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Rookie makes impression and veteran makes his manner again as Oilers kick off 2023-24

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And so it begins.

The lengthy highway to the 2023-24 NHL post-season started in earnest Sunday with the primary of eight (severely, eight!) pre-season video games for the Edmonton Oilers.

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What the Sunday afternoon showcase towards the Winnipeg Jets lacked in fireworks or drama, it made up for in knocking a kind of eight video games off the schedule.

A 2-1 loss within the shootout additionally give head coach Jay Woodcroft his first take a look at a number of the new gamers in camp (Drake Caggiula, Lane Pederson and Brandon Sutter up entrance), a few defenceman (Philip Broberg and Vincent Desharnais) trying to present how a lot progress they’ve made on defence and a junior-aged rookie (Beau Akey) trying to get his title on the market.

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“There was numerous actually good indicators,” mentioned Woodcroft. “Our veteran line of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Evander Kane and Zach Hyman actually set the aggressive tone for the sport and we bought actually good contributions up and down the lineup.”

Perhaps the very best shock of the night got here from Akey, Edmonton’s first choose within the 2023 draft (56th total). He adopted up his robust exhibiting on the rookie camp in Penticton with a stable outing towards Winnipeg in 17:26 of ice time.

“It’s fairly cool,” mentioned the 18-year-old. “The primary time moving into this ambiance in heat ups was fairly cool. You actually understand once you’re standing there how massive that rink is, how massive it feels.

“It’s positively a distinct mindset — you’re going from junior to actual NHL gamers. It’s positively a change of tempo. You’re considering I’ve to be good this shift as a result of I’m going towards these guys now.”

Woodcroft noticed extra good shifts than unhealthy for the Barrie Colts blueliner.

“You’ll be able to see why he was drafted the place he was, he has poise, he’s aggressive, he made numerous actually good performs with the puck and was unafraid of the stage,” mentioned Woodcroft.

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“That’s an excellent signal for our staff. He’s displaying a degree of maturity that I didn’t anticipate to see. In a 1-1 hockey sport at a time of 12 months when you’ll be able to experiment with issues, he didn’t look misplaced. He’s proven very effectively.”

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Akey goes again to Junior together with his sights set on making the Canadian World Junior staff, however he’s making good on his purpose of giving the coaches one thing to recollect.

“Realistically, Beau Akey is aware of he isn’t enjoying for the Edmonton Oilers in the course of October, however he desires to come back in and go away an impression,” mentioned Woodcroft. “One of many first steps to creating the NHL is to indicate that you simply belong on the identical ice floor as NHL gamers.”

On the different finish of the expertise spectrum, Sutter performed the primary sport in his comeback from two years away with lengthy COVID and has some catching as much as do, which is comprehensible. He’s the primary to confess the entire state of affairs is a shock to the system.

“It doesn’t actually settle in till you’re on the market for the primary shift,” he mentioned. “It felt a bit of off at first, for positive, but it surely was good to get the primary few shifts in. It should take a while, however all in all I’m pleased with the way it went. It’s very nice to get that first one underneath me.

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He admits it’s unusual for a 34-year-old veteran to be nervous earlier than the primary sport of the pre-season, however his is a singular state of affairs.

“I’ve by no means been jittery earlier than a pre-season sport earlier than but it surely was good. My youngsters had been right here, they hadn’t had an opportunity to see me play in three years they usually had been little then so that they in all probability don’t bear in mind something. It was sort of a particular night time for me.”

It’s going to be a course of. First he has to get his ft again underneath him, then he has to start out pushing towards a spot on the staff. For him, having eight pre-season video games on the schedule is ideal.

“It’s getting snug and enjoying once more,” he mentioned. “It suppose it takes three or 4 video games earlier than you’re feeling such as you’re as much as par, particularly when it’s been some time. Simply taking it a day at a time.”

• Dylan Holloway bought his season began with a punishing hit on Winnipeg’s Nikita Chibrikov 5 minutes into the primary interval. Holloway appeared good in all three zones.

• Edmonton’s energy play bought proper to work with Zach Hyman scoring on their first alternative 14:20 into the primary interval. Though Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl weren’t round to assist, Evan Bouchard, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Hyman made it look pretty routine.

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•  Goaltender Olivier Rodrigue had a stable begin to the pre-season. He made the entire massive saves he wanted to make (stopping 25 of 26 photographs) and solely allowed a first-period breakaway to beat him earlier than the shootout.

• So far as the veterans go, Kane seems to be like he’s in a significantly better place than he was within the wake of final season’s wrist harm. He hit the put up within the third interval and got here out on the fallacious finish of a few massive saves from Winnipeg goalie Collin Delia.

“It’s an harm that in all probability takes just a few years to get again to 100 per cent by way of sensitivity and feeling,” he mentioned. “However by way of performance I really feel nice.”

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