Ten Games In: AHL Report Cards

Jonathan Willis
November 05 2012 10:19AM

We're now 10 games into Oklahoma's season, and that seemed like a good time to grade players on their performance so far.

Head of the Class

Justin Schultz: A+ (10GP – 6G – 9A – 15PTS, +6). It’s pretty hard to find anything bad to say about the rookie defenceman who just happens to be leading the league in scoring. He’s been the best of the Oilers’ young stars; his offensive game is already likely outpaces every defender currently on the NHL club; he can skate, shoot, pass and he’s smart to boot. He should step right on to the Oilers’ top power play unit when this lockout ends.

Jordan Eberle: A (10GP – 6G – 5A – 11PTS, +3). Eberle is delivering pretty much as expected in the minors; despite a slow start points-wise (one goal over his first four games) he’s now tied for fifth in league scoring and is clearly a superior player at this level.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: A- (9GP – 3G – 7A – 10PTS, +2). The comments here are much the same as they are with Eberle; offensively, he’s out of his league at this level. On the other hand, he’s also getting an opportunity to take own zone draws and play the role of ‘two way center’ – and he’s still a little rough in that department. Even so, he’s an outstanding AHL’er and he doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his physical game – he throws a good hit, and he isn’t shy about hammering a guy if he takes a hit, either.

Teemu Hartikainen: B+ (10GP – 3G – 6A – 9PTS, +4). I’ve been awfully impressed with Teemu Hartikainen, though he clearly isn’t at the same level as Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins. He’s been an effective guy in front of the net, and he’s been a pretty decent wingman for the NHL kids. The play typically dies on his stick more than it does on that of the other two, and despite improvements in his skating he’s not exactly fleet of foot, but he’s shown enough that he might get a skill line audition when NHL hockey returns.

Mark Arcobello: B+ (9GP – 3G – 4A – 7PTS, -1). Arcobello gets high marks because he’s been the only guy off the NHL lines to consistently generate offence; he’s also second in even-strength scoring on the team to Hartikainen. He’s small and his defensive game needs work – I’m not just saying that, he’s actually had trouble at points – but he’s a high-end AHL player and is going to be vital to the team’s fortunes once the NHL kids leave.

Martin Marincin: B+ (9GP – 2G – 2A – 4PTS, +6). I’ve been harping a little bit on the rough points in Marincin’s game, and they are definitely there – he’s a rookie professional, and there are moments when he definitely looks it. However, the raw skill level is exceptional – he’s huge, a good skater, and a surprisingly good offensive option. He’s probably two full seasons away from major-league play, but he’s an exceptional player: he just needs to smooth down the rough points.

Colten Teubert: B (10GP – 0G – 1A – 1PTS, EV). In terms of his defensive game, Teubert’s been okay. He’d probably look better if he were playing with another veteran. Even at the AHL level, he doesn’t at this point look like a pure shutdown defender (though it should be mentioned that his game is trending up of late). His physical presence has earned rave reviews, though – he laid a licking on Brett Bulmer one night for a late hit and followed it up the next game with immediate retribution for Antoine Roussel’s knee-on-knee hit on Jordan Eberle.

Fair To Middlin’

Brandon Davidson: B- (6GP – 0G – 1A – 1PTS, EV). Davidson had a relatively impressive start before being diagnosed with cancer; he’s out of the lineup for the foreseeable future. He’s not a strong skater but he has a nice range of skills and the brains to compensate for that limitation. He does a lot of things well but doesn’t have any one standout quality.

Olivier Roy: B- (4GP, 2-2-0, 0.915 SV%). Roy’s second professional season started much the way his first did; he looks like a legitimate prospect and has fared well in his four starts. IT’s far too early too say much, of course – other than that he’s never going to be a plus puck-handler.

Magnus Paajarvi: C+ (10GP – 2G – 4A – 6PTS, -1). Paajarvi can flat-out play, but… is he going to be a scorer? It’s the same question that’s been debated 100 times (at least) around these parts, and it’s the same thing I ask myself every time I watch him play. He’s one the power play point in OKC (though the arrival of Hall has shifted the alignments), where he’s been a good distributor but not much of a shooter. He takes a lot of shots at evens but he hasn’t been consistently dangerous.

Chris VandeVelde: C+ (9GP – 0G – 3A – 3PTS, +1). Offence is not a good way to judge this player. In the early going, VandeVelde has been Todd Nelson’s go-to checking line center. Nelson doesn’t seem to employ a defensive zone line (every forward, including Ryan Martindale seems to have been used in the defensive zone) and also seems to stick to power-vs.-power in the matchups, but VandeVelde’s the guy out for critical draws with the game winding down, or out on the penalty kill.

Taylor Fedun: C (10GP – 0G – 3A – 3PTS, EV). It’s been an uneven start for Fedun. A clearly bright player with good passing ability, he’s mostly been a third-pairing guy out of the gate and has struggled (though not to the extent of usual partners Ringwald and Plante). Still, he’s coming off a full season lost to injury – he deserves a lot of slack in the early going.

Tyler Pitlick: C (9GP – 0G – 2A – 2PTS, -1). Seventeen shots on the season; not a single goal. Last year, Pitlick fired the puck 130 times and scored just seven goals. It’s easy to see what the fuss is about, watching him – he’s a good possession player, rushing and passing and while not a power forward per se he’s also a decent physical player. Still: the lack of offense is disappointing, particularly since Todd Nelson has given him a second-line push since Day 1.

Dane Byers: C (10GP – 1G – 1A – 2PTS, EV). Byers has been confined to the fourth line until recently, and I don’t think his numbers on the season reflect his actual level of offensive ability. He’s also a very tough customer – sometimes for good, and sometimes for ill (he’s been burned for a few bad penalties).

Tanner House: C (7GP – 1G – 0A – 1PTS, +2). A hard-working forward who is getting a little long in the tooth for prospect status, House seems to have carved out a spot in the lineup as the team’s fourth-line center. He’s another guy who could post better numbers if used in a different role.

Improvement Needed

Curtis Hamilton: C- (7GP – 1G – 0A – 1PTS, -3). Hamilton needs to do more. He’s been solid in a penalty-killing role and has definite virtues, but he’s simply been too vanilla – he’s been playing like a lower-tier Pitlick or an ultra-low tier Paajarvi.

Ryan Martindale: C- (6GP – 0G – 3A – 3PTS, +2). Despite superficially impressive numbers, Martindale has been a definite disappointment. After a hot preseason, and with Nelson lauding his off-season commitment (Martindale showed up to camp in tremendous shape, as per the coach), Martindale had a chance to impress. He’s been handed the second line center role when dressed, and he has not lived up to it. The only reason he gets a passing grade on the season so far is that the ‘not being an AHL second liner’ portion of this grade is counteracted by the ‘not being stuck in the ECHL’ portion.

Anton Lander: C- (6GP – 0G – 0A – 0PTS, +2). The only other forward on the team without a point is Cameron Abney. Lander hasn’t even been particularly noticeable offensively, despite generally playing on good lines. Six shots through six games isn’t nearly enough in the AHL, even for a primarily defensive center.

Yann Danis: C- (6GP, 3-2-1, 0.895 SV%). Danis has struggled early. Some of that has been his team – he’s held the club in certain games, even where his statistics say otherwise, and he’s made two of the finest saves I’ve ever seen in his six starts. History suggests he’s a better goaltender than he’s shown so far.

Alex Plante: F (6GP – 0G – 0A – 0PTS, -2). The Barons, an awfully green team on the back end, needed a strong start from Plante, one of a very few experienced veterans. While Plante’s play has improved over the last few games, he was a disaster early on and is now a regular scratch for coach Todd Nelson.

Dan Ringwald: F (6GP – 0G – 0A – 0PTS, EV). With Plante’s struggles and the glut of right-side defencemen on the Barons, Ringwald had an opportunity to climb the depth chart. Instead he’s oscillated between “awful” and “serviceable.”

Antti Tyrvainen: F (7GP – 1G – 0A – 1PTS, +1). One of the big things successful agitators do is draw more penalties than they take. While Tyrvainen does things a lot of other agitators do – he takes cheap shots, he embellishes hits – he’s so far only managed to hurt his own team with idiotic penalties. Two of his three minors so far have been for diving, while the other 15 minutes came from a major and a game misconduct for spearing less than three minutes into a game versus Lake Erie.

The Incompletes

Josh Green: Inc. (3GP – 1G – 1A – 2PTS, +2). Dependable veteran looked pretty good at both center and on the wing out of the gate, but a rib injury has him on the shelf for now.

Kristians Pelss: Inc. (3GP – 0G – 2A – 2PTS, +1). Rookie pro looked pretty decent in a checking role over three games, but the numbers crunch means he’s in the ECHL for now.

Taylor Hall: Inc. (2GP – 1G – 0A – 1PTS, EV). Hall joined the Barons in time for this weekend’s games, and while he was held out of Saturday’s tilt on a precautionary basis, he turned heads on Friday with a goal on his first shift and a hard, hard check on Jonas Brodin that injured the young Wild prospect.

Teigan Zahn: Inc. (3GP – 0G – 1A – 1PTS, EV). So far, Zahn has held his own on a pairing with Colten Teubert after being recalled to replace the injured Brandon Davidson.

Cameron Abney: Inc. (3GP – 0G – 0A – 0PTS, EV). A pure enforcer, Abney’s skating looks quite good for what he is, but he’s been a disaster with the puck in the early going.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 The Towel Boy
November 05 2012, 10:31AM
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Nope.

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#5 geoilersgist
November 05 2012, 08:19PM
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DSF wrote:

Your first mistake is thinking the Barons are like "Stanley Cup champions".

They aren't.

The Barons have a goal differential of zero. That's very mediocre.

Charlotte, by way of contrast, is +16 and their leading scorer, Justin Faulk is only 2 points behind Schultz despite playing two fewer games and isn't riding a ridiculous shooting percentage like Schultz.

Hopkins and Eberle have been just okay but Eberle is also riding a 20% shooting percentage. That ain't gonna last.

I like to think your constant negativity won't last but some how it always does. Perhaps their crazy shooting percentages will continue as well.

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#6 Johe
November 05 2012, 09:09PM
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DSF wrote:

I guess they'll be in the Hockey Hall of Fame in a year or so in that case.

I guess you'll be in the Negativity Hall of Shame in a year or so.

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh snap!

(Look what you've reduced me to NHL Lockout- posting drivel that even ol' Gene would shake his head at.)

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#7 charles4
November 05 2012, 10:42AM
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In the game Saturday I watched Plante make a nice play to recover the puck then promptly try to clear it cross ice through two opposing players for a nice turnover

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#8 David S
November 05 2012, 10:45AM
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*High fives Towel Boy*

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#9 OilClog
November 05 2012, 10:46AM
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I would say the Finn deserves in the least a (A-) he's been everything that has been asked of him.

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#10 Ken
November 05 2012, 11:54AM
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How can you tell all this when watching the AHL games, I can't even make out the players numbers?

Broadcasts are terrible!

I suppose at least, this is an excellent pre-season for the oilers players.

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#11 Smokey
November 05 2012, 12:31PM
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I've thought the young guns have played to expectations, at times dominating. But you can tell that the defence is a bit week. Your grade on Schultz was right on, but the kid has had some deficiencies covering his man, getting beat wide a few times, but how can you complain about a defensemen who's on pace for 50 goals and 120 points. I've been disappointed in the defence. Fedun and Teubert have struggled, both look like Tweeners. I am thrilled that Marincin looks good so far albeit raw. You can tell hes a player. Davidson played ok, and if you look at it from what hes been dealing with I'm impressed with the lad. Plante, meh.

There are so many no shows for the team. The third defence pairing been a mess. There's little secondary scoring outside the top line other then Arcobello, and MPS. I think so much of the problem as I see it is guys going in and outta the line-up, seems to be lack of fusion and chemistry. Some of these guys should be sent to Stockton to play regularly. There also seems to be a lack of physicality. You got big bodies with no interest in mucking it up. I'm not sure what Martindale or Hamilton think their roles are going to be unless they pick up the physicality of their game.

Roy has looked decent, and Denis has been average. I really don't like the prospects of Denis backing up Dubby when Khabby suffers either a nagging groin or hip for 30 games this year.

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#12 Oily Joe
November 05 2012, 12:46PM
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Wasn't the draft report on Pitlick that he had an NHL ready shot? His offence is a bit of a disappointment .

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#14 OilClog
November 05 2012, 01:08PM
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The Big Finn is Hitting, scoring on even strength, and will always forever as long as he's playing with RNH and Ebs will be considered a 3rd wheel.. A nasty hitting getting things done 3rd wheel.

A+

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#15 Smokey
November 05 2012, 01:22PM
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Dear JW, very few if any of us watched OKC games last year. I followed their season and stats and read online articles, but last year Denis was highly touted, often praised for winning close games and stealing the odd one. So your assertion that its a small sample size is a fair assessment. To me it looks like Roy should be given more of an opportunity to take his lunch money and run with it.

I also have a question in regards to Pitlick. He looks like a players from his size and skating ability, and his physicality. Has the switch from center to wing in Medicine Hat been detrimental and effected his offence, or has it been injuries? He seems like he has the tools to succeed at the AHL and NHL level and he can't seem to put it together. He's a great player to watch I have to say.

I have one last one. With the emergence of Marincin, which defence prospects do you see making an impact the NHL level and how do you rate them. I see the list of prospects in this order 1.Schultz, 2a.Klefbaum, 2b.Marincin , 3.Gernat, 4.Musil, 5.Davidson.

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#16 vetinari
November 05 2012, 01:29PM
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I agree with most of your grades (+ or - a half point here or there) but I guess my overall expectation was that OKC would be doing better in the standings at this point.

I didn't expect them to run over everybody, but I thought RNH, Hall, Eberle, Paajarvi and Schutz would elevate the secondary players around them and allow them to pad their totals a bit more.

I'm guessing that OKC is playing the kids together until mandate from the parent club so that they can have a jump on competition once the big league resumes play.

However, if the lockout ends and the big 4 or 5 are recalled back to the parent club, OKC could be in some trouble as things stand now.

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#17 Toro
November 05 2012, 01:35PM
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Good read , was wondering what was going on in OKC. Someone should put a blog dedicated to the AHL on this site like you do for the KHL if they could...Jus saying

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#18 David S
November 05 2012, 03:34PM
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vetinari wrote:

I agree with most of your grades (+ or - a half point here or there) but I guess my overall expectation was that OKC would be doing better in the standings at this point.

I didn't expect them to run over everybody, but I thought RNH, Hall, Eberle, Paajarvi and Schutz would elevate the secondary players around them and allow them to pad their totals a bit more.

I'm guessing that OKC is playing the kids together until mandate from the parent club so that they can have a jump on competition once the big league resumes play.

However, if the lockout ends and the big 4 or 5 are recalled back to the parent club, OKC could be in some trouble as things stand now.

OKC isn't exactly wiping the floor with their opposition right now, even with the wonder boys and Scultz. They will be SCREWED when those guys get back to their proper team.

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#19 Autoiler
November 05 2012, 04:22PM
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I think they are experiencing what a lot of Stanley cup champions do. Everyone wants to beat the champ. The other teams pick up there game when playing the barons to show. The same way the oilers did against Chicago. Let's show them we can play with them. Let's show them we can beat them. We the fab 4 are recalled teams will stop pumping themselves up to play against the barons.

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#20 NewAgeSys
November 05 2012, 05:42PM
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Interesting report card,I wish I had seen some of the ten games and not just the highlights.Thanks for the analysis.

It might be an interesting idea to have a strictly OKC 1st line and an Oilers second line just to keep the Barons on track in case the NHL does start?

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#21 DSF
November 05 2012, 08:14PM
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Autoiler wrote:

I think they are experiencing what a lot of Stanley cup champions do. Everyone wants to beat the champ. The other teams pick up there game when playing the barons to show. The same way the oilers did against Chicago. Let's show them we can play with them. Let's show them we can beat them. We the fab 4 are recalled teams will stop pumping themselves up to play against the barons.

Your first mistake is thinking the Barons are like "Stanley Cup champions".

They aren't.

The Barons have a goal differential of zero. That's very mediocre.

Charlotte, by way of contrast, is +16 and their leading scorer, Justin Faulk is only 2 points behind Schultz despite playing two fewer games and isn't riding a ridiculous shooting percentage like Schultz.

Hopkins and Eberle have been just okay but Eberle is also riding a 20% shooting percentage. That ain't gonna last.

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#22 DSF
November 05 2012, 08:25PM
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geoilersgist wrote:

I like to think your constant negativity won't last but some how it always does. Perhaps their crazy shooting percentages will continue as well.

I guess they'll be in the Hockey Hall of Fame in a year or so in that case.

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#23 Mike Modano's Dog
November 09 2012, 01:10AM
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I agree - it is awful that Eberle is scoring so often when he shoots. lol - and Schultz too, for that matter!

I have a different take on our AHL team's forecast.

I see teams have all kinds of players that will be playing NHL minutes once the lockout ends. So, all that means to me is that we will lose our NHL talent and replace it with our prospects who deserve to be playing in the AHL - but so will everybody else. (I was just watching Justin Schutz score twice on Jacob Markstrom!) :)

I'm not sure how they'll do then, but I think every club has all their best young NHL players playing down there for now.

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#24 Mike Modano's Dog
November 09 2012, 01:31AM
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I'm impressed that Marincin is able to man one of the top two spots on our roster already. I'm not sure if that is because of great play, or just really bad play by every other option, though...as I haven't gotten to watch any of their full games yet. Still, he seems to be handling it fine, from what I hear!

I was surprised, and so sorry to hear that about Brandon Davidson. If I could I would sure like to wish him all the best!

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