Monday, September 8, 2008

Training Camp Roulette, Forward Edition...

This years Edmonton Oilers camp will be interesting to say the least. While there are a number of players that have their names written in pen on coach Craig Mactavish's line-up card, some may have to be whited out soon enough.

Written in permanent marker:


Shawn Horcoff
Sam Gagner
Andrew Cogliano
Kyle Brodziak

Right Wingers
Ales Hemsky
Erik Cole
Fernando Pisani

Left Wingers
Dustin Penner
Robert Nilsson
Ethan Moreau

That's 10 forwards on a team that will carry a maximum of 14 forwards and quite possibly only 13 forwards due to the likelihood of the team carrying 3 goalies to start the season.

So who will fill those last 3 or maybe 4 spots? Here are the candidates, listed in order of most NHL experience to least...

C/W Gilbert Brule 5'10" 185lbs. 3rd year pro
career NHL stats 146gp. 12-20-32 52pim.

Rw Zack Stortini 6'4" 225lbs. 4th year pro
career NHL stats 95gp. 4-9-13 306pim.

C/W Marc Antoine Pouliot 6'2" 190lbs. 4th year pro
career NHL stats 78gp. 6-13-19 30pim.

Lw Jean Francois Jacques 6'4" 217lbs. 4th year pro
career NHL stats 53gp. 0-0-0 35pim.

C/W Ryan Potulny 6'0" 190lbs. 3rd year pro
career NHL stats 44gp. 7-7-14 26pim.

C/W Rob Schremp 5'11" 200lbs. 3rd year pro
career NHL stats 3gp. 0-0-0 0pim.

Oddly enough the guy with the most NHL experience seems like the most sure bet to be sent to the minors to start the season. Gilbert Brule was a highly touted prospect in 2005, however he has yet to translate his game to the NHL, and really hasn't done so even at the AHL level. While guys like JF Jacques, Marc Pouliot, Rob Schremp, and even Zack Stortini have shown the ability to dominate the AHL, Gilbert Brule, minus a game where he had a hattrick for Syracuse of the AHL was far from living up to his billing at that level at least offensively. This is a player that the Oilers should be looking at as a broken player that needs to be re-built and re-programmed. He may still be young enough to be able to realize the potential that made him the 6th overall selection in the '05 draft.

The player with the least NHL experience is also the player that the team needs to make a decision on and probably much sooner than later. Rob Schremp led the Oilers AHL affiliate in points, assists, and led their PP to respectability despite a less than great supporting cast. This off-season he has dedicated himself unlike at any other point in his career, and was really turning heads in the Oilers organization with his work ethic. If he makes the team, it would likely mean that coach Mactavish will go against his traditional style of coaching and play an offensive brand of hockey.

Both Marc Antoine Pouliot and Zack Stortini are in the penthouse at the moment, but with so much quality competition this camp, they need to stay very focused. Stortini brings an agitator style that none of the other contenders are willing or able to bring to the table. And Pouliot brings size and more experience down the middle that none of the others can compete with.

JF Jacques is the wildcard, he seems to be a player that the Oilers brass love. Hell, they must, they have given him 53 NHL games despite the fact that he has yet to register a point. I'm sure that in that regard he's the envy of many Oilers prospects. However what he does bring is a combination of size, physical play, and a mean streak that none of the others vying for a spot possess. Unfortunately for Jacques, he is recovering from wrist surgery and has been troubled with a back injury that may need surgery. Very difficult to play the type of game that he is accustomed to while being far from healthy.

Ryan Potulny came over in a trade for AHL 2nd/3rd pairing defenceman Danny Syvret, that alone was surprising. Potulny obviously wasn't in the Flyers plans, and he will have to beat out some exceptional talents to make his stay in Edmonton more than a very brief one. What Potulny does bring is a snipers mentality, and he is older than all of his competition. This makes him less likely to be hurt by extended stretches in the press box.

My predictions for forward spots #11-13...

#11-Marc Antoine Pouliot, his size, experience and the willingness of Oilers management to let Marty Reasoner walk away as an unrestricted free agent most likely means that they are willing to let Pouliot take the ball and run with it.

#12-Rob Schremp, his skill, results on the farm team, and his new found work ethic means that he will be a very tough player to keep off of the opening day roster.

#13-Zack Stortini, his size, and willingness to drop the gloves makes him a prime candidate to draw in against teams that are looking to bully the Oilers young and small forward core.


Addicted-to-oil said...

I think Stortini is a definite. Pouliot will make the team out of camp - whether as 4th line center, or in the press box is up for debate.
I think Schremp will finally crack the lineup as well (or be traded with Roloson to Los Angeles).

I'm thinking the Oil are going to let JF rehab a bit in the AHL and make sure his surgeries went all right, and I'm sure we'll see him on a call up at some point this season.
All I've read about Potulny says the same thing, so I don't really konw what to think until I see him in a few pre-season matchups.
I also think Brule will get some reps in with Oil this year, I just don't think he'll start the season with them.

Again all this is said prior to training camp, intra-squad games, and the pre-season. It's been over a year since I've seen some of these guys play, so we'll just have to wait and see.

Bryanbryoil said...

Stortini is a definite if Schremp and Brule don't both come to camp and really show their worth. I guess it could be argued that they would take Pouliot's spot, but it will be interesting. I really think that we could have a few guys that figured on being full time NHLers this year getting sent down. It will all depend on how hard they worked this offseason, and what the others bring to the table.

We have 3-1st round picks vying for a roster spot up front and guys like Potulny and Jacques could also surprise. However Jacques probably doesn't get the opportunity due to his health issues.

B.C.B. said...

I am with addicted to oil: Stortini is a definite, bit maybe Moreau is not. Katz has said things about demoting aging vets that don't preform: Moreau may be the capt'n but he doesn't play: if he is written in a sharpie then he'll be on IR in two months JFJ will be coming up.

Bryanbryoil said...

JFJ will be having surgery on his back, so he's on the shelf indefinately. Stortini IMO will probably be in and out of the line-up as needed. It will help to keep him fresher to fill his role.