Oklahoma City Barons Watch: November 17

Jonathan Willis
November 17 2013 11:33AM

After an early period of roster fluctuation, it appears that the Oklahoma City Barons are finally moving towards calmer waters. The forward corps has been improved and somewhat stabilized, the defence has been thinned out a little with the recall of players like Corey Potter and Philip Larsen, and coach Todd Nelson has his team playing pretty good hockey.

Which players are standing out?

Before I begin, a brief explanation of the charts below. I’ve been recording Fenwick numbers for each player – shots and missed shots when they are on the ice at even-strength (with the twist that I don’t record shots from outside the offensive zone). I’ve also recorded zone starts, showing whether a player started more frequently in the offensive or defensive end of the rink. The final column is “Adjusted Fenwick” – which is a fancy way of saying the ratio of shots/missed shots the team manages with each player on the ice with an adjustment factor for which zone they’re starting in.

All numbers from home games only.

Forwards

Andrew Miller. Miller’s scoring numbers are vanilla, but his line (lately he’s been playing with C.J. Stretch and Austin Fyten) is driving results at even-strength. Miller himself is an exceptional skater and has offensive tools that exceed those of his linemates. On Saturday, this trio was Oklahoma’s top line – after the game, Todd Nelson made a point of jumping in without being asked to talk about how the unit had been facing Abbotsford’s top line and not only shut them down but scored two goals in the process.

Tyler Pitlick. Nothing new to report, as he was recalled and then injured. Speaking to somebody in the know down here, I was told that Pitlick’s development path was ‘play better, get hurt, come back and play poorly, play better and then get hurt.’ Over and over and over again.

Anton Lander. He’s a legitimate first-line centre in the AHL. He plays an exceptionally good defensive game (he’s been Nelson’s most preferred penalty killer), and has enough skill to stick in a top scoring role at the AHL level. Without question he’s a complementary offensive player and is likely destined for an NHL bottom-six role, but he’s a much better player now than he was at this point last year. It honestly makes me wonder how his career might have gone differently if the Oilers hadn’t kept him in the NHL as a rookie professional.

Linus Omark. He delivers results. The way he delivers them – at times making jaw-dropping offensive plays, at other times making frustratingly complicated moves when a simpler play would be better – gets him in trouble, but the constant is that the results are there. I don’t think he’s at 100 percent yet, either; he’s never been fleet of foot but to my eye his skating isn’t yet to where it’s been in the past.

Matt Ford and Derek Nesbitt. These guys aren’t really Oilers prospects, but I highlight them because they are the sort of minor-league veterans every team needs. They can slot in wherever, climbing the lineup when players are recalled and then sliding down when prospects excel or people return from the majors. Ford in particular has impressed; he isn’t overly big but he combines grit with a good two-way game.

Ben Eager. The fourth line is better with him on it.

Kale Kessy and Travis Ewanyk. This duo has mostly formed the core of the fourth line. The kill penalties together, add a physical element and provide defensive conscience. Both have played up the lineup at times and while both project as NHL fourth-liners (if they make it at all) they do some nice things.

Ryan Hamilton and Roman Horak. These two have mostly played together, and there are some exceptional circumstances at work. Hamilton is a good AHL player coming off injury, while Horak was just moved back to centre after playing wing in the Flames’ organization. By eye, they aren’t as bad as the numbers and they’re getting better every game; I’d be surprised if they’re still at the bottom of the chart once the sample gets larger.

Defence

Taylor Fedun. He’s a legitimate number one AHL defenceman. He doesn’t do any one thing brilliantly but he does everything well and the results are undeniable. He’s just waiting for an extended opportunity now.

Corey Potter. The results are even more impressive once one realizes he was still recuperating from injury during his time in Oklahoma. He’s an NHL player.

David Musil. There’s been a lot of doom and gloom around Musil’s status as a prospect, but his game has translated beautifully to the professional ranks. He generally alternates with (and occasionally plays beside) Martin Gernat on Oklahoma’s third pairing and seems comfortable playing on his off-side.

Brad Hunt. Hunt’s been a utility defender for Todd Nelson, and has often been caught in the numbers game because of the need to play rehabbing NHL’ers and top prospects. He can play on either side of the ice and has spent significant time on the right side, he’s got a wicked shot and plays physically despite being undersized.

Oscar Klefbom. His first four games were excellent and his last two games were quite bad, which made his recall a bit of a surprise. There is all sorts of raw talent – picture Ladislav Smid, but with more ability with the puck – but this is a guy the organization has to be patient with. He’s playing important minutes in Oklahoma City and it’s best for young defencemen to work the rough edges off in the AHL where both the pressure and the repercussions of failure are less heavy.

Brandon Davidson. Davidson got bumped to the third pair this weekend and it seemed to make a big difference; after weeks of struggles he impressed against a very good Abbotsford team.

Martin Marincin. The raw tools are obvious – he’s big, rangy, confident with the puck and every so often plays the body – but there are miles of road ahead. He’s a bit of an adventure defensively and still seems to have a brain-cramp quota to fill every night. There’s lots of time left – he’s only 21 years old – and he needs it.

Denis Grebeshkov. I was a little surprised to see Grebeshkov at the bottom of the chart, but when I looked at the game-by-game summaries I saw why. Grebeshkov’s last four games yield an adjusted Fenwick rating of 59.3 percent even as he’s played top opposition, but his first two games the results were really not on his side. He needed time in Oklahoma City to stabilize his game, but the results of late have been encouraging and if he keeps playing as he has the last little bit he will work his way back to the majors.

Goalies

Oklahoma has played four different goalies, and there have been some surprises.

Tyler Bunz did remarkable work in a pair of starts with the Barons (1-0-1, 0.937 save percentage). He told me that he lost 25 pounds over the summer after taking a good look at where he really wanted to go in life, and feels good about his game after a poor 2012-13 campaign and an up-and-down training camp. It’s too early to come to any conclusions, but it’s nice to see him showing some signs of improvement.

Ilya Bryzgalov looked rusty in his first game after a long layoff (as he put it “clumsy, as expected”) but was much better in his second game, earning accolades from teammates and looking both calm and in control. As Todd Nelson said, “he made it look easy.”

Richard Bachman hasn’t played in some time thanks to an NHL recall and then an injury, but he delivered as a legitimate above-average AHL starter.

Laurent Brossoit hasn’t played for the Barons yet; he looked good in October in mop-up duty in a game against Oklahoma.

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Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#3 Romulus' Apotheosis
November 17 2013, 12:46PM
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Rama Lama wrote:

JW......do you think that Marincin has enough ESL skills to understand wht the coaches are telling him?

I heard that despite his size ( 6'4" 190 lbs) he plays a physical game? He has been talked about for three years but has seemingly made little progress..........his report card always seem to look the same.

Also given the transition to the North American game, should the OIlers stay away from European defenceman?

It's still really early in Marincin's career. Moving to pro he's done very well (many falter right out of the gate) to stay alive and progress even with bumps (they all do, esp. D… bump along the road that is).

You may be confusing the report card of player attributes (which players tend to carry through out their career) with developmental stagnation.

To ignore European defenseman would be criminal negligence for an NHL GM.

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#4 Romulus' Apotheosis
November 17 2013, 12:52PM
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2010 NHL draft for context:

http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/draft/nhl2010e.html

for a mid-second round D pick to already be in the NHL by now from this draft class would be really impressive. They need development time, years and years.

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#5 camdog
November 17 2013, 03:19PM
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So Klefbomb has the exact same scouting report that Smid had when we traded for him from Anaheim? Smid came to the organization with the expectation that he would develop that offensive skill, however by rushing him into the NHL, not developing him properly in the AHL and the subsequent injuries that followed he never developed.

Here's hoping the Oilers follow that Detroit model, and allow him to develop in the AHL. Kevin Lowe keeps talking Detroit model, however he never follows their model???

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#8 a lg dubl dubl
November 17 2013, 11:41AM
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Any word how long Bachman will be out for JW?

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#9 Jaw17
November 17 2013, 12:00PM
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Jonathan, do you think Klefbom will be ready for the NHL next season?

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#10 justDOit
November 17 2013, 01:07PM
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@Romulus' Apotheosis

Wait - you say that they're scoring at HOME? MacT - get them up to the bigs, NOW!

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#11 admiralmark
November 17 2013, 04:48PM
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Johnathan..thanks for the updates from down there. Two players i'm personally interested in are Pitlick and Horak.

Pitlick was looking so suited for 3-4th line duty in Edmonton and was finally playing with the edge he needs. It seems like the cycle of ink's he endures are linked to the crash bang style he plays.. so i fear its just not gonna work for him? Horak I watched play in Abbotsford. I honestly think he is a perfect player for the Oilers 4th line. Fingers crossed he continues to develop in OKC.

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#12 Dog Train
November 17 2013, 07:10PM
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Nice to see Bunz put together a few solid games in a row. With Roy gone and Bachman still hurt, he might get an opportunity to split some time with Brossoit unless Labarbera goes to OKC. It would be nice if he and Brossoit could both develop into potential NHL quality goaltenders because we badly need depth in goal.

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#13 Chaz
November 18 2013, 10:18AM
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Update on my Yak bet with DSF:

To date we've played 6 of the 17 games from the time of the original bet and Yak has 2 Goals and 1 Assist for 3 pts. This means he has 11 games left to tally 3 Goals, 6 Assists and then DSF can't comment on Oil Nation for the rest of the season. If he doesn't do it I can't comment.

Go Yak! You can do it buddy! Make Oiler Nation a DSF-Free zone!

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#14 I tried it at home
November 17 2013, 06:13PM
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Player development, learning, paying dues, etc etc yada yada... JW, you seem to think OKC Barons articles are strictly about OKC Barons. Where are the OKLA|/HOMA Ladies we haven't seen in far too long? Being a fan of this system is hard enough, at least give us a couple of things to look at and cheer for. Hopefully take our mind off the season.

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#15 Greg the Hammer Valentine
November 17 2013, 06:36PM
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If you have time JW, I'd eventually like to read about the 3 russian prospects in the KHL.

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#16 Jaw17
November 17 2013, 12:11PM
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Thanks

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#17 **
November 17 2013, 12:23PM
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Jonathan, you didn't write a report on Gernat, is he still with OKC or was he sent to Bakersfield?

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#18 Rama Lama
November 17 2013, 12:42PM
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JW......do you think that Marincin has enough ESL skills to understand wht the coaches are telling him?

I heard that despite his size ( 6'4" 190 lbs) he plays a physical game? He has been talked about for three years but has seemingly made little progress..........his report card always seem to look the same.

Also given the transition to the North American game, should the OIlers stay away from European defenceman?

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#19 Romulus' Apotheosis
November 17 2013, 12:57PM
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Great report JW!

That's a lot of work to track the games.

Couple of questions for you:

Are you at all concerned about home only scoring effects? If so, how would you mitigate it, beyond acknowledging it?

Should we expect to see the Condors getting more use out of some of the rookie pros, if only to increase their playing time and reduce the logjam? If so, who would be the best candidates (Musil and Gernat again?)

Who's the driver and who's the passenger on that Stretch/Miller line (I assume Fyten is more of a passenger, correct me if I'm wrong). Or, are they both carrying the load? Can you assess Miller's defensive game and his prospects to play center at the AHL level?

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#21 Romulus' Apotheosis
November 17 2013, 04:38PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

No worries.

1. Yes you're absolutely right, because these are only home numbers the performances are doubtless better than they would be if we looked at home/road. There's not much I can do other than acknowledge it, though.

2. Honestly, I don't know and that's a good question. The organization seems to prefer to get them playing tougher competition at the AHL level whenever possible and only sending them down when they have a chance to get a bunch of ECHL games and they'd be in tough to crack the AHL roster. It strikes me as a sensible approach, but I don't honestly know the best way to go.

Thanks for the response.

1. thanks. that's what I thought. At any rate, this information is invaluable.

2. From a management perspective, I guess I wonder at the reasoning behind affiliating with the ECHL and not taking full advantage beyond goalie development.

We often note (as you do here with Lander) that just getting pro games in, playing a lot of minutes, playing multiple disciplines (EV, PP, PK), having a somewhat stable roster and learning to do things well, even at lower levels of competition, is crucial to the development of these guys out of Europe learning the north American game, or out of junior and learning to play men.

I think teams may be too ginger about sending players down. Last year during the lockout, the players who wound up in the Stockton all seemed to benefit from at least getting the at bats in.

I'm not convinced that Gernat and Musil (for example) are getting enough work. At their age, they need to play a ton and learn how to do things by rote.

It could also be used as a confidence booster. Guys like Pitlick and Martindale may have benefited from it in the past when their scoring cratered, or simply never showed up.

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#22 Fresh Mess
November 17 2013, 05:31PM
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Thanks for this JW. Glad to see that someone has tempered the hype on Klefbom.

I'm envious. Living in OKC for a season and getting an up close look sounds like a lot of fun. Personally, I'd like to see the Oilers AHL team in Edmonton. I think the city could support the WHL and AHL.

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#23 Todd
November 17 2013, 07:24PM
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Where is the Bryz photoshop contest we were promised over the weekend.

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#25 Czar
November 18 2013, 09:54AM
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Who the heck was Bunz training with in the past, Theo Peckham? 25 lbs is a lot of extra weight to carry,especially for a goalie, no wonder the kid looked like crap last year.I hope he turns it around and puts an end to the goalie graveyard the oiler system has become.

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#26 a lg dubl dubl
November 17 2013, 02:16PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

No idea, he's still with Edmonton. I can get updates on all the local guys but not much on Oilers beyond what's publicly available.

Thanks!

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#28 Romulus' Apotheosis
November 17 2013, 02:15PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

1. I'm not sure what you mean by scoring effects. If you mean home rink bias, the only bias is my own: I'm tracking the numbers manually on these players, not using provided totals. I'm comfortable that I do a better job of it than the RTSS people at other AHL/NHL arenas for the most part (at OKC for instance, I was told by one guy who filled in on the crew that they sat him down to explain what a shot was to him before he started recording the game; he knew his business but it tells you what kind of help they're using).

2. Gernat and Musil got one stint with the Condors, but I expect now that the logjam is cleared a bit they'll stay in OKC. If things get clogged up again, maybe they get sent down for a few days to get some games in.

3. By eye, I'd say that Miller drives the offence on that line. I don't know that I'd describe any of them as passengers - Stretch is a pretty good pro in the prime of his career, Fyten was a PPG player in the ECHL last year - but I would caution that the coach hasn't really given them tough sledding up until the last game or two. As for Miller at centre, I just don't know because I've only seen him on the wing.

Thanks for the response.

1. Sorry if I wasn't clear. I thought "home only scoring effects" would be a good short hand for:

If you are only tracking home games, is it possible that there is a structural bias to your numbers (not in your actual accounting)? i.e., would there be a marked difference in performance in road games that is excluded here for lack of access?

Is that more clear? Your answer shows that I was really unclear the first time around.

2. If that is the case is it better to be in a cluster of rotating bottom pairing D at the AHL level than a top pairing D at the ECHL (purely for development purposes, not in terms of talent assessment)?

Thanks again.

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#29 Dave Luukkonen
November 17 2013, 11:46PM
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Jon, How does Martin Gernat look? I think he's a kid with a LOT of upside. Big, quick, offensively gifted at the junior level. Is he logging much time on the Barons' d-line? He ranks low on your chart, but I think he could be a top 4 dman in a couple years.

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#30 Soup
November 18 2013, 03:19AM
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JW

I appreciate the update from the farm. Question regarding Musil. I liked his game a lot in Jr, but kept hearing the comments that his poor skating would not translate to the pro ranks. Your review and the numbers seem to say otherwise (though still early). I've read elsewhere that maybe his skating is not as bad as first reported, and that his knowledge of gap management would eventually overcome the perceived slow-footed ness (like his father?).

So, your thoughts? Are his skating issues too large to overcome, or is there a future for this kid? I hope so, as I think this is one type of player that the big club could certainly use.

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#32 Rama Lama
November 18 2013, 10:38AM
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@Jonathan Willis

Thank you!

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