SUN Hockey Pool

Rookie camp

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:04 AM ET

THE SNIPER

Rob Schremp's chances of making the team were long last season, but he came close.

The chances of making the team this year are a little better, but hardly guaranteed.

Yet, it's difficult to count out a player as talented as Schremp, especially when he arrives in town as determined as he is.

"His chances, I'd say, are 50-50 - like all the young guys," said Oilers GM Kevin Lowe on the eve of rookie camp. "With a lot of those guys it has a lot to do with their role. One of them could emerge, but it's not because he's better than the others, it's because he plays a certain role."

The Edmonton Oilers second pick - 25th overall - in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft was one of the final cuts last season.

He went back to his junior team in London, Ont., and dominated offensively, scoring 57 goals and adding 88 assists in 57 games. He won the OHL scoring title by 15 points and then led the league in playoff scoring with another 10 goals and 37 assists in 19 games.

"I think he's got a shot (at) making the team, certainly," said Kevin Prendergast, the Oilers' vice-president of hockey operations. "He brings a lot of offence with him. He's worked very hard this summer, his conditioning in very good, he's looked pretty good at this camp.

"He's in tough, there are guys ahead of him on the depth chart, but he's going to have to open up the coaches' eyes and force the issue."

Unlike last year, Schremp does not necessarily have to make the team out of training camp in order to play in the NHL this season.

The biggest question could be whether Schremp's development is better suited on the first line in the AHL - or the fourth line in the NHL.

How Schremp handles himself on the power play could be the determining factor as to whether he makes the team.

"You have to just show them what you have," Schremp said. "The first week will be all rookies, you want to try and be the best guy on the ice, show that you're one of the better players and that you deserve to be at main camp.

"Then when you're at main camp, it's the same situation. You're battling for a spot and you're trying to make the team."

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THE RUSSIAN

Alexei Mikhnov was a gamble as a first-round pick.

Six years later, the Edmonton Oilers will find out if the gamble paid off.

Alexei Mikhnov was an unknown when the Oilers made him their first selection - 17th overall - in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.

And he was practically a forgotten man when work began to get him to North America for this season.

When the 24-year-old takes part in rookie camp today, it will mark the first time the native of Kiev officially skates as a member of the Oilers.

"I'm very happy to be here," Mikhnov said through an interpreter when he first arrived in town over a week ago.

"I think I'm ready to play in the NHL."

Having spent his entire career in Russia, Mikhnov's inclusion in rookie camp will allow him to familiarize himself with the North American game.

The six-foot-five, 200-pound winger is expected to crack the Oilers' roster this year.

That's why the team went through such great lengths to get him here.

"We're happy that he's here," said Oilers assistant general manager Scott Howson of Mikhnov shortly after his arrival.

"He's more mature than a lot of players entering the league for the first time."

Mikhnov was one of a handful of Russian players caught in a tug-of-war between their teams back home and their NHL squads.

"My team in Russia wanted me to stay and play one more year," Mikhnov said.

"But I wanted to come to the NHL. In the end, I did not have any problems leaving."

Now that he's here, it might be a matter of figuring out where the talented winger will fit best.

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THE STOPPER

Devan Dubnyk is projected to be the Oilers' goaltender of the future.

That's why they selected him with their first pick - 14th overall - in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

It's the highest the Oilers have selected a goaltender since taking Grant Fuhr with the eighth pick in 1981.

"Obviously you have high expectations and that's going to come with being a first-round pick," Dubnyk said. "But this will be my third camp and I think in your third year in you forget about the draft and you just play.

"You know they are going to give you a chance and try to develop you, but for now the draft is in the past and I have to go out and make it."

Finding a place to develop Dubnyk could be the biggest challenge the Oilers face this year.

With Dwayne Roloson locked up for the next three years and Jussi Markkanen acting as the backup, there isn't a goaltending spot to be won with the Oilers - not this year anyway.

"We've gone through it with (Jeff) Deslauriers in the last two years - he hasn't played as much as we'd like him to play," said Kevin Prendergast, the Oilers' vice-president of hockey operations. "We don't want to go through the same thing with Devan. We're not sure exactly where he's going to play in the American League."

Having spent the last five seasons with the Kamloops Blazers, it's unlikely Dubnyk would be ready to make the jump even if there was a spot available in Edmonton.

But you can bet the Oilers will be counting on the Regina native in the near future.

"Every team in the American Hockey League has their prospect that they want to develop there too, so it's very difficult to get that ice time," Prendergast said. "We'll go through training camp and we'll look at options."

Regardless of where he ends up, Dubnyk is excited at the prospect of beginning his pro career.

"It's one of those things that you think about and it seems pretty surreal," he said. "It's an exciting time and an exciting year for me in order to be able to make that switch.

"But as close as it may be there is still a lot of work to be done and you never lose sight of that."

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GOALTENDERS

* Devan Dubnyk, 20, Regina, Sask. Last team: Kamloops (WHL)

* Bryan Pitton, 18, Mississagua, Ont. Last team: Brampton (OHL)

DEFENCEMEN

* Sebastien Bisaillon, 19, Mont-Laurier, Que. Last team: Val-d'Or (QMJHL)

* Tom Gilbert, 23, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Last team: University of Wisconsin (NCAA)

* Theo Peckham, 18, Richmond Hill, Ont. Last team: Owen Sound (OHL)

* David Schulz, 20, Winkler, Man.

Last team: Saskatoon (WHL)

* Trevor Solomon, 18, Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. Last team: Sarnia (OHL)

* Bryan Young, 20, Ennismore, Ont. Last team: Peterborough (OHL)

FORWARDS

* Troy Bodie, 19, Portage La Prairie, Man. Last team: Kelowna (WHL)

* Mike Duco, 19, Toronto, Ont. Last team: Kitchener (OHL)

* Stephane Goulet, 20, Levis, Que. Last team: Moncton (QMJHL)

* Fredrik Johansson, 22, Munkedal, Sweden. Last team: Vasteras (Sweden)

* Riley Merkley, 19, Blackie, Alta. Last team: Calgary (WHL)

* Alexei Mikhnov, 24, Kiev, Ukraine. Last team: Yaroslavl (Russia)

* Jonas Almtorp, 22, Uppsala, Sweden. Last team: Brynas (Sweden)

* Brett Morrison, 19, Sydney, N.S. Last team: Gatineau (QMJHL)

* Patrick Murphy, 23, Van Nuys, Calif. Last team: Northern Michigan (NCAA)

* Frederik Pettersson, 19, Goteborg, Sweden. Last team: Calgary (WHL)

* Liam Reddox, 20, East York, Ont. Last team: Peterborough (OHL)

* Rob Schremp, 20, Syracuse, New York. Last team: London (OHL)

* Tyler Spurgeon, 20, Edmonton

Last team: Kelowna (WHL)

* Patrick Thoresen, 22, Oslo, Norway. Last team: Djurgarden (Sweden)

* Vyacheslav Trukhno, 19, Khimik, Russia. Last team: P.E.I. (QMJHL)


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