At Rogers Place on Saturday night, the Edmonton Oilers rookies defeated the Calgary Flames rookies 4-3 thanks to a pair of surprising star showings from two players that had fans asking, “who’s that?” and “he’s still around?”
The former would be 20-year-old forward Henry Rybinski, and the latter would be Philip Kemp, a 22-year-old blueliner. Both scored twice and hooked up for the game-winning goal as Edmonton rallied to win the first of two rookie camp exhibition games between the Alberta rivals.
Edmonton’s Comeback Kids
Edmonton quickly fell behind 2-0 and trailed 3-1 after the first period. The Oilers stormed back to tie things up in the second period before ultimately taking the lead in the final frame.
Goaltender Olivier Rodrigue, a 2018 second-round draft pick, went the distance for the Oilers, shutting the door over the final 40-plus minutes. Ostap Safin, a left winger from the Czech Republic who Edmonton drafted 115th overall in 2017, had two assists.
First Period Rough for Rodrigue
Calgary’s Walker Duehr and Ryan Francis beat Edmonton Rodrigue 21 seconds apart to take a two-goal lead before the game was five minutes old. Edmonton regrouped and got on the board with a power-play tally from Rybinski at 16:25. Taking a pass at the point from Safin, blueliner Yanni Kaldis fed Rybinski, who scored at the doorstep of Calgary netminder Dustin Wolf.
The Flames took less than two minutes to restore their two-goal advantage, answering with a power-play goal of their own, at 18:15, when Martin Pospisil jammed home a rebound past Rodrigue.
Second Period Kind to the Oilers
Rybinski went top shelf with a one-timer from the slot for his second goal at 6:34 of the middle stanza. Safin again drew an assist as Calgary’s lead was cut in half, to 3-2.
The ice was beginning to tilt in favor of the Oilers, and the home team would draw even just over five minutes later. Kemp was credited with his first goal of the night when his centering pass bounced off a Flames’ defender stick and behind Wolf to make the score 3-3 at 11:43.
Third Period Seals the Oilers’ Win
After getting a lucky break to score Edmonton’s third goal, Kemp was full-value on the game-winner, playing the puck off the corner boards and beating Wolf from a tough angle 4:06 into the final frame. Xavier Bourgault, Edmonton’s first-round pick in the 2021 Draft, and Rybinski got the helpers.
Rodrigue preserved the victory with a mammoth save on Mathias Emilio Pettersen in the late stages. The Norwegian forward found himself with the puck at the goal line but was robbed by the glove of Rodrigue.
Bourgault and Rodrigue, two of the most touted among the 28 players in Edmonton’s rookie camp, made themselves heard from on Saturday. But it was two names no one was talking about before the game that everyone was talking about after. So just what is the scoop on Kemp and Rybinski?
A native of Greenwich, CT, Kemp was drafted in the seventh round, 208th overall, by Edmonton in 2017 after playing with the United States National Under-18 Team. The 6-foot-3 rearguard was an ECAC All-Academic Team Selection in all three of his seasons at Yale University, 2017-18 to 2019-20. He totaled nine goals and 18 assists in 88 games with the Bulldogs and was named team captain for 2020-21 before the pandemic canceled the season.
Last November, Kemp signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Oilers and began his professional career playing for Vasby IK HK of HockeyAllSvenskan, the second-highest tier in Sweden. He returned from overseas for the American Hockey League season and had one assist in 12 games with the Bakersfield Condors. He also suited up twice in the postseason, scoring in the deciding goal of the Pacific Division championship series, as Bakersfield captured the John D. Chick Trophy for 2020-21.
Rybinski accepted an invite this offseason to attend the Oilers rookie camp. He is a free agent after not being signed by the Florida Panthers, who drafted Rybinski at No. 136 in 2019. Rybinski, who stands 6-foot-1 and can play center or right wing, is a four-year veteran of major junior, totaling 111 points in 186 Western Hockey League (WHL) regular-season games.
The Vancouver product broke into the WHL at age 16 with the Medicine Hat Tigers in 2017-18 and was traded to the Seattle Thunderbirds in January 2019. Last season was Rybinski’s finest: he led the T-Birds with 21 assists and 28 points as Seattle’s schedule was limited to just 23 games because of the pandemic. He has one season of junior eligibility remaining as an overager and played two preseason games with the Thunderbirds before coming to Edmonton.
Kemp and Rybinski will look to show that their head-turning performances on Saturday were no fluke when Oilers rookie camp concludes Monday (Sept. 20) with a rematch against the Flames rookies at Scotiabank Arena in Calgary.
The main camp begins Wednesday (Sept. 22) at Rogers Place and will include several players from the rookie camp. The Oilers’ first NHL preseason game is Sunday (Sept. 26) in Calgary against the Flames.
Brian is an Edmonton-based sports writer and broadcaster. His experience includes working as a sports reporter for the Edmonton Sun, where he covered the Edmonton Oil Kings 2013-14 Memorial Cup championship season.