In this edition of Edmonton Oilers News & Rumors, I’ll share news about one superstar – Connor McDavid, two prospects – Evan Bouchard and Carter Savoie; and, finally – one defenseman – Darnell Nurse, who’s coming to a clearer understanding of how his role will change with Oscar Klefbom out for the season with an injury.
Item One: Connor McDavid’s Time with Auston Matthews Is Over
Connor McDavid has returned to Edmonton from Arizona where he had been hanging out and skating with Auston Matthews. Both young stars were working hard to prepare for the beginning of the 2020-21 regular season. The two might have hung out there longer except that it looks as if the NHL and the NHLPA have – mostly – settled on plans for the season to begin on January 13, 2021.
Both players will be headed to training camp soon and because they have to cross the USA/Canada border they’ll need to quarantine. In fact, both are likely to be doing that now.
Item Two: Will Evan Bouchard Become a More Defensive Defenseman?
While Oilers’ prospect Evan Bouchard has been playing for Sodertalje SK of Sweden’s HockeyAllsvenskan, one thing he’s been working on is the defensive side of his game. Bouchard was taken during the first round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft (10th overall), and it’s always been known that he has an offensive upside. In fact, that was the team’s first attraction to him.
However, if Bouchard is going to make the Oilers’ roster he’s going to have to become a more all-around defenseman. He noted in a recent interview with Sportsnet’s Gene Principe, “You’ve got to make sure your strengths stay your strengths, and (offense is) definitely a strength of mine.”
Bouchard added, “But I came over here really focusing on trying to work on the defensive end. I’m really trying to learn while I can here while trying to keep up the offense… The big ice is something I had to get used to, but I think in the long run it’s going to help me adjust really well going back home…I’m really excited. I want to be able to help out the team in any way they need me to. Getting to hopefully represent the Oilers this year is an exciting feeling… I think coming into camp having games played is going to help me.”
Bouchard’s been enjoying his time in Sweden and has scored six goals and 17 points in 23 games, but he’ll probably return to the Oilers after Sodertalje plays its final game before the Christmas break on December 16.
Item Three: Carter Savoie Has Been Hot to Begin His NCAA Career
Talk about making a good first impression. Carter Savoie has added up a five-game goal streak to start his NCAA career. Savoie scored sixth goal of the season and added an assist to help his University of Denver team post a 5-1 victory over Miami two days ago.
In total, Savoie – who was chosen during the fourth round (100th overall) by the Oilers during the 2020 NHL Entry Draft – has racked up eight points in the first five games of his freshman season.
Item Four: Darnell Nurse Has to Step Up to Take Oscar Klefbom’s Place
Darnell Nurse understands his role. With Oscar Klefbom likely out for the season with an injury, the team is looking to him to step up this season.
As Nurse admitted, “You lose a guy as big as Klef, every guy has to pick up a little extra. For me, playing the left side, a lot of that responsibility is going to fall on my shoulders. I look forward to the challenge.”
Nurse notes that he wants to help the Oilers improve defensively in 2020-21 and he personally feels ready to take on a larger role as a shutdown defender. However, Nurse isn’t talking about the kind of shutdown defender who played during the 1990s; instead, he’s talking a more modern version of the role.
As Nurse noted, “Shutdown guys are different now. Everyone thinks of the stereotypical shutdown guy from the ‘90s, early 20000’s. They didn’t cross the red line. I’ve watched every game — the games I am most effective is when I am moving my feet. It’s not just sitting back. It’s closing on things quick and taking away time and space.”
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