September 21 2011 05:31PM
Any fool watching these whiz kids who will soon be headed for Oklahoma City can see good things ahead for the farm in 11-12. A good crop one year ago (Omark, Petry) may give way to a watershed (Lander, Hartikainen, Hamilton, Pitlick, Teubert) some day soon. Could this be the Oilers all time best farm team?
I count the Oilers best all-time farm team as the 81-82 Wichita WInd. They didn't win the Calder Cup (by 92-93 the Cape Breton Oilers would win the coveted Calder) but it was a fine team and delivered a bounty to the NHL team. Here's a list of NHLers the Wichita Wind 81-82 team graduted to the world's best hockey league:
- Andy Moog, who had a couple of cups of coffee before and during 81-82 but established himself as a quality NHL prospect during this season. The Oilers would eventually deal Moog, but he was certainly one of the finest goaltenders of his era.
- Charlie Huddy, who would be a strong contributor to the best Oiler teams in history and play in over 1,000 NHL games. Huddy was not drafted, rather he was signed by the Oilers and spent parts of three seasons in the minors before graduating to the show. His development should serve as a strong reminder that good defensemen often take some time to develop. A splendid player.
- Walt Poddubny, who would flourish in the NHL. He played 468 games and scored 184 goals, 116 of those in a stunning three season run from 86-89.
- John Blum, who would play 250 NHL games (most with Boston) was signed by the organization from Michigan (NCAA) after his graduation from college.
- Don Jackson, who rescued his career in Wichita and performed well for the Oilers during the first portion of the Stanley runs (dealt Oct 86). He was a solid role player for the Oilers during those years.
- Tom Roulston, who played 195 NHL games (and 47 goals) for the Oilers just before they started bagging Stanley's every spring.
And there were a few cups of coffee, including Ray Cote who old timers like me will remember.
Once Moog and Huddy established themselves as NHL players, the Oilers were ready to run the table and they did it several times during the 1980's. That era ended too soon and for fans my age forced us to wake up to the reality of the situation: those kinds of teams come along (probably) once in a lifetime.
The new Oiler fan (basically anyone who doesn't have a strong memory of the 1990 team) is anywhere from 0 to 30 years old (or more depending how much you paid attention to hockey as a kid) at this time. A key element for the Oilers moving forward will be developing trade assets at the minor league level. If we can agree that this season's OKC team will likely send the big club Teemu Hartikainen and Anton Lander (as the main attractions) and then lesser lights like Chris VandeVelde, Corey Potter and Yann Danis, it's probably easy to identify possible trade items.
The OKC Barons are going to be extremely deep at center. The roster could boast all of Lander, Ryan O'Marra, Chris VandeVelde, Tanner House, Milan Kytnar, Ryan Martindale and Josh Green (who can also play wing) vying for time in the middle in the AHL.
Should the Oilers need to make toom for Martindale, a player like O'Marra may be offloaded during training camp or before the season begins. If the Oilers can get a draft pick--even a depth pick--that's another bullet for Stu MacGregor.
Who are this year's Moog and Huddy?
There are no Gretzky's, but there should be some really talented players in Oklahoma City this season. Here's my guess for the opening night lineup in OKC and the players with legit NHL hopes in bold:
- GOAL: Yann Danis, David LeNeveu
- DEFENSE: Bryan Helmer, Corey Potter, Taylor Chorney, Colten Teubert, Alex Plante, Kirill Tulupov, Taylor Fedun
- CENTER: Anton Lander, Ryan O'Marra, Chris VandeVelde, Tanner House, Milan Kytnar*
- LEFT WING: Teemu Hartikainen, Lennert Petrell, Curtis Hamilton, Josh Green, Phil Corent
- RIGHT WING: Ryan Keller, Mark Arcobello, Antti Tyrvainen, Tyler Pitlick, Hunter Tremblay
I think Motin, Abney and Roy start in the ECHL and wonder about Kytnar's health (that's why he's an asterisk).
That's a lot of black ink, a lot of bolded names. Whatever else we can say about Steve Tambellini, he's added a tremendous number of players who could end up being NHL players. Luck, desire and determination will count for a lot, but these young man have been acquired because there's something about them that gives them a chance to succeed in pro hockey.
You could have written the same thing about Charlie Huddy or Andy Moog in 1981 fall. This is the function of the American Hockey League, to take all of those junior snipers, defensive stars and quick gloved goalies and grind them into useful role players for an NHL team.