The Oklahoma City Barons: Injuries and Call-ups

Last weekend’s games against Norfolk ended up being costly for both the Admirals and the Barons. News came today that Tyler Pitlick and Tanner House are both concussed, and that Antti Tyrvainen has a broken wrist. The Barons have responded to the injuries by calling up Toni Rajala, Philippe Cornet and Cam Abney.

The links above have the details; OilersNow tweets that the timeline for Tyrvainen is about six weeks and the timelines for Pitlick and House are roughly a week. All three will miss Wednesday’s game against the Texas Stars, but Pitlick and House could presumably be back in the lineup in time for Saturday’s game against Charlotte.

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For the injured players, the important thing is not to rush them back into the lineup. If the Barons lose an extra game because Tyler Pitlick is taking his time coming back from a concussion, I’m highly confident that the organization would be fine with that. I’m sure the temptation to get back into things quickly will be there for the players – Pitlick is a relatively important prospect for the organization but has struggled to score this season and needs to do more, while House was on the outs to start the year but has been playing himself back into the picture. But the long-term health of both needs to be the priority.

For the call-ups – particularly given how Oklahoma has struggled to find secondary scoring – this represent and opportunity.

Philippe Cornet is the name likely most familiar to Oilers fans. He picked up an assist in an NHL cameo last year, playing two games with the Oilers after a stellar first half in Oklahoma City. In 38 games between October and January, Cornet had scored 21 times on just 67 shots (an insane 31.34 shooting percentage). He slid as the year went on, scoring only three times on his next 68 shots, and found himself in the ECHL to start the season.

Cornet has enjoyed a solid start to the year, though. Through 14 games in Stockton he has eight goals and 11 assists, along with a plus-8 rating, and is averaging three shots per game.

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Toni Rajala, while less familiar, is having an even better start to the year. The diminutive winger (listed at 5’10”, 163lbs) was a fourth-round pick back in 2009, but has spent the last two seasons in Finland after a point-per-game campaign in the WHL at age 18. He’s currently fourth in ECHL scoring with 11 goals and 23 points over 14 contests, and all of the guys in front of him have played more hockey. Rajala is averaging five shots per game. Of interest: he once broke Alexander Ovechkin’s record for scoring in an under-18 tournament.

Rajala is a long (long, long) shot ever to play a role on the Oilers – for all his offensive brilliance in the ECHL he’s a tiny scoring winger who may or may not be up to the challenge of AHL hockey. However, he’s certainly earned the opportunity and he just might add some offensive punch to an Oklahoma City team that could use the help.

The final call-up is Cameron Abney, who had one fight over three games in an earlier stint with the Barons. Thus far in his professional career, he has 52 games split between Stockton and Oklahoma, six points, and 180 penalty minutes. He was not impressive as a hockey player in his brief Oklahoma cameo this year, but he can skate and he’s plenty tough.

Rajala is the guy I’m most interested to see – I don’t really think of him as an NHL prospect, but he has a pretty good track record of scoring wherever he has been and this will be his first opportunity to play North American professional hockey at a high level.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

  • I also wonder a little if this might not be a bad time to bump Hall to center? Something like this:

    Hartikainen – RNH – Eberle

    Paajarvi – Hall – Rajala

    Byers – Lander – Arcobello

    Cornet – VandeVelde – Hamilton

    • Light, Sweet, Crude

      This is exactly the time to be trying Hall in the middle. I’ve read a few comments expressing concern over Hall’s shoulder and taking draws with it, but really the kid is doing way tougher stuff than that all over the ice every game. If he can play C that adds a few welcome options for building the team.

    • The first time they’ve got Lander going all season, and you want to mess with that line?

      I think at some point, you have to prioritize development over wins, and getting Lander back on track in the AHL should be a priority. I would try to run something like…


      I think Hamilton deserves a bit of a push too. His offense has disappeared since coming to the AHL, but one has to wonder how much that might have to do with consistently playing near the bottom of the line-up. Playing with Arcobello and Cornet would give him a couple of guys who can score against AHL competition.

      This team should exist, as far as the forwards go, to keep the NHL kids at game speed, and to develop Pitlick, Hamilton, Lander, Hartikainen and Paajarvi. If another player can prove he belongs in that bubbling under group, fine. Long-shots turn out to be much better than expected all the time. But right now, I don’t see a clear instance of a guy who is a long-shot who might be a NHL player ahead of the propsects that have higher pedigree. At least, not on the forward lines. Fedun might be that player on the back-end, but we shall see.

      • I don’t really want to mess with the Lander line, but I’d also like to see Hall given a go at center.

        The other thing is that Nelson likes to use the VandeVelde line as a defensive zone unit to some degree – I can’t see Rajala playing there. My bet is Rajala’s in the top-nine or a healthy scratch, unless VandeVelde moves up.

  • Light, Sweet, Crude

    Rajala may be small but so to is RNH…….there are a lot of small players that do relatively well and maybe Rajala will be one of them.

    For small players it all boils down to foot speed and not being afraid to get hit. Playing with RNH on the same team may give him some ideas on how not to get hit.

  • Mantastic

    I have brought this up previously, ” why can’t
    Paajarvi play center” ?
    Size, speed, skates, has defensive abilities, and could be good set up man for wingers.

    • RexLibris

      Agreed. If the Hall-at-centre experiment is given the go ahead, maybe swap him with Arcobello. I’d like to see Lander-PRV-Harty for a few more games, personally, and there is no other logical choice for the 4th line out of these players in my opinion, unless you’re scratching someone and letting Abney play.

  • RexLibris

    From my perspective, Rajala is to the Barons what Omark is to the Oilers. If he isn’t in a scoring role, then his inclusion is pointless (pardon the pun).

    As for Pitlick, is it too late to wish it was his shoulder?

    I’d agree with Willis that this at least offers the opportunity to test drive Hall at center. One question though: is he ready? He’s just now getting up to speed, would moving him to that new position be too much to handle at one time?

    The general sentiment that development at this point should trump wins is spot on, in my opinion. As much as it galls me to see the Heat so far ahead in the standings I have to remind myself that of those players there are very few who would be playing in the NHL either this season or next.

    I wonder if Todd Nelson is relieved with Tyrvainen breaking his wrist? At least Abney might take fewer penalties.

    • DSF

      The Flames are much better than you think they are.

      And, with a couple of deft moves, could be right in the hunt.

      Your anti-Calgary bias colours everything else you write.

      • striatic

        With a couple deft moves, Detroit could be in business.

        With a couple deft moves, the Isles could be in business.

        With a couple deft moves, the Oil could be in business.

        Get my drift? One of your worst arguments

      • RexLibris

        My being an Oilers fan certainly leaves me open to that accusation, and to be fair there are times where I indulge in the usual banter between teams.

        That being said, I tried to be very attentive to any potential bias when writing the Calgary rebuild article, and my opinions on Feaster and Weisbrod are a result of, what I hope is, an informed opinion.

        As for Calgary being back in the hunt by trading Iginla, Kiprusoff, and Bouwmeester for three 1st round picks in a deep draft…

        That is unusually optimistic for you to say. I don’t mean that to sound accusatory, but rather that I have noticed a general tendency for you to err on the side of caution.

        Would it interest you to know that I have just recently finished drawing up a somewhat detailed four-year plan of how I would re-structure (they don’t like that rebuild word in Calgary) the Flames?

        I’ll cover just the three items you’ve suggested. The Flames trade Iginla – regardless of what they receive they now need to man the RW with Cammalleri, Stempniak, Jackman and perhaps Nemisz. That’ll do for one season, maybe two. However they have virtually no RW prospects ready for pro. Akim Aliu is ranked behind Nemisz and he is projecting at barely a replacement level right now.

        They trade Kiprusoff, with whom will he be replaced? If we assume that another goalie comes back in any trade we have immediately diluted the return in other areas and still have weakened a part of the roster that has been absolutely crucial to what limited success they have had.

        Trading Bouwmeester is the right thing to do. They absolutely need to make that move. However, they cannot possibly trade him and expect to be able to replace him with any other player internally. They simply don’t have the prospects. Currently their best defensive prospect at the pro level is T.J. Brodie. Following that is Tyler Wotherspoon, then Ryan Culkin and Patrick Sieloff, all still in the NCAA/CHL ranks.

        Their window has closed. Management simply refuses to admit it and continues to insult the fan base by telling them they have a chance. Anyone critical of the Oilers’ management woes over this last half dozen years should recognize and appreciate that.

        I do not believe the deft moves are there to take, nor do I believe that Feaster is the one to successfully make them even if they did exist. I have no doubt that some of this is tainted by bias, but even when accounting for it I cannot be optimistic about anything other than their chances at the draft.

        I’ll be very interested to hear your observations about the Flames rebuild series. I’d appreciate the feedback and I have no doubt it will spark some controversy.

        • DSF

          If we look at where the Oilers were in 2009, I see the Flames being in a similar situation EXCEPT the Flames have assets to trade that the 2009 Oilers didn’t, save, perhaps, Ales Hemsky.

          Your notion that the Flames need to replace Iginla, Kiprusoff and Jaybo, while certainly true, assumes everything needs to be accomplished in one offseason. It doesn’t.

          If we assume the Flames were to receive the equivalent of 1st round picks in a very deep draft, they could, theoretically, walk into the draft with 4 first round picks in their quiver.

          Given how quickly draft picks are moving into NHL employment, that could trigger a move toward a more promising future very quickly, not to mention those trades would also free up nearly $20 million in cap space with which to sign free agent replacements.

          It’s not like there is no precedent for this kind of quick rebuild.

          Dale Tallon adopted exactly this kind of rebuild strategy in 2010 when he he had 3 first round, 3 second round and 3 fourth round picks and then rounded out his roster with free agents.

          As we have seen, the Panthers not only made an almost immediate move up the standings but also managed to amass the best prospect pool in hockey all in one off season.

          Now, you may be correct that Feaster may not be the guy for the job but that doesn’t mean the task is impossible.

          The plodding, slow rebuild the Oilers are involved in is just one way to skin the cat.

          • RexLibris

            I’ve been accused of framing every other rebuild in terms relative to the Oilers’ chosen approach. This is interesting as the point of the exercise, and something about which I have been very vocal here on the Nations, is that each and every team must find their own way to restock a roster.

            I absolutely agree that the Flames have the assets to move that the Oilers didn’t. In that way, it would seem that they could jumpstart the process. However, when I ran through the process the only way it cuts short the rebuilding time is if one accelerates the development and graduation process for those prospects. The same situation you propose.

            It could be done, but barring exceptionally mature talent, it is perhaps best not done and usually ushers in a return to mediocrity or worse.

            This draft is deep, and were Feaster really serious about his job he would have already moved Iginla, Kiprusoff and others for as many 1st and 2nd round picks in this year’s draft as possible. Instead he trades away their 2nd round pick this year for Ramo and Cammalleri.

            The task is hardly impossible, but they have such a very long way to go, and are quickly running out of ways to get there, that I think they will find themselves facing a long rebuild by dint of ownership’s refusal to accept reality.

            So I agree with you, just in a different kind of way.

          • DSF

            I guess where we disagree is that they have a long way to go.

            I think they could turn things around in very short order if they had the right mindset.

            So far, they haven’t shown that they do but that could change.

          • B S

            You compare Calgary to the ’09 Oilers, but with assets (I will grant that Iginla, and Kipper are better than anything the Oilers had in ’09), then exclaim that by losing these players your team will be better with prospects. If your constant criticism of the Oilers rebuild has focused on anything it is the lack of certainty around the success of any prospect (injuries, head-cases, overestimated talent etc.). League talent is already watered down, yet you seem confident that the Flames can replace Iginla and Kipper with prospects who will, collectively be BETTER (otherwise it’s just another 9th place team) within 3-5 years.

            You would be better off looking to Ottawa for an example of an on-the-fly revitalization. Trade for some decent young players, bring them up with your elite, professional players (read your star players) and transition while competing for the playoffs. Good Luck.

          • RexLibris

            The crux of Ottawa’s ability was that they already had a stable full of decent defensive prospects and, most importantly and something that fans of both the Oilers and Flames can understand, a bona fide young first-line center.

            Without Spezza the Senators are left floundering.

            The Flames don’t have a single asset that is of the quality, age, or position around which a team can be built (Baertschi is good, but not that good, and we have seen how well building around a winger has worked for them in the past). They need to acquire and develop that player.

            I wholeheartedly agree that they need to do that at this year’s draft.

      • OilClog

        Did you just say that..

        Yeah so they get some picks and hope this one miracle draft saves the franchise and ease’s the burden of losing not just iginla not just jay bo but kipper too!

        That’s a 5-10yr rebuild if I’ve ever seen one.. Wait..

      • DSF

        Wow – really reaching on this one. With a couple of deft moves, perhaps Vancouver could win a cup?

        You’re better with Minnesota having great young players. They do. Edmonton’s are better, though.

        I’d bet they’ll win a cup before Vancouver. Sucks to be them – so close…

  • Time Travelling Sean

    Calgary would trade Iginla to a contender, so that’s a 25th-30th overall pick.

    They trade Kipper to who? Who would take a 35+ yr old goalie and give up a first to get him?

    J-Bow, maybe a 1st and a contract, but probably a contract and a 2nd.

    • DSF

      Not reasonable assumptions at all.

      There are generally about 20 teams in playoff contention before the trade deadline. Could be any one of them.

      Kiprusoff is an ideal pick up for a playoff bound team with only one more season remaining on his contract.

      The Flames wouldn’t trade Jaybo for a second and a contract. They would just keep him.

      A defenseman who can play 30 minutes a night is of huge value to any team in the playoffs and he also has only one more year remaining on his contract.

      • Time Travelling Sean

        I can’t see any playoff bubble team Iggy accepts a trade to that isn’t a SC favourite.

        Maybe they get rid of Kipper, and then they’d lose Jaybo for nothing if they’re really intending to make a splash at the draft. Also most teams can’t absorb 6.6M that’s in the playoff mix so that’s why I think they’d only get a 2nd and a prospect.

        Also doesn’t Jaybo have 2 years left? This year and next?

        • DSF

          Contracts are pro-rated throughout the season so no need to absorb any $6.6M cap hit….would be much lower.

          We have no idea which teams Iginla would accept a trade to…speculating it had a to be a “favourite” is daft.

          Were the Kings and Devils “favourites”?

          And, yes, Jaybo and Kiprusoff have one more year remaining on their contracts.

          What’s your point?

  • Time Travelling Sean

    So Iginla would accept a trade to a 9th place team? or would he go to Philly or Pittsburgh?

    I still don’t think Kipper is worth a first, Bouwmeester maybe.

    Point is even if Calgary had the mind to do a 2 year restructure they couldn’t, not with just those three pieces.