The Top 5 Edmonton Oilers Training Camp Battles to Watch in 2014
The Edmonton Oilers had a busy offseason attempting to address some major holes that have prevented the team from turning the corner during its rebuilding process.
While some might criticize the money paid to new players such as Benoit Pouliot and Nikita Nikitin, head coach Craig MacTavish has finally started to diversify the types of players on the Oilers' roster.
The new additions will lead to some interesting battles as incumbent players will want to prove they're deserving of the high billing received in Edmonton, while new players will compete for top minutes.
Here is a look at the top five Edmonton Oilers training camp battles to watch in 2014.
*All stats courtesy of NHL.com
Leon Draisaitl Battling to Stay in the NHL
When the Edmonton Oilers traded Sam Gagner for Teddy Purcell, it would have been safe to assume that the club was in the market for a second-line center to occupy the place voided by the departing Gagner.
However, this acquisition never materialized and Leon Draisaitl, the third overall selection in the 2014 NHL entry draft, almost became the second-line center by default.
The Oilers have graduated many of their top draft picks directly into the NHL in recent seasons. With the exception of Darnell Nurse, taken seventh overall last season, all of the Oilers' first round selections in the past four seasons have made the jump directly to the NHL.
Draisaitl’s size and skill set would suggest that he should be able to compete against larger men in the NHL, but the Oilers will want to ensure the correct developmental process for a man who should become a very significant piece of the puzzle.
Draisaitl should be one of the hardest-working Oilers at training camp this year as he attempts to prove that he is ready to make the jump without hindering his development.
The Oilers are almost guaranteed to give him a look as the regular season starts, but Draisaitl will have to demonstrate both physical and mental maturity if he is to stick in the NHL this season.
Scrivens vs. Fasth
For the first time in recent memory the Edmonton Oilers have respectable options at the goaltending position heading into training camp.
While Ben Scrivens appears to be the player who will be given all of the chances to succeed as the No. 1 netminder in Edmonton, Viktor Fasth will do all he can to impress Oilers management during the preseason.
Fasth has been hampered by injuries and has seen his performances decline after bursting onto the NHL landscape with the Anaheim Ducks during the 2012-13 season, but the Oilers will hope he can provide strong competition for Scrivens.
Scrivens played well for the Oilers after his acquisition last season, considering the team's lackluster defense surrendered the fifth most shots against in the NHL last year.
If Scrivens is to cement himself as the starter in Edmonton, his training-camp performance will go a long way toward setting the tone for his season.
The Young Defenders
With the additions of Mark Fayne and Nikita Nikitin, the Edmonton Oilers’ young defender prospects will have a battle on their hands for permanent positions heading into next season.
While Martin Marincin showed signs of being a capable NHL-caliber defender last season, he must impress during impressive training camp to stick with the Oilers to begin the year.
Darnell Nurse is most in need of a solid training camp, as the former seventh overall selection will want to avoid being sent back to the OHL for a second consecutive season.
Nurse has the size and he's striven to add a mean streak to his game during the offseason, but he'll need to demonstrate that his decision-making skills and spatial awareness have improved over last year’s training camp.
Another interesting prospect to watch during Edmonton's training camp will be the highly touted Oscar Klefbom.
Klefbom’s development has been hindered due to injuries and it is unknown as to whether the talented Swede will be able to take the next step this season and contribute to the Oilers in the NHL.
Will Yak Be Back?
The 2012-13 season was one to forget for Nail Yakupov. Struggling to adapt to Dallas Eakins’ system and the increased emphasis on defensive zone play, Yakupov saw his performance dip and ice time diminish.
Hopefully for Yakupov and for the Oilers, those struggles are a thing of the past, as the talented forward will look to establish himself as one of the Oilers’ main offensive threats.
The 2014-15 campaign will be crucial for Yakupov, as his contract is set to expire at season's end and the Oilers will need to decide whether he is a piece for the future. If not, they could try to trade the former first overall pick and recoup an asset.
A strong training camp for Yakupov will help prove to Eakins that he has improved his all-around game and regained some of the confidence he demonstrated in his rookie season.
The Center Struggle
After Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Boyd Gordon, the Edmonton Oilers have major questions surrounding who will play center for the team.
Leon Draisaitl is set to compete for a top role, but after that the Oilers have only Mark Arcobello and Anton Lander in competition for the position.
Arcobello showed signs of being able to be a contributor at the NHL level last season when he was promoted from the AHL. He could very well slot in as the second-line center for the Oilers should Draisaitl require more seasoning at the junior level.
Lander has failed to take the next step during chances with the Oilers. He does possess keen awareness of the defensive zone and is capable in the faceoff circle. The Oilers will want to see Lander seize this opportunity and command a roster spot coming out of training camp.
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