James Hamblin keeps pushing for spot on Edmonton Oilers’ roster

It’s easy to label James Hamblin as an underdog to play in the NHL. He wasn’t drafted, and he stands only five-foot-nine.

Yet as the Edmonton Oilers’ pre-season comes to an end Friday against the Seattle Kraken, he’s still fighting for a spot on the team.

“I’m just here doing my best,” Hamblin said after Thursday’s practice.

“Whether I’m an underdog or not, I don’t really care.”

Hamblin, 23, spent the last two seasons in the AHL with the Bakersfield Condors, where he was coached by Jay Woodcroft for a season-and-a-half.

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“When he first came in during the pandemic year, I didn’t know much about him,” Woodcroft recalled. “I watched a little bit of video on him. He was someone who stood out on a day-by-day basis — kept getting better.

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“He gradually increased his minutes played and his importance in our forward grouping down there.”

“I know all of his systems,” Hamblin said of Woodcroft. “Nothing is really knew to me.

“I can just jump in and play my game without having really to think.”

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The Oilers signed Hamblin to a two-year deal in the off-season. He has made the most of it so far. He was one of the leaders at the Young Stars tournament in Penticton, B.C., in September. In the pre-season, he’s netted two goals.

NHL profile photo on Edmonton Oilers player James Hamblin at a game against the Calgary Flames in Calgary, Alta. on Sept. 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Larry MacDougal. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Larry MacDougal

“I set a goal of trying to make the team out of camp. Obviously, I know the hurdles I have to get over to do that,” Hamblin explained.

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“I have to do all the little things right, being that versatile player. I think that’s what is eventually going to get me up into this league.”

“He’s still fighting every day. Every rep he gets in practice is important to him,” Woodcroft noted.

The Oilers host the Seattle Kraken on Friday night. You can listen to the game live on 630 CHED, beginning with The Faceoff Show at 5:30 p.m. The actual game is at 7 p.m.

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