by Lisa McRitchie on 06/29/12 at 04:15 AM ET
You already knew that Edmonton loves their Oilers, and this week offers nothing but more evidence to support the assessment. This week, all of the Oilers’ prospects have travelled from their home bases to work with the Oilers training and development staff and to see where they stack up against the other prospects. Most days of the development camp are mundane drills, nothing even slightly exciting. And yet the fans pour into Millenium Place in Sherwood Park, at least 500 I would say if I had to wager a guess. Some fans just pop in for a half hour or so, often just to see Yakupov, while others stay for the nearly 3 hours of drills hoping to catch a glimpse of greatness.
Camp will get a little more interesting when on the final day the players will focus on scrimmaging, but in the meantime, the team has had no problem drawing a crowd. With another losing season under their belt and a long offseason the Oilers’ professional team hasn’t delivered as much buzz and excitement as these junior affiliates have this week, and that’s a telling sign.
Fans consult their information sheets the team has provided and compare notes with those in the stands around them. Old, young and everyone in between has latched onto the idea that the team is about to turn a corner, and they expect that a few of these youngsters can make the difference. This of course includes 2012 first overall draft pick Nail Yakupov.
Yakupov delighted the crowd today, fist pumping and celebrating every goal scored on a drill. For some this was extremely disrespectful and concerning, but for most this was exactly what they came to see. People want to see young Oilers who want to win, who want to get excited and who can give the crowd something to cheer about. And Yakupov knows that. Young Nail may not know much about Edmonton right now, but he does know that the fans want to cheer again, they want to leave their seats and leave the arena with hoarse throats from cheering. Maybe Yakupov knows how to make that happen too.
For many, this was also their first chance to see the much talked about Oscar Klefbom, the defenceman of the future. Klefbom is still a year away from coming to North America due to his Swedish Elite League contract, and if the NHL sees a shorter season this year, it will be perfect that Klefbom stays and plays in Europe. It is true that the Oilers need help on the back end, but there is absolutely no reason to rush a defenceman like Klefbom through his development and onto the ice before he is completely ready for it.
For some of these players, this is a great opportunity to work with the coaches in Oklahoma City, their coaches for the next season. Baron’s assistant coach Rocky Thompson was having his fun with players he had worked with last season such as goaltender Olivier Roy and of course talking to the big guy, Kyle Bigos who could one day be learning the art of fighting from Thompson like so many before him.
Todd Nelson and Rocky Thompson
Because the summer in Edmonton can feel long and hockeyless, crowding a community arena over the July long weekend may be at the top of many Edmontonian’s lists. Even if it’s just drills. If Justin Shultz wants to play in a Canadian city where hockey is the biggest sport and where the fans seem to live and breathe for their NHL team, he need look no further than Edmonton, the team he met with on Thursday. But now we wait.
Kristians Pelss, Mitch Moroz and Nail Yakupov
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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