The Edmonton Oilers begin their rookie camp Thursday, where their young guns will suit up and head to Penticton for the 2016 Young Stars Classic. Edmonton’s rookies will square off against Vancouver Friday, and will play against Calgary and Winnipeg before the tourney concludes Monday.
With the tournament comes an impressive roster with plenty of names to watch, and some of these young guns could even steal a spot on the Oilers Opening Night Roster.
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The 2016 first-round pick will be participating in the Oilers rookie camp and tournament after sitting out for the summer with a knee injury. Puljujarvi has a lot of expectations and is one of the Oilers’ top prospects, especially given that he fell to the Oilers from third-overall. A playmaker who can carry his own line, Puljujarvi is definitely a player to watch in this tournament.
Another possibility is that the Finnish winger could provide significant depth on the right side, and move up in the lineup. It’s possible that he could combine well with someone like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Leon Draisaitl, and could help these players boost their numbers and create more scoring chances on the bottom lines.
Edmonton lacks depth and skill on the right wing, and if Puljujarvi proves impressive, he could fill the void on the right side, and prove to be an upgrade over the struggling Nail Yakupov.
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Probably the highest sought-after NCAA free agent (pre-Jimmy Vesey), Caggiula is coming off a milestone year. Not only did he put up top numbers, but he also led North Dakota to the NCAA championship title.
The centre, who can also play the wing, had an impressive development camp with Edmonton this July, and could have what it takes to win a spot on the Oilers’ bottom six. Despite lacking in size, the 5-foot-9, 170-pound forward has strong stickhandling skills and the ability to create scoring opportunities. Caggiula also averaged 1.31 points per game this past year.
Leading the pool of talented blueliners participating in camp is right-hand shot Ethan Bear. The Sasketchewan native had a breakout year with the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds after going in the fifth round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
In 69 games, he posted 65 points (19 G, 46 A) and was named one of the hottest players in the WHL. Bear’s success carried into the playoffs, where he led Seattle to a deep run and racked up 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists) in just 18 postseason matches.
Bear is probably the Oilers top defensive prospect, and is the closest to making it to the big leagues. However, he will likely take another year in juniors before transititoning to the AHL and eventually, the NHL.
Edmonton-born Tyler Benson will be participating in the Young Stars Classic, and is one of the top players to watch after an impressive development camp this summer. He was a steal in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, selected 32nd Overall by Edmonton to kick off the second round.
Other players to watch include defensive prospects Markus Niemelainen, Dallas Valentine and Matthew Benning. Niemelainen was a gem in the third-round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, and has the potential to be a strong-performing blueliner in the NHL for years to come.
Valentine and Benning are two unique names on the roster; both of them are big, tall right-hand shots that could be assets in improving the Oilers depth on the right side of their defensive corps.
NCAA free agent goaltender Nick Ellis will be in net for the camp, as well as other goaltending prospects Dylan Wells and Kevin Bouchard.