December 11 2011 11:44AM
When it comes to minor league teams, Oiler history is a "mixed bag." Some seasons delivered quality prospects while the minor league team was a loser or also-ran, and some teams were winners without sending much to the show. This year's OKC Barons have a lot of interesting stories.
Many of the "name" prospects on the Barons are along the blue. Jeff Petry (2, 0-1-1 +1) is in the NHL--maybe to stay. Young Colten Teubert (13, 2-3-5 +3) played so well in OKC he's now the first callup option (10, 0-1-1 E with the Oilers) and one of these days he'll be an Oiler to stay--he's currently playing for Edmonton in place of the suspended Andy Sutton. Alex Plante (24, 1-9-10 +13) is one of the defenders passed by Teubert this winter but Plante--another former first round pick--is having his best AHL season and could be playing his way back into the NHL mix with his first half performance. Plante was recalled earlier in the season by Edmonton, owing mostly to Teubert leaving his passport at home. Taylor Chorney (12, 1-4-5 E) has had an interesting season, including a short stint on NHL bluelines in Edmonton and St. Louis. The collegian from UND has settled in as a solid AHL level defenseman.
Veteran AHLer Bryan Helmer (24, 0-9-9 +2) is a quality minor league veteran and mentor for the baby Oilers.I am guessing, but suspect the presence of Chorney has made PP time less a factor this season for Helmer. Kevin Montgomery (18, 1-4-5 +10) was re-acquired early in the season after a couple of recalls from the big club and has been an effective member of the defensive rotation in OKC. Ryan Lowery (22, 1-6-7 +4) is somewhat unknown to Oiler fans but the Colorado College grad has enjoyed a smooth transition to pro hockey. Lowery has been so effecitive there's a chance Edmonton signs him to an NHL 2-way deal in the summer. The same can be said for giant Russian Kirill Tulupov (15, 0-4-4 +4) who gained some attention during training camp for a hit on Ben Eager.
Dan Ringwald (7, 0-2-2 E) is a 25-year old ECHL callup and would be considered a depth defender for the Barons. Dylan Yeo (8, 0-1-1 -2) is a similar prospect to Ringwald and isn't likely to emerge as a legit AHL option. Johan Motin (10, 0-2-2 +4) is back in Europe (Timra, SEL) and his status in the Oiler organization should be considered "fluid."
HOW DO WE IDENTIFY THE REAL PROSPECTS?
At the top end, it's very easy. When injuries, slumps and suspensions hit the big league team calls up the best available option. Here are the NHL games played for this Barons D so far this season:
- Jeff Petry 23, 1-4-5
- Colten Teubert 10, 0-1-1
- Taylor Chorney 4, 0-0-0
- Alex Plante 2, 0-1-1
Ater that, it becomes a little bit grey. Ordinarily, we could just list the defenders on the Oilers 50-man list (Petry, Teubert, Plante, Chorney, Taylor Fedun) but in this case it doesn't work because Fedun is injured and some of the "AHL contracts" have impressed enough to be in the mix for NHL/AHL contracts in the summer.
SO, WHAT'S YOUR GUESS?
Based on how they're being used and their on-ice results, I think we're going to see two AHL contracts make the grade and sign Oiler contracts in the summertime. Here's my depth chart based on all the facts available:
- Jeff Petry may not play in the AHL again.
- Colten Teubert has passed Plante and is the obvious "first callup" at this point.
- Alex Plante is gaining ground as a prospect via a strong first half in OKC.
- Taylor Fedun is a massive wild card, but if he recovers he'll get every chance.
- Taylor Chorney appears to be a quality AHL defender who struggles with NHL size/speed.
- Ryan Lowery is showing a nice range of skills and has adjusted well. He'll get a contract.
- Kirill Tulupov, like Lowery, has shown enough during his audtion with AHL contract to move up the line.
- Bryan Helmer seems to have a reduced role--at least a little--and that may impact his return next year.
- Kevin Montgomery has played well enough to win AHL veteran contract next season.
The rest--including Johan Motin--are unlikely to change their status next season based on results.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
It is unlikely that anyone beyond Jeff Petry and Colten Teubert finds a quality NHL career (and they are certainly not guaranteed that status, injuries and other things can interfere). However, Alex Plante's solid year and the performances of Tulupov and Lowery gives this group some potential. Taylor Chorney is now established as a defenseman who can move the puck but lacks the size and strength to win battles. His career had already started to meander when Edmonton reclaimed him on waivers. The Oilers procurement department is hiring prospects who could emerge as NHL calibre talents, and in that way fans should be pleased with the progress.Taylor Fedun could be another NHL defensemen, but we'll have to wait until 2012 fall to discuss it.
Next: OKC's forward and the possibility that the real star of this team is wearing a suit.