Jordan Eberle is on the phone from Oklahoma City on a coolish day in December, wondering how his teammate Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is making out at the Canadian world junior team’s tryouts in Calgary.
“Think he’s going to make the team?” asked Eberle, with a laugh.
Yes, not going to be a problem. The Oilers placed Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Justin Schultz on their AHL farm team this year, in the hopes that they can develop some chemistry and camaraderie that will eventually follow them to Edmonton, when NHL play resumes.
Hall wasn’t there at the start because he was recovering from shoulder surgery, but upon arriving in Oklahoma City, the other three determined that the commute from their apartment complex to the arena was so short that they could do it by bicycle, rather than by car. So they ventured out to the nearby Wal-Mart, bought the cheapest bikes imaginable, and are still getting back and forth from the rink that way, according to Eberle.
“It gets pretty cold here, but not cold enough that you can’t bike or anything, so it’s been good,” said Eberle. “It’s a great little place. We live about four minutes from the arena, a four-minute bike ride, so it was a good idea.”
For Schultz, getting a chance to play with three future Oilers teammates in Oklahoma City has been invaluable.
“We all hang out together off the ice, and it kind of starts there,” said Schultz. “On the ice, we’re finding some chemistry now. We’re really playing well together. So that’s going to be huge when we make that jump to Edmonton and start having some success up there.”
Eberle knew Schultz only by reputation before October, but says he’s lived up to the advance billing.
“He’s such a smart defensive player,” said Eberle. “He knows when to jump in and when to stay back. Something he doesn’t get enough credit for is his defensive play. He’s always in the right position and he’s always got his stick on the puck. He’s been our best defenceman for sure and he definitely has a bright future in Edmonton.”