Training camp is well underway for the Edmonton Oilers who have already reduced their camp roster from 61 to 56 players. The Oilers re-assigned several players from Group C, most notably four picks from their 2017 draft class. Kirill Maksimov, Ostap Safin, Dmitri Samorukov and Stuart Skinner will return to their junior clubs. The lone member left in camp from this year’s draft class is Kailer Yamamoto.
The fifth player sent back to junior was goaltender Dylan Wells. Wells, 19, was Edmonton’s fifth-round pick in 2016. One shouldn’t read into the fact these guys were the first ones cut from camp. Frankly, neither of them were going to factor into the Oilers roster and sending them down quickly lets them re-join their junior team’s training camp.
Here’s a quick breakdown of each of the re-assigned players and what the expectations are in 2017-18.
Edmonton’s fifth-round pick this year looked fantastic in rookie camp. He scored an impressive goal in overtime against the Vancouver Canucks and looks to be an excellent find. Maksimov finished last season on a tear scoring 22 goals in the final 29 games with the Niagara IceDogs (OHL). He’ll be one of the key pieces for Russia at the upcoming World Junior Championships (WJC) as well.
He’s got some scoring abilities, but he’s an underrated playmaker and two-way player. Maksimov could end up being a top-six forward for the Oilers if his development keeps trending in the right direction.
There’s a lot to like about Safin who’s a big, rangy winger that handles the puck pretty well. He’s known to be an excellent skater, and he has a NHL-ready shot. He’s got to fill out a little more as he stands 6’4″ and 198 pounds.
Safin was picked up by the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs in the import draft and is coming over to North America from the Czech Republic. He’s likely going to play for the Czechs at the WJC as well. He could develop into a top-nine power forward for the Oilers in due time.
Edmonton was quick to sign Samorukov to an entry-level contract (ELC) this summer. He could potentially develop into a top-four blueliner for the Oilers and has plenty of assets to his game. He’s got a great shot, decent frame (6’2″ and 181 pounds), and some underrated offensive abilities.
The Guelph Storm weren’t a very good team last year, and they won’t be this year either from the sounds of it. That’ll hurt Samorukov’s boxcars, but he’ll still be one of Guelph’s best defensemen in 2017-18. He’s in the conversation for a spot on Russia’s team at the WJC.
Skinner’s already had a busy summer since being drafted by the Oilers in the third round. He’s attended Team Canada’s development camp, and every camp the Oilers have held since July’s development camp. He was one of the busiest starters in the WHL last season when he played 60 games for the Lethbridge Hurricanes. He’ll be counted on to be their number one again this year as Lethbridge hopes to move past the Conference Final in 2017-18.
Skinner’s competing for a spot on Team Canada along with Carter Hart, Michael DiPietro, and fellow Oilers prospect Dylan Wells. Skinner will look to have a good start to the year and hope that works in his favor. He didn’t look great at Canada’s camp earlier this summer but a couple of good performances early this season could change management’s opinion. Skinner could one day develop into the Oilers’ starting goalie, but he’s a long-term project.
Lastly, there’s Dylan Wells who, like Skinner, is a starting goalie for his junior club. Wells was one of the CHL’s better goalies last year and hopes to take a deep Peterborough Petes team to the Memorial Cup in 2017-18. At the Oilers’ rookie camp, he didn’t stand out too much in comparison to the others, Skinner and Shane Starrett. That said, a lot of people are very high on Wells.
He’ll have to be sharper on his angles and show he can’t be beaten clean by long-range shots. This is Wells’ last year in junior before joining the pro ranks. Skinner is right behind him, and Starrett, Nick Ellis, and Laurent Brossoit create a logjam in front of him. Edmonton will surely bring him along slowly and with a good year in the OHL, Wells will be right where the Oilers want him with his development.
Oilers Remaining Players in Training Camp
Here’s the list of remaining players in camp;
Group A Forwards: Chad Butcher, Mitch Callahan, Grayson Downing, Ryan Hamilton, Zack Kassian, Chris Kelly, Jujhar Khaira, Mark Letestu, Patrick Maroon, Connor McDavid, Iiro Pakarinen, Patrick Russell, and Ryan Strome.
Group B Forwards: Drake Caggiula, Braden Christoffer, Leon Draisaitl, Joe Gambardella, Jussi Jokinen, Joey Laleggia, Milan Lucic, Brad Malone, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Kyle Platzer, Jesse Puljujarvi, Ty Rattie, and Kailer Yamamoto.
Group C Forwards: Tyler Benson, Gregory Chase, Josh Currie, Zach O’Brien, and Evan Polei.
Group A Defense: Yohann Auvitu, Ethan Bear, Matthew Benning, William Lagesson, Kris Russell, Dillon Simpson, Ryan Stanton
Group B Defense: Mark Fayne, Eric Gryba, Caleb Jones, Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Keegan Lowe, Darnell Nurse
Group C Defence: Ben Betker, and Ryan Mantha
Goal: Laurent Brossoit, Nick Ellis, Ed Pasquale, Shane Starrett, and Cam Talbot.
The Oilers kick off their preseason schedule this week and will probably see a significant reduction in their roster before the end of the week. With a majority of their junior prospects reassigned, expect the next round to include a majority of the players on AHL contracts. All in all, hockey is here and the excitement for Edmonton’s season opener is building.