The Edmonton Oilers opened training camp today and among the camp hopefuls are several players signed to professional tryouts with the organization. Among the field of hopefuls are NHL veterans Kris Versteeg and Eric Gryba. Versteeg played last season with the Carolina Hurricanes and scored 33 points in 63 games, while Gryba played with the Oilers and held down a third-pairing role that saw him play 53 games with the club.
The two headline a list of players vying for a job with the club, while the rest are battling for spots on the Oilers AHL affiliate in Bakersfield. Ryan Hamilton and Josh Currie played with the Condors last season and will look to play a top-nine role with the minor pro team. Of note, Hamilton was the Condors captain last season.
Here’s the full list of PTO’s for Oilers camp:
Last season there was a major production drop-off from Jordan Eberle, who scored just 47 points as well as from Nail Yakupov, who recorded a mere 23. Versteeg, 30, has been a consistent 30-point producer throughout his NHL career and could solidify the Oilers right wing depth. Edmonton’s fourth overall pick Jesse Puljujarvi was stellar at rookie camp and Zack Kassian fills the Oilers fourth line. Versteeg could very well factor into the Oilers top nine with an impressive camp.
Puljujarvi might even start the year in the AHL, playing a similar role to Mikko Rantanen (Colorado) who won the AHL Rookie of the Year honors. Rantanen is seen as a more valuable and seasoned player in Colorado now; the same case can be made for Puljujarvi.
It’s rumored that Leon Draisaitl could move to the right side to complicate the depth chart further. That said, Versteeg has a substantial opportunity to make the team and potentially replace Nail Yakupov on the Oilers third line. It’ll be an exciting camp, and Versteeg has something the rest of the Oilers forwards don’t have; two Stanley Cup rings.
Gryba, 28, returns to Edmonton this fall on a tryout instead of a contract and is looking to earn one of the final roster spots on defense. Outside of Adam Larsson, Oscar Klefbom, Andrej Sekera and Brandon Davidson, the blueline depth is still working itself out. Darnell Nurse had a terrible year in terms of his possession numbers. Griffin Reinhart finished the year strong, but the jury is still out. Jordan Oesterle showed flashes but may be better off with another year in the AHL. Andrew Ference is done, and Mark Fayne will have one of the final spots, but there’s a good chance for Gryba to crack the roster.
Related: Gryba signs PTO with Oilers
Last summer Gryba was acquired from the Ottawa Senators for Travis Ewanyk and a draft pick, and showed well in the bottom-pairing and even got some time on the penalty-kill. The Oilers went into the summer looking to add some depth on defense. Outside of adding Larsson, they weren’t able to swing much else so naturally, there was an opportunity to give Gryba a contract opportunity. Both sides had a mutual interest all summer, and if you count Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones as sliding-contracts, the Oilers have 45/50 contracts with space to get Gryba in.
If he makes the team, it’ll be a deal south of $1 million, likely a one-year deal.
F – Scott Allen (26) – Management liked what they saw in Allen at development camp, and the 6’3″ 198-pound local product earned an extended look. Allen captained the nearby AJHL Spruce Grove Saints during his junior days and played for the NCAA University of Alaska-Anchorage after going undrafted. After parts of two seasons in the ECHL with 35 points in 51 games, he could be a decent addition to a Condors third-line. In all, a meat and potatoes winger with decent playmaking and finishing skills.
F – Josh Currie (23) – Another undrafted player, Currie was a captain for the QMJHL’s P.E.I. Rockets. He capped his junior career with a 49 goal, 104 point season in 68 games back in 2012-13. He’s since spent three seasons in the ECHL as a decent secondary scorer and eventually got called up to the AHL and had a surprising 24 points in 53 AHL games last year with the Condors. He’ll get another shot to stick with the Condors as a secondary scorer this season. He’s fairly undersized at a generous 5’10” and 172 pounds, has decent footspeed that has translated well at the pro level.
F – Ryan Hamilton (31) – Hamilton was an undrafted free agent who signed an ELC with the Minnesota Wild before he was eventually traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2008-09. He then spent several years with the AHL Marlies and was their captain for two seasons. Since then, he’s been with an Oilers affiliate since 2013-14 and was the Condors captain last year. Hamilton has played 18 NHL games with the Oilers with five points to show. He’s been a solid AHL contributor with 319 career points in 554 AHL games and a two-time All-Star, and could be counted on as a leader for Bakersfield this season.
D – Frankie Simonelli (23) – An undrafted defenseman, Simonelli has some offense to his game but has a smaller frame for a pro defenseman at 5’10” and 200 pounds. He’s a NCAA University of Wisconsin product and, as an assistant captain was consistently one of their top point-producing defensemen. Simonelli signed a PTO with the Boston Bruins AHL affiliate in Providence at the end of the 2013-14 season and played his first full year as a pro splitting time between the Bruins’ AHL and ECHL affiliates. Injuries limited him to just 21 games in 2015-16, and he’ll be looking for a depth position on the Condors blueline.
F – Ryan Vesce (34) – An undersized veteran forward at 5’7″ 168 pounds, Vesce is a versatile forward. However, his small stature has limited his success at the pro level. Once an undrafted free agent, he joined the San Jose Sharks organization in 2008-09 and has five points in 19 career NHL games. Vesce was used sparingly by the Sharks but was an offensive dynamo in the AHL scoring 71 points in 67 games that year for the Worchester Sharks. He wore the captaincy for two seasons before playing the next six seasons primarily in the KHL with varying franchises. Now a 34-year-old veteran coming back to North America, he could be a decent offensive addition to the Condors top six.