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Ryan O'Marra tosses a medicine ball in June during conditioning exercises for an Oilers development...

Ryan O'Marra tosses a medicine ball in June during conditioning exercises for an Oilers development camp. (Sun Media/Jordan Verlage)

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 2:40 PM ET

The concept is not new.

In fact, the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings employ it to begin their preseason every year.

And as an organization not shy to adopt successful initiatives, the Edmonton Oilers have decided to hold their own rookie tournament.

"Montreal has hosted one for years in southern Quebec," said Oilers president and CEO Patrick LaForge.

"They're actually having it in Kitchener this year. It's the same time frame, same idea.

"Detroit has hosted one for years at a resort in Northern Michigan that has a nice rink and they will continue to do that.

"And other teams have done it as well."

Yesterday the Oilers announced they will host a three-team rookie tournament at the Encana Arena in Camrose next month.

The event features first-year players and prospects, 40 of which are expected to report to the Oilers rookie camp on Sept. 12th.

Following medicals, fitness training and a couple of practices, the Oilers will host the Flames on Sept. 14th in the first game of the Oil Country Rookie Tournament.

FLAMES, CANUCKS

The following day the Flames play the Canucks while the Oilers rookies are at the Clare Drake Arena taking part in their annual game against the University of Alberta Golden Bears.

The event concludes on Sept. 16th with the Oilers hosting the Canucks.

"I think this way is going to be easier for us to evaluate our young players," said Oilers assistant general manager Kevin Prendergast.

"The intensity level is going to be there.

"And just that intimidation factor that a lot of kids have coming to the NHL camp will be eliminated. Normally it takes guys a couple of days to get over that."

Traditionally, the Oilers have used intra-squad games and the contest against the Golden Bears as an evaluation process for their greenhorns. From there, they'll invite the players deemed worthy to their main camp the following week.

This tournament will not only allow their rookies to compete against their peers from another organization, it should help them ease into life in the NHL.

O'MARRA, DUBNYK

"For guys like (Ryan) O'Marra, and (Devan) Dubnyk, who are going to be in Springfield this year and are very close to getting to this level, this is going to be a big thing for them, too," Prendergast said.

"You also look at a first-rounder like (Jordan) Eberle, there is pressure on him to perform.

"But I think it's a lot easier for him to perform in games like this against other teams as opposed to coming in and playing your own guys."

This year's event is the first of a three-year agreement between the teams.

Next year either Calgary or Vancouver will host the tournament, probably in a surrounding community.

"At this point we have an agreement between the three teams that each team is going to host, so I think it's a good opportunity for everybody to showcase their players and move their camp around a little bit," Prendergast said.

"This is the first one, we're sure it's going to go well. All three organizations are on board with it.

"We all feel committed that it's going to be a long-term scenario, so we'll see how it goes."

When it comes time for the Oilers to play host to the tournament again, it is expected they'll go to another surrounding community.

This time around, the new facility in Camrose seemed the perfect pick to the Oilers decision-makers.

"We're looking at about six different places that fit the bill for this," LaForge said.

"But Camrose has a spectacular facility and it's just the right distance from the city and to the airport.

"It's just perfect. And when we do it again, we'll find another suitable community."


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