SUN Hockey Pool

Curb your enthusiasm

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:13 AM ET

With the first day of the Edmonton Oilers' rookie camp in the books after a lively session at Akinsdale Arena yesterday, history dictates it's prudent to temper one's enthusiasm.

So, while Yan Stastny looked dandy when dancing to open ice in a scrimmage between Team Blue and Team White, it's worth noting he was turning the likes of Jordan Little and Darren Deschamps, not Jason Smith, inside out. With Smith, you get a lumber massage, a ride into the corner glass or a gloved punch in the kisser - all three, if the captain is in a nastier-than-usual mood - with the same move.

The same goes for 2004 first-rounder Robbie Schremp and 2003 blue-chipper Marc-Antoine Pouliot. They won't be nearly as footloose trying to dangle around Igor Ulanov and Steve Staios when the Oilers open main camp Tuesday. At least not twice.

Likewise, the poor stiff Matt Greene pasted with a clean, open-ice hit at the blueline was somebody named Kevin Gardner, caught with his head down. Ryan Smyth won't beg to be KO'd like that by counting his own toes - or the numbers on his new contract - when he crosses the blueline.

That said, Stastny, Schremp, Pouliot and Greene, all of whom will get invitations to real camp and a look-see from Craig MacTavish and his staff in pre-season when the real fun begins, spent the first day of rookie auditions at least looking like they can push for jobs. When push comes to shove, we'll see.

OPEN-MINDED

"We've got all kinds of flexibility. It just depends on the skill level of the rookies," said MacTavish.

"We're very open-minded. We feel like we've got a lot of depth on our team, but there's certainly going to be a player or two out of this group who starts the year and maybe two or three more who play some games as we go on."

Stastny, 22, the son of hall-of-famer Peter Stastny, made his debut in Oilers silks after being acquired from Boston for a fourth-round draft pick in 2006. The five-foot-11 pivot has a chance to stick because he's a later-bloomer with the kind of offensive tools the Oilers are short on. Stastny was the best player on the ice.

"That experience was very evident today," MacTavish said. "He showed us a pretty good skill level, as well."

POWERPLAY QUARTERBACK

Schremp, 19, selected 25th overall in 2004 and fresh from a Memorial Cup with the London Knights, didn't get much done yesterday, but has a shot because he might be the power-play quarterback on the half-boards MacTavish covets. Pouliot, 20, who captained the Rimouski Oceanic last season, doesn't knock your socks off with one aspect of his game, but he does everything well. He can play the wing or centre, and he looked at home on a line with behemoths J.F. Jacques and Troy Bodie yesterday.

"Schremp is very much a dimension we need to add to our team," MacTavish said. "Whether it's him or somebody down the road remains to be seen. We need that element.

"Pouliot, as well, is a guy who has shown some ability offensively, so he'll get an opportunity. A lot of these decisions and optimism we have for these players going into camp is based on how they played and performed last year."

And Greene? Well, the 22-year-old banger from the University of North Dakota is as tough as they come. Greene, who passed on his final year of eligibility with the Fighting Sioux to turn pro, had chins wagging after knocking Gardner goofy.

Yes, it's early. And yes, it's going to get real for these kids in a hurry starting on Tuesday. For now, though, it's fun to watch.

"We've set ourselves up to be in a position where we can make some changes if we need to," said GM Kevin Lowe. "When (Ales) Hemsky stepped in as a young guy, it made the team better. If some of these young guys can step in, that means we're getting better."

These are the four to keep an eye on.


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