SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers take a look at Class of '05

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:25 AM ET

They'll be poking and prodding until tomorrow, looking for something the statistics and scouting reports haven't already told them, in preparation for the 2005 Entry Draft - whenever that may be.

The Edmonton Oilers, like their NHL counterparts, have had a contingent - assistant GM Scott Howson, chief scout Kevin Prendergast and scouts Brad Davis and Stu MacGregor - in Toronto this week interviewing prospects at the annual NHL combine in Toronto.

"It's always enlightening," said Howson, who has attended every one of these combines since 2000. "It's good to meet the player face-to-face and see what he's like."

The Oilers interviewed a dozen European prospects Wednesday, including Swedish forward Nicklas Bergfors, a six-foot, 198-pound right winger who tallied 18-16-34 in 21 games with Sodertalje last season. Bergfors is rated No. 6 among European skaters.

Yesterday, they chewed the fat with 15 North Americans, including Moose Jaw left winger Kenndal McCardle, ranked No. 8, and Sudbury's Marc Staal, a big defenceman ranked No. 14. Today, talented centre Gilbert Brule of the Vancouver Giants, ranked No. 6, will stop by for a chat.

"There's value in it," Howson said. "Not with every player, and I'm not saying an interview will change how you feel about a player, sometimes it doesn't, but sometimes you get a little piece of information here and there."

NO DEAL FOR JUSSI: Contrary to published reports, goaltender Jussi Markkanen has not signed a contract with Lada Togliatti containing a no-out clause that will keep him in Russia next season. In fact, Markkanen hasn't signed any kind of contract with the Russian Super League team, according to agent Craig Oster.

"He has not signed," said Howson, who spoke with Oster yesterday. "He's expecting an offer, but Craig said he had no intention of signing a contract containing a clause that would confine him (to Russia)."


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