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Oilers' bye-bye birdies

Oilers head scout Stu MacGregor will take in one more pre-season game on Thursday before hitting...

Oilers head scout Stu MacGregor will take in one more pre-season game on Thursday before hitting the road to find the next batch of prospects. (CODIE McLACHLAN/QMI Agency)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:12 PM ET

EDMONTON - He’ll sit there up in his nest in the Rexall Place rafters like mother bird watching her babies fly away.

Tonight Oilers’ head scout Stu MacGregor will watch the pre-season game against the Vancouver Canucks training campers and head out to start another season to find the next batch to hatch.

“In a way they are your babies,” he said of the fledgling pros.

“You’ve spent a lot of time watching them.

“They aren’t your kids, but they’ve been an important part of your life.”

MacGregor watched the two sessions at Millennium Place in Sherwood Park Wednesday and will be at Rexall Place for the morning session, with the players who aren’t slated to play in the game, and at the game itself. And then he’ll cut the cord.

While he’ll see the players who are returned to juniors often, especially somebody like netminder Tyler Bunz who will possibly play goal for Canada at the World Juniors, he’s now dropped them off for their first days of school and it’s time to move on.

“The new trail starts,” he said of junior hockey schedules opening this weekend.

MacGregor’s amateur scouting staff was here in August for the Team Canada World Junior camp, took the rest of the month off and returned to work at the start of September.

“There’s the Minnesota high school event, the Junior A Showcase and the USHL has their Fall Classic. These guys have already been working.”

MacGregor, however, spent training camp here.

“You want to see how the players who were drafted fit and how they handle the situation playing with and against men, how they think the game at the pro level, how they handle their first experience with the pros and where they fit in the organizational depth chart. My role is to be there as somebody who has watched them all to be able to offer observations and answer questions when they’re asked.”

MacGregor was in Saskatoon Tuesday to see Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, his second straight No. 1 pick in the NHL Entry Draft, as he played his pre-season debut game.

“I thought he was good. Real good. That’s the best he’s been so far. He was playing with two real good players and he handled that well and adjusted to the pace and speed they were at,” he said of Ryan Smyth and Jordan Eberle.

“Tom Renney gave him a little power play time and a little penalty killing time and he handled that well, too.

“So far for me, it’s been pleasing to see how intelligent he’s shown he is on the defensive side of the game.

“So far in training camp he’s basically been real good.”

The aforementioned Bunz, who outplayed Nikolai Khabibulin in his half of the game here Tuesday and was returned to the Medicine Hat Tigers as expected the next morning, got off to a good flight, too, according to MacGregor.

“I’m pretty pleased with where he’s at,” he said of the St. Albert product the Oilers chose with the first pick in the fifth round in 2010.

“David Musil, too,” he said of the Oilers first pick in the second round who is returning to the Vancouver Giants.

“He showed he’s got real good grit and was very smart defensively, positionally and showed he’s got a great stick.

Tyler Pitlick, Taylor Chorney and Ryan Martindale were impressive, too, he said of previous drafts.

“I feel very good where we’re at with a lot of these guys we’ve drafted and I think we’re now set up very well to make sure they’re developed and their careers are enhanced.”

But now it’s off to find the next set of fledgling NHLers and you know MacGregor will be on the hunt for a franchise type defenceman this winter.

“We’re now pretty deep in forwards and this draft is going to be very deep in defencemen,” he said.

“I believe there are going to be a lot of defencemen available for us to possibly be in position to take.

“I’m actually quite excited.”

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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