Drake Caggiula, Mitch Callahan, Leon Draisaitl, Grayson Downing, Jussi Jokinen, Zack Kassian, Chris Kelly, Jujhar Khaira, Joey Laleggia, Mark Letestu, Milan Lucic, Brad Malone, Patrick Maroon, Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Iiro Pakarinen, Jesse Puljujarvi, Ty Rattie, Patrick Russell, Ryan Strome and Kailer Yamamoto.
Defensemen (13): Yohann Auvitu, Matthew Benning, Mark Fayne, Eric Gryba, Caleb Jones, Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Keegan Lowe, Ryan Mantha, Darnell Nurse, Kris Russell, Dillon Simpson, and Ryan Stanton.
Goaltenders (3): Laurent Brossoit, Nick Ellis, and Cam Talbot.