Oilers Rookies 6, Shit-kicked Penalty-taking Losers 3
Considering it's my alma mater (or, actually, it's the school I'm still attending, whatever the latin term for that is), I probably shouldn't enjoy this as much as I did. But, at the same time, it's the Oilers, in some form or another, so yeah: FUCK YOU GOLDEN BEARS!!!!
I almost didn't make the game, due to my showing up, sans ticket, about 5 minutes before puck drop. Turns out the game was sold out (my mind has trouble comprehending the idea of a sold-out university sporting event), but thanks to an illicitly obtained press pass from our friends at the friendly neighbourhood campus newspaper (keep those offices unlocked, boys and girls!) not only did I get in, I watched the whole thing from the dingy, small-town-baseball-field-dugout-ish Clare Drake Press Box. That's right, I watched an entire hockey game less than eight feet from Jim Matheson and Joanne Ireland! SQUEEE!!! (Terry Jones was not in attendance, presumably because they've not reinforced the floors at the Clare Drake Press Box).
In any case, the game itself was hardly one. The Bears had spurts, but all their goals came on the PP (to be expected, playing against a thrown-together team), and they were more or less dominated for extended stretches, with the odd rush here or there. As far as the Rookies went, they looked a lot like I expect the real team to look this year: quick forwards who controlled a lot of the play down low, really solid goaltending (Dubnyk looked better than I thought he was, and pretty much had no chance on any of the goals, save maybe the last), a haphazard powerplay and a defence too shitty to even qualify as an Achilles' heel. Seriously, the Rookie D was like an exposed pulmonary artery, lying on the ice with chests agape, practically begging the Bears to stomp them between the lungs and put them out of their misery.
Smid had better be the prospect people say he is, because there wasn't one defenceman out there not named Tom Gilbert who looked ready to play defence in the NHL in the next three years. Third-round pick Theo Peckham dropped some pretty big checks, but seemed to be entirely unaware of the concept of defensive positioning, and is about as useful as a pinball flipper in the offensive zone. If David Schulz got beat to the outside anymore, I would have sworn to God we had dressed Cory Cross. Sebastien Bisaillon, who I've never heard of before, looked pretty clever with the puck, and was easily our second-best defenceman, but even he looked silly a couple times. The defence, to be fair, did seem to improve remarkably as the game wore on, but I'm really not sure if that's because they adjusted to the game better, or that they just looked good walking around on 5-on-3s, of which they had about 18 in the third period (ref wouldn't put the whistle away).
Gilbert, though, looks like a baller. He was quite poised the whole time, the Bears couldn't seem to get much of anything going when he was on the ice, and he was firing some long passes tape-to-tape. Pretty hard to call him NHL-ready from the level of competition out there, but he can't be far off, and I'd expect to be around camp for a while.
As for the forwards--well, we have a pretty decent crop. To get the big names out of the way first, Schremp looked slick, if a little showboaty. He made a pretty clever little play on his goal (it was actually tipped, they didn't credit it correctly, but it was still an inspiring little move), and pulled a complete prick-job move during the celebrity shootout (he picked the puck up on the blade of his stick and lacrossed it through the air from just inside the blueline, then whipped a high backhand--puck still on his blade--when he got in close), but overall didn't look like the most impressive Oiler on the ice. Mikhnov, while obviously skilled, clearly couldn't have cared less about the game, which I suppose is fair, but a little effort would have been nice. He has an obvious nose for the net (didn't finish any tonight, which is a little disturbing), but I think the only time he was below the top of the defensive circle was on face-offs. They put him out to kill a penalty at the end of the game and he looked like he would have been more comfortable emptying colostomy bags at a Kiev senior's home. When he had the puck, no one could really stop him, but if this is any indication of his laziness, even occasional, in game situations, he better be another Alex Mogilny in preseason if he wants to see the big team this year.
Aside from that, the Spurgeon-Almtorp-Reddox line was definitely the most impressive. Almtorp looks to be a good two-way centre in the making, and Reddox actually sacrificed himself a couple times for really pretty plays, including getting absolutely levelled in the slot, but still making a little drop pass that lead to a goal. I'd be surprised if all three didn't stick around for a while at the big camp, and if we actually had an AHL team, they could probably form a solid third line, or something. The other stand-outs were recent Swedish Elite League pick-up Patrick Thoresen, who looked pretty comfortable on Mihknov and Schremp's right side (he is 23, to be fair), and Calgary Hitman/Swede Frederik Petersson, who potted two and was buzzing around all night. I'd assume both will also get a look at the big camp, and I wouldn't be terribly surprised to hear their names brought up next year as people with potential to make the show. The one disappointment, other than Mihknov's indifference, was Trukhno, who looked pretty invisible for a guy who's in our top-ten prospects. Could have just been an off-night, but I don't think he created even one really good scoring chance the whole night.
Judging solely from this game, I think the only people with a real shot of making the team are probably Schremp, Mikhnov and Gilbert, and the latter only because we're pretty weak for D. As a dark horse, I'll pick Thoreson, who seems like a pretty smart player, and looked good both ways. I'd be willing to consider Petersson if he was a bit older, but I don't think he'll be good enough to warrant burning a year of RFA eligibilty at this point (he can still play another year in the WHL, where presumably he'll star), but again, I'd assume people will be talking come next year.
Oh, and just as a final thought, judging solely by the reaction of the (presumably) University-girl crowd, if Rob Schremp actually does make the team this year, the Oil will have to put one of those shock collars around his penis and give him a solid zap every time a blond in a crew neck squeals "Hi Robbie!", or he's going to have more one-night stands than powerplay points. The man will practically be swimming in fake tans and push-up bras the whole season.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Oilers Rookies 6, Shit-kicked Penalty-taking Losers 3
Posted by DMFB at 10:07 PM