Habs Eyes on the Prize: The Oilers are stacked with well-known first round draft picks, but who are some of the lesser known prospects (Slepyshev, Pakarinen), that are making waves with the Oilers that people may not be familiar with?
Copper and Blue: Anton Slepyshev has come into Edmonton and impressed early. He signed his 3-year ELC back in May, and came into this year's camp as a man on a mission. In the preseason, he put up four points in seven games, but has struggled a bit in the regular season. He is 21 years old, and spent the last four years playing against men in the KHL and MHL, where he was known for having a really great shot. One thing that has impressed me most about him is his willingness to use his body. You don't always see that in players coming from Russia.
I never expected Slepyshev to make the team out of camp, and the fact that he is still around shows that Todd McLellan and the rest of his staff see something they like from him. At 6'2 and 187 pounds, he has the size to be a strong power forward, and has the speed to help complement it. He still needs some work, but I would see him playing a big role in the Oilers top nine moving forward.
EOTP: How healthy is the Battle of Alberta? Both teams have seen their share of struggles in recent history, but when Calgary and Edmonton play against one another, is there still a feeling of heightened anticipation from the fan base? Who would be considered the Oilers 'rival' at this point?
C&B: Sadly the Battle of Alberta is pretty docile right now. I hate to say it, but the Flames have certainly had the Oilers number in the last few years. Since 2010, the Oilers have gone 7-25-0 against them. The Oilers did beat the provincial rivals 5-2 earlier this season, so hopefully that is a sign of things to come, but right now, the Oilers' only rival is themselves.
EOTP:Benoit Pouliot was signed to a long-term deal with the Oilers a couple of seasons ago, in a move that the Habs fan base reacted to with surprise, and frankly mockery. How has he played, and is there a sense of redemption for him, where the Oilers fan base believe he is living up to his contract?
C&B: Benoit Pouliot's signing was one that I didn't expect. He struggled to find his spot early last year, but his scoring exploded from January until the end of the year, when he was paired with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle. He put up 22 points in 31 games with that pair. This year, he is playing wing to Connor McDavid and Nail Yakupov, and is doing everything and more than what is asked of him.
He has been a strong two way player and he has the size and skill to be a threat in the offensive zone. At the age of 29, the only thing that concerns me is if he will be able to continue to be productive to the age of 33. He is due $4 million a year for another four years, so we will see what happens. None the less, I am happy with how Pouliot has performed with the Oilers. The veteran presence is a much needed boost in our top six, especially considering he is alongside McDavid and Yakupov.
A big thanks to Zach Laing from Copper and Blue for participating in this exercise. I responded to their questions as well, and you can check out the answers I gave on their site ahead of tonight's game.