With the Edmonton Oilers opening training camp at Rexall Place today, and just four days to go before the Oilers begin their 2005 pre-season schedule against the Calgary Flames, here's our take on who's who and where they stack up.
- Denotes rookie
THE REST: Mike Gabinet, Jordan Little, Jason Platt, Dan Smith, Kenny Smith, Roman Tesliuk, Bryan Young.
THE SCOOP: Chris Pronger can play either side on the blueline, but MacTavish has him starting camp on the right side ... Pronger will make his debut paired with Marc-Andre Bergeron on Team Blue ... MacTavish has pencilled in a blue-line version of the Bash Brothers with a pairing of veteran Igor Ulanov and rookie Matt Greene on Team White ... physically, Greene, who punctuated rookie camp with several bone-crushing hits, is ready for the NHL and he'll get a long look in the pre-season ... with the exception of Bergeron, a five-foot-10 fireplug, the defensive corps is huge with Pronger and Alexei Semenov standing six-foot-six, Cory Cross going six-foot-five and Jason Smith and Greene at six-foot-three .... MacTavish will open with seven D-men on the roster.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Mathieu Roy. While it's probably too much to ask for Roy to earn a roster spot in this group, he upped his stock immensely last season with the Road Runners. He hits. He fights. He moves the puck.
JUST ASKING: How much better will Pronger make an Oilers power play that was 29th in the NHL in 2003-04?
BOTTOM LINE: Assuming the top six spots go to Pronger, Smith, Staios, Bergeron, Ulanov and Cross, Semenov and Greene will slug it out for the seventh job. Semenov gets the inside track going in because he's got 92 NHL games on his resume, but the huge Russian isn't a lock because he hasn't been the consistent physical force his coaches expected.
Greene, on the other hand, has never needed a written invitation to run somebody over. The question, as is the case with all young defencemen, is whether the former University of North Dakota captain can adapt to the speed of the NHL and size of opposing forwards in his first pro campaign. That's a lot to ask.
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- Denotes rookie
THE REST: Dan Baum, Troy Bodie, Kyle Brodziak, Nate DiCasmirro, Mike Duco, Stephane Goulet, J.J. Hunter, Frederik Pettersson, Brock Radunske, Liam Reddox, Tim Sestito, Zach Stortini, Vyacheslav Trukhno, Colton Yellow Horn.
THE SCOOP: Michael Peca will make his camp debut playing on a line between Ethan Moreau and Ales Hemsky for Team White ... Jani Rita is listed as a left winger, but Craig MacTavish has him pencilled in on right wing ... Marc-Antoine Pouliot will open camp on left wing ... Rita and Brad Winchester are the only two rookies on one-way contracts ... Yan Stastny, J.F. Jacques and Frederik Pettersson were the best forwards during rookie camp ... Stastny, who will open camp playing pivot between Jacques and Georges Laraque on Team Blue, tweaked his wrist in the third period of Sunday's 5-4 overtime loss to the Alberta Golden Bears ... rookie Robbie Schremp, who scored two goals against the Bears, will play between Nate DiCasmirro and Toby Petersen with Team Blue ... Tony Salmelainen is playing with HIFK in Helsinki and won't attend camp ... MacTavish intends to open with 14 forwards.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Kyle Brodziak. The Moose Jaw grad finished his first pro season with the AHL Road Runners as one of coach Geoff Ward's best forwards. He's in deep down the middle, but Brodziak's a comer.
JUST ASKING: Is this the year Rita finally wins a job? Is Schremp's prowess on the power play enough to keep him around?
BOTTOM LINE: With the addition of Peca, the Oilers look pretty much set as far as their first dozen forwards is concerned, with versatile veteran Todd Harvey looking like the 12th guy going in.
There's a job open on the left wing, where Winchester, Pouliot and Jacques will battle it out. The other spot looks like a toss-up, with Stastny, Schremp and Rita having the inside track in a pick 'em situation that likely won't be sorted out until the final cuts.
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- Jeff Deslauriers
- Denotes rookie
THE REST: Mike Morrison, - Devan Dubnyk.
THE SCOOP: With Jussi Markkanen on the shelf with a fractured collarbone, it goes without saying Conklin is No. 1 and won't really be pushed, meaning the only new look in the crease will be the downsized equipment stoppers will wear this season . . . Markkanen had his collarbone X-rayed again yesterday and is hoping to be back during pre-season.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Mike Morrison. Deslauriers will get a longer look with Markkanen out, but the more experienced Morrison was easily the better stopper of the two with the Road Runners last season. Morrison can flat-out get it done and could caddy for Conklin to start the season.
JUST ASKING: Is anybody nervous that the top two stoppers on the roster have just 111 NHL appearances between them?
BOTTOM LINE: If Conklin isn't ready for prime time, GM Kevin Lowe might have to make a move.