PENTICTON, B.C. – The Edmonton Oilers’ next generation can’t wait for a first taste of the Battle of Alberta.
“I’m excited,” said power forward Reid Schaefer, Edmonton’s first-round pick from last July’s draft in Montreal. “You just want to outwork them and out-compete them, and obviously get the win at the end of the day.”
The Oilers and Flames will face off on Saturday (10:30 p.m. ET) in the only game of Day 2 at the 2022 Young Stars Classic in Penticton.
Schaefer, 18, grew up in the Edmonton suburb of Spruce Grove. He cites Shawn Horcoff as his early idol and aims to emulate his playing style.
“He played a big two-way game,” Schaefer said of the former Oilers’ captain. “He took care of his D zone but also had that offensive upside as well. I think he was very steady as a leader and played a simple but hard, gritty game.”
After two years at the University of Denver and a Frozen Four championship in Boston last April, St. Albert’s Carter Savoie made it back to Edmonton in time to watch his hometown team’s run to the Western Conference Final last spring — including the Oilers’ dismantling of the Flames.
“I was at most of the games there,” recalled the 20-year-old winger on Friday, ahead of his own first game in an Edmonton jersey — back to the iconic royal blue this season. “It was super-exciting to watch. So much energy in the building, it was unbelievable.”
Meanwhile, Schaefer was capping off a breakout year on the ice at Rogers Place in June. His Seattle Thunderbirds reached the WHL championship series before falling in six games to the Edmonton Oil Kings.
The affable Schaefer also had one eye on the Oilers, never dreaming that he’d be drafted by his hometown team just a few weeks later.
“When we were playing against the Oil Kings there, we all went to that Joey’s right outside Rogers and were watching the game versus the Avalanche,” he grinned. “I kept in tune to their playoff run, yeah, and it was it was pretty fun to watch.”
Edmonton opened its round-robin schedule in Penticton with a 3-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Friday, before Calgary was shut out 3-0 by the Vancouver Canucks.
After Winnipeg’s Brad Lambert opened the scoring with a first-period snipe in the early game, Savoie showed off his playmaking skills on the Oilers’ opening goal. Three seconds after the Jets’ Simon Kubicek finished serving a hooking penalty, Edmonton’s fourth-round pick from 2020 served up a cross-ice feed to Darien Klieb, who one-timed the puck past Winnipeg goaltender Arvid Holm.
In the second, Michael Kesselring gave Edmonton a 2-1 lead before Greg Meireles re-tied the game with a power-play marker. The score remained 2-2 until James Hamblin’s game-winner for the Oilers, scored with less than three minutes remaining in regulation time.
In addition to Schaefer, the Oilers have three other first-round draft picks in their lineup in Penticton: forwards Xavier Bourgault (2021) and Dylan Holloway (2020) and defenseman Philip Broberg (2019).
The Flames’ roster features a pair of first-round forwards, Jakob Pelletier (2019) and Connor Zary (2020). Big Cole Schwindt is a new addition after being acquired in July as part of the Jonathan Huberdeau trade. He spent most of last season with the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers, and also got a three-game taste of the NHL with the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida Panthers.
At the AHL level last season, the Flames organization took bragging rights in that version of the Battle of Alberta. The Stockton Heat laid a first-round sweep on Edmonton’s farm team, the Bakersfield Condors, on their way to the third round of the playoffs — with netminder Dustin Wolf putting up a .929 save percentage along the way.
Wolf was solid in his Young Stars debut on Friday, making 33 saves against Vancouver. But after two scoreless periods, 2021-22 WHL scoring champion Arshdeep Bains beat Wolf for what proved to be the game winner at 5:58 of the third period. Tristen Nielsen, who played with the AHL Abbotsford Canucks last season, chipped in an insurance marker, and 2021-22 Swedish Hockey League rookie scoring champion Linus Karlsson added a late empty-netter.
With 24 saves, Arturs Silovs earned the shutout for Vancouver. After getting into just 10 games in Abbotsford last season, the 21-year-old is expected to battle for the club’s starting role this fall.
On Sunday, the Canucks and Jets will get back into action against each other (5 p.m. ET), before the tournament wraps up on Monday.
All games are being livestreamed on the teams’ official websites.