Glimpse at future Battles of Alberta
Pair of weekend pre-season games clash of teams' young up-and-comers
RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency
|Flames prospect Sven Baertschi. (MIKE DREW/QMI Agency)
CALGARY - It’s not known which of the Edmonton Oilers high-profile young guns will suit up for Saturday night’s Battle of Alberta clash against the Calgary Flames.
Rest assured, there will be a strong dose involving the likes of Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi, Teemu Hartikainen, Anton Lander, Colten Teubert and, of course, 2011 first-overall draft choice Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Likely all won’t be involved in the clash at Rexall Place, but certainly, there’ll be enough of them on the ice to get a bit of a read of the future of the Oilers.
The Flames don’t have anywhere near the number of big-named prospect and second-year NHLers, but they will have a solid mix of youngsters, too, for the game.
The Flames plan to face the Oilers in the first half of the home-and-home series with their 2011 first-round pick Sven Baertschi, Max Reinhart, the 2010 draft choice who lit up the WHL playoffs and has carried that into this year’s training camp, second-year pros Greg Nemisz and Lance Bouma, and Paul Byron, the diminutive centre who was acquired in the summertime trade with the Buffalo Sabres and is expected to make a serious push for a roster spot.
Oh yeah, the Flames are also bringing their goaltending tandem of Leland Irving and Joni Ortio, the duo expected to be in place for the AHL Abbotsford Heat.
It’s a chance to lay the foundation for the Battle of Alberta of the future.
“I’m looking forward to this,” said Baertschi, who scored a pair of goals in the prospects tournament game between the organizations and netted an assist in his pre-season debut. “I got to play (the pre-season game) in Vancouver and that was crazy, but this is special.
“I felt that right away when I came in: You don’t want to lose against Edmonton. Everybody is going to be motivated.
“We know they have a good team with good young players, but we can beat them. We can beat anybody and will go in there trying to do our best.”
There are other young Flames players who won’t be skating, and you know the Oilers won’t ice all their up-and-comers — a list which also includes Curtis Hamilton, Tyler Pitlick, Martin Marincin and a whack of others who are still only 22 years old, such as Sam Gagner and former Hitmen standout Alex Plante.
As for the Flames, they aren’t planning to have Mikael Backlund, T.J. Brodie and Roman Horak and other players already dispatched to the minors or back to junior, such as Ryan Howse, Mitch Wahl and Patrick Holland.
The games with all those names involved are a few years away.
Still, this fall is finally giving us a chance to see some of the young talent both organizations have and are banking on in the future.
It’s easy to say the Oilers have an edge in the “young talent” department right now — they should, having drafted first overall in each of the past two years and having missed the playoffs the last five seasons.
However, Calgary does have some reasons for hope, and head coach Brent Sutter had a message to the young players who have shown well so far during this training camp.
“Just keep doing what they’re doing,” Sutter said. “A lot of young guys have played well, so keep pushing. That’s what you want from them. They’re doing a good job of it, and you want them to keep doing it.”