January 31 2013 05:23PM
Martin Gernat is back and for Oil Kings and Oilers fans that is very good news. Gernat is still in the developmental stage of his career, so a long layoff can impact him a great deal. The 6.05, 191 defender has a lot of potential and is finally getting game action with the Oil Kings. How does he look?
After the Memorial Cup victory, Gernat's arrows were pointed in a very good direction. Big, strong, offensive with good defensive instincts, there wasn't a lot that was negative. Then came the shoulder pain.
- Oil Kings GM Bob Green in September: “He had pain over the summer, saw a surgeon over there who’s a highly respected surgeon in the Czech Republic and they thought they needed to stabilize the shoulder. The pain didn’t seem to want to go away.”
- Gernat: “For four weeks I couldn’t move around, and for six weeks I had trouble sleeping. My mom helped put clothes on me and with eating. It was tough. But now it’s really good, and it’s getting better.”
It took 40+ WHL games for Gernat to get back into an Oil Kings jersey, and it didn't take long for the coaching staff to see what makes him special:
- OK coach Derek Laxdal: “He’s a very special talent. He’s got great agility for a big man, he skates very well, and he’s got the skills of a five-foot-10 guy at six-foot-four, it’s good to see. He’s well-rounded and I think it’s a great draft pick for the Oilers where they got him.”
HOW DOES HE LOOK?
My spies tell me that Gernat is looking good since returning (he's 8, 0-2-2 +3 this month), skating well and skating off the rust. One of my spies tells me he's a little shy offensively but its beginning to come (he's shooting more lately). These are all typical and we shouldn't read too much into it.
The best thing for Gernat is to play a lot for the remainder of the regular season and for the Oil Kings to once again go deep into the second season. From February 1st on last season, Gernat went:
- regular season 21, 1-17-18 +11
- playoffs: 20, 7-6-13 +8
- Overall: 41, 8-23-31 +19
The reason it is so important goes back to development. Missed time at Gernat's age is a difficult thing to overcome. Alex Plante is often referenced as a "bust" draft pick, but back and concussion problems after he was drafted slowed his development a great deal. There are many, many more Alex Plante's than there are Jeff Petry's, and development time lost is often part of the resume of "bust" draft selections.
Gernat will turn 20 in April and is extremely likely to sign a pro contract with the Oilers this spring. That'll put him in the AHL in the fall, and we saw how difficult the leap from WHL to AHL can be this season in the person of Martin Marincin (Gernat's countryman). A smooth start gave way to 6 weeks of struggles, and those "yips" can impact any defenseman.
Good health during the 18-21 year old seasons is very important for a player to develop. The Oilers have not enjoyed good fortune recently from their defensemen (Klefbom being the most obvious example) and Gernat coming back and showing his previous levels of ability during this spring is going to be an important item to follow.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
The Oilers young guns on the blue are beginning to establish themselves at the higher levels (Petry & Schultz in the NHL, Marincin in the AHL, Klefbom in the SEL) and that means the guys in junior and college--Martin Gernat, David Musil, Dillon Simpson, Kyle Bigos, Joey Laleggia--will need to impress right away or get blocked out (we saw this with Jeremie Blain last spring). .
There's a chance that the Oilers will turn several defensemen pro this summer: Gernat, Musil, Bigos, Laleggia, maybe even Erik Gustafsson could be at training camp and on their way to OKC. That doesn't include the Barons prospects, featuring Marincin, Colten Teubert, Brandon Davidson and others.
Gernat was one of the top D prospects in the system before the injury. Establishing himself and his wide range of skills again before the end of this season would go a long way to putting Gernat back at the top of list among the group turning pro this fall.
This is an important time in the young man's career.