Good First Impressions...Nilsson Might Surprise a Few People.

Jason Gregor did some great work over at Oilersnation keeping us up to date on what was happening at training camp on Day 1. A few of the notes, with some observations thrown in:

The Good

Patrick O'Sullivan looks to be getting a good crack at the 1st LW spot and is excited about the opportunity. That said, an interview with Quinn today stressed that the Oilers might be able to run 3, possibly 4 balanced lines thanks to some unexpected size he wasn't aware the team possessed. "Pairings" was the word of the day for Quinn and the spot O'Sullivan holds after Day 1 seems flexible.

The net result means a possible separation of Horcoff and Hemsky, while they look for the best possible "pairing" that helps the team. Day 2 should see a different set of players together to test that theory.

The Somewhat Surprising but Positive

Dustin Penner and Zack Stortini looked a step faster. That's nice to see considering they'll be asked not only to be more physical but keep up offensively. This is likely an easier thing for Penner to do and he showed some evidence of his soft hands for a big man, but I see a big year for Stortini under Quinn's guidance. Stortini has proven to be a coach's type player and eager to not only follow instructions, but execute them beyond what is expected by a player of his skill level. He's got the size Quinn wants and more of an ability to score and produce offensively than I think many give him credit for.

Rob Schremp did a good job of getting noticed, when it's of critical importance he do just that. Based on the opinion of a lot of experts and many of the readers of this site, Schremp is currently among the forwards on the outside looking in and getting off to a good start is huge. His 5 on 5, wasn't the greatest which supports many of the negative comments about his game, but in odd-man situations and in sheer areas of skill he was better than almost anyone on the ice on Day 1. He'll need to keep that up if he has a prayer of staying put.

The Not So Good

Both Gilbert Brule and Oliver Roy left Sundays session a bit early due to what might be slight injury. Roy is expected among the first cuts on the roster and is really only going to be here for any length of time as will some others because Quinn stressed the importance of the team being an "organization" off the bat. Any injury, which we hear is minor won't affect the Oilers.

For Brule, this would be a bad sign for a forward really needing to make this team based on what he shows in camp. If he doesn't get the chance to, he's in tough and any spot he had a chance to earn could go to a Pouliot or another forward.

While not exactly having to compete for a roster spot, news on Lubomir Visnovsky's injury isn't terrible, but it isn't terrific either. Visnovsky could miss close to, if not all of camp thanks to his shoulder not quite being ready for contact and lacking full rotation. He's skating, running drills and learning the new system, but major competition isn't in the cards for him quite yet. He says it's a matter of a week, but the Oilers will most likely play it safe and only give him non-physical action for the next little while.

Mike Comrie didn't really have a chance to get noticed on Day 1, but I expect that to change on Day 2 as he'll get a much closer look in a top pairing. I wouldn't be surprised to see him lined up with Hemsky on Monday.

Under The Excellent News Section

Robert Nilsson. If you look around this site and many others, you'll notice a recurring theme. Nilsson seems to be the forward least likely to stick on the Edmonton roster when last year he was handed a spot. That said, both Nilsson and Quinn seem to have a different read on the situation and Nilsson could shock a few fans.

Pat Quinn was more than positive in his comments on Nilsson and what was showed on the first day of camp. Nilsson to his credit looked fantastic and Quinn's high hopes for the forward, considering his lack of experience with him could be warranted and from the tone of Quinns comments, Nilsson is only a few pieces shy of being one of Edmonton's better players.

An interview after Day 1 revealed that Quinn is very high on Nilsson's skill level and considers last years dissappointing season to be odd, more than a reflection of the player himself. Reading between the lines suggests Nilsson just needs to find that extra gear to stay competitive and remain the type of player he's capable of. Quinn did admit that Nilsson will be challenged for a roster spot thanks to the sheer number of forwards trying out, but something tells me Nilsson will rise to that challenge and continue to impress the coach.

For fans, that's not news. We know of Nilsson's ability. What might be news is that Quinn seems to feel he can really get that out of Nilsson and it sounds like he's going to give opportunities for Nilsson to make it work.

Where he'll fit and for that matter a lot of other's on the roster is still yet to be determined. For the most part even Quinn admits to not knowing fully, although he did comment that the line-up, while being tweaked, is set for the first two pre-season games.

If Day 1, tells us anything, which it shouldn't completely yet; it's that Nilsson, O'Sullivan and a couple others have made good first impressions.


I contend that the thing about Nilsson that many do not seem to notice is that he "thinks the game" differently -- more like a Gretzky than a MacTavish. That made it hard for him to fit well into a rigid system, as it would a number of other natural hockey players. That would have frustrated a coach who wanted players to fit into, rather than freely roam. If Quinn gives Nilsson space to play the game - that would be good.

Watching Nilsson on the ice showed that he was often a step ahead of others. In a way, that showed up too in his positive plus-minus.

I am not surprised with the training camp so far.

September 14, 2009 at 5:36 AM comment-delete

Nilsson is crazy good. If Quinn lets him play some Rob Schremp hockey then he will shine. I mean that haha.

Travis Dakin
September 14, 2009 at 8:01 AM comment-delete

I agree with both comments and feel that other fans may start to come around a bit when Nilsson starts to produce a bit more under new leadership.

Fans went from thinking he was the best potential Oiler a year after the Smyth trade to a waste of roster space. I'm sure they'll start to jump on the first bandwagon again when he does well.

September 14, 2009 at 9:39 AM comment-delete

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