One problem with preseason is that the quality of the teams you're playing varies wildly. Last night half of the Edmonton Oilers played a truly terrible version of the Florida Panthers. Tonight the other half of the Edmonton Oilers played a competent if unspectacular (no Sedins) version of the Vancouver Canucks. Now, this makes if awfully difficult to judge the guys on Team A against the guys on Team B. Pretty well everyone looked good against the Panthers and pretty well everyond looked poor against the Canucks, though in each case there were a few particular standouts and a few significant exceptions.
Mike Comrie basically won over the Edmonton crowd in a preseason game with three points and a fight. One of those points was a sublime pass across the crease on the 5v3 to Shawn Horcoff who tapped in the goal. His whole line (Patrick O'Sullivan and Ryan Stone who also killed penalties with some aplomb) looked great for a second game in a row and I think it's just possible that the three of them are together when the season opens for keeps against Calgary.
J-F Jacques also played well. He hit. He scored. He fought. He looked terrible killing penalties. Watching him play was like watching his AHL stat-line in action. If nothing else, it certainly helped me to realize why the Oilers find him a tough player to give up on. Hopefully he can manage to play to a similar level against some real competition.
Rob Schremp didn't stand out. On a night when Kip Brennan and Zack Stortini were creating chances, Rob Schremp didn't get anything going. At this point I would be very surprised if he made the team. Some of the guys making an impression have size on him which likely means that he's done. In fact, given a choice between Schremp and Brennan, I'd be betting on Brennan to make the team.
Bryan Young and Jake Taylor were exposed a number of times. On the winning goal Taylor made a pretty poor pinch and got left in the dust. Young then played the two on one about as poorly as possible. These guys were never going to be more than AHL defenders out of camp but the degree to which they were exposed shows how far ahead a guy like Smid (who wasn't perfect) is by comparison.
Gilbert Brule didn't look good on the left side with Hemsky and Gagner. He was trying to hit for sure and I guess that's commendable but it almost looked like a kid entering his first year of hitting. "Everyone's bigger and stronger but, by gosh I'm allowed to hit now and I'll go out of position to do it!" The only thing saving him from being cut is optics (Raffi Torres) and pedigree (top ten picks get plenty of chances).
Robert Nilsson was poor. A couple of stick penalties and a lot of dipsy doodling on a team that needs some guys playing more North-South hockey. His cap number might save him since, apparently, the Oilers lost a lot of money last year. Just ask Pat Laforge.
I thought that, of the bubble boys, Reddox was the most impressive. He played well positionally, put in tons of effort and got his licks in when they presented themselves. He basically plays the game the Oilers want Brule to play but has those same optics (Raffi Torres) and pedigree (top ten picks get plenty of chances) working against him.
The Penner-Cogliano-Eberle line had another nice game despite the +/- column. Cogliano had a pretty rough night on the draw on the PK but was actually decent at EV for the second straight game and it's not likely he'd be taking those PK draws in the regular season anyway since it's likely that Horc would be first choice and probably Pouliot second (assuming he makes the team). At any rate, the line was able to continue to generate chances and the Penner-Cogs pairing still looks good. I still think that the Oilers need to send Eberle away and would much prefer Potulny playing in his spot on this line but they're effective, so it's hard to complain too loudly.
So where are we at? Well, I think the seven D are set as the seven guys that were here last year. As for the F, I think we have Hemsky, Horcoff, Gagner, Cogliano, Pisani, Penner, O'Sullivan, Comrie and Moreau as locks. That's nine. Then probably Pouliot and Stortini next in line which makes 11. That leaves three spots for Brule, MacIntyre, Jacques, Nilsson, Stone, Brennan, Schremp, Potulny, Reddox and the rest. At this stage I'd be keeping Jacques, Stone and Reddox though I'd like to see more of Potulny. I think the Oilers will probably go with Brule and Nilsson over Stone and Reddox. Should be fun to watch over the next week! What a nice thing it is to have hockey back!