The Oklahoma City Barons Depth Chart

Jonathan Willis
January 21 2014 06:09AM

What is happening on the Oilers’ farm team? Which players are legitimate call-up options? Which prospects are improving their stock and which ones are falling off the map?

With Edmonton’s playoff ambitions dead for months, the focus of fans naturally turns to the future and a good chunk of that future can be found in the American Hockey League.

Forwards

This is my best guess at what a stable, healthy Oklahoma depth chart would look like. There are a few caveats – we haven’t seen a stable, healthy depth chart, we aren’t going to see a stable healthy depth chart and head coach Todd Nelson has made a point of finding time for Ewanyk and Kessy – so this should only be seen as an approximation. The guys on NHL contracts are in white, AHL-only deals in orange.

At left wing, Pinizzotto and Combs seem out of place but there are mitigating factors. Pinizzotto has a long record as a gritty, two-way guy but has struggled with injury and was buried in the San Antonio lineup. Combs was nearly a point-per-game player in the AHL during a call-up last season, but this year fell out of favour and had just two helpers through 19 games with San Antonio (I mentioned this to him on Sunday and asked him where he was playing in the lineup; he grinned and said ‘mostly in the stands’). Both guys have been really good early, with Combs picking up two points on Sunday and Pinizzotto being robbed twice on Saturday. I’d expect Pinizzotto plays in the NHL at some point this season (fourth line/penalty kill) and Combs should provide OKC with some needed scoring.

Curtis Hamilton has played much better of late but is on the shelf with (yet another) injury. He’s a pending restricted free agent and there is at least some chance the Oilers opt to cut bait. I was surprised Eager’s point totals were so low – he’s looked pretty good in depth minutes – and MacIntyre hasn’t been getting a lot of play as the Barons fight to get back in the playoff race.

At centre, there aren’t enough good things to say about Lander. He’s been a dominant pivot for Oklahoma, running the power play and the penalty kill and taking top-line minutes at evens, too. He’s been playing a safe game in the NHL (and he’s good at playing a safe game) but he needs to show the other things he does well. Horak has spent quite a bit of time at left wing and brings a skill-set similar but also inferior to Lander’s; he’s a decent NHL prospect and a plausible injury fill-in at this point.

Watching Acton play at the AHL level, it’s easy to see why the Oilers wanted to try him in the majors; he’s an extremely effective defensive forward. Ewanyk’s a rookie pro and years away from the NHL but he fights and he hits and he kills penalties. Stretch is a really nice fit as an AHL pro because he can be subbed in on any line at centre or at right wing; if they need scoring he can play there and if there’s no room he can be bumped down the lineup. He’s a better player today than a lot of the guys with NHL contracts.

On right wing, there isn’t a lot of separation but that’s misleading. The AHL’er, Ford, might be the best of the bunch here. He hasn’t been getting tons of minutes but he has generated points and he plays a greasy and defensively responsible game; like Stretch he can sub-in wherever. If it isn’t Ford it’s Hamilton, who plays a punishing physical game and still finds points while mostly playing on a defensive line. Miller is the purest offensive talent on the list, small and fast and with good vision. Kessy is in a similar boat to Ewanyk and plays with Ewanyk on the penalty kill; his gifts are primarily related to physical play but Nelson is trying to round him into a guy who does defensive things right and there are encouraging signs.

Pitlick is the most interesting guy on the list. At the AHL level he doesn’t especially stand out from the other right wings because while he’s big and fast and has a range of skills he isn’t as physical as Hamilton or as defensively responsible as Hamilton or Ford or as offensively talented as Miller. He’s actually looked better at the NHL level, which I suspect has a lot to do with having major-league speed – a more important attribute in the majors than the minors.

Defence & Goaltending

Fedun is the best player on this list today. He’s a little undersized but the has smarts and vision, makes crisp passes both out of his own end and from the point in the offensive zone and most importantly plays a responsible game in the defensive end of the rink. He’s a complete player, and he’s not likely to get any better in the AHL; the Oilers ought to give him a shot in the majors because the only question now is whether he can make the leap to NHL speed and there’s only one way to find out.

Klefbom’s physical tools make him the blue-chip prospect in this group. He’s a guy who looks like he should put up points but somehow never does, but he’s big and he’s fast and he’s poised with the puck. That’s a pretty great package for any defenceman because it means he can both break up the cycle in his own end and competently move the puck out after. Too many big defencemen treat the puck like a grenade, and too many puck-moving defencemen lack the ability to play a physical game; Klefbom marries the two skill-sets. He’s still raw, but he’s a credible call-up right now and if he keeps progressing in how he thinks the game he will without question be an NHL’er.

Hunt’s probably the number three man on the depth chart. He has a wicked shot and is a puck-rusher, but he’s extremely small and (at least when playing his off-side) not exactly bullet-proof defensively. Grebeshkov is likely fourth on the organizational recall list right now, after Hunt; he’s a player I’ve always liked but he’s also a greatly diminished version of the defender who was an effective Oiler a few years back.

Behind that quartet is a pair of rookie professionals. Gernat has impressed with his speed and offensive game, but (much like Martin Marincin a year ago) needs to pack on a bunch of weight and get tighter in the defensive zone. Musil was written off in some quarters before he ever played a professional game, but he’s made a pretty smooth transition – he isn’t fast but he’s big and solid and sometimes that’s what a team wants in front of the net. Both guys are on track, but both would be poor call-up choices this year.

Davidson was in the call-up conversation early in the year but has had a difficult campaign; if his contract ran out this year he would be in jeopardy but with one more season on his entry-level deal he has at least a little time to correct.

In net, Bachman is number three on the depth chart with a bullet (he recently played three games in three night for the Barons) and Pickard is only nominally his backup; if injuries hit Brossoit would be promoted from the ECHL. The numbers on the chart above are all AHL, so it’s important not to read too much into them for the non-Bachman goalies; at the ECHL level all have played ten games and Brossoit has a 0.934 save percentage, Bunz a 0.898 save percentage and Pickard a 0.881 save percentage.

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 IM80
January 21 2014, 06:21AM
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There is a lot of talk about OKC and the "prospects" that are coming. Honestly, as a fan, I care about prospects, but what I care more about is winning...yes, in some respects the two are tied hand in hand.....

WINNING = FUN .....so let's see the Oilers go out and have some fun

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#2 Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!
January 21 2014, 06:26AM
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Thanks for the update, JW.

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#3 Dino
January 21 2014, 06:35AM
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Good update here, JW. I'm worried about Anton Lander development as a viable NHL player. He seems to be able to do everything at the AHL level, yet can't crack as a 4th line C on a 29th place NHL team. It seems to me that he'll have little trade value if MacT is counting on Lander being a trade chip for him. Another draft pick wasted? It's looking that way; add him to the growing pile of draft picks this org has wasted.

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#4 Drowning in Oil
January 21 2014, 06:38AM
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If only TSN, CBC, and Sportsnet would team together to replace all the Oiler games with Baron games. At least this way we could feel the sweet rush of a possible winning season.

Let the Oilers rot the season away and let the young guys do some winning. Why mix the two.

Good to see a heathly stat of affair in the minor league system. It's a he'll of a lot more than can be said about the bug club!

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#6 CC
January 21 2014, 07:18AM
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@Jonathan Willis

JW,

Do you think that moving Lander to the wing for the start (second go-around) of his NHL career would be wise? I am thinking just getting him familiar with the pace of the game before transitioning to center. I believe, I could be wrong, that Gordon initially started on the W when he broke through in the NHL. Then transitioned back to center.

I'd like to see him apprentice with Gordon if/when Hemsky gets dealt at the deadline.

CC

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#7 K_Mart
January 21 2014, 07:40AM
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Lots of promise... Still waiting on at least one guy to make the leap and take a top d man or top 9 forward's job. Lander, Pitlick, Klefbom, Marincin, Gernat, Musil, Nurse, Davidson, Fedun... Please, can at least two of these players become legit high end NHL players?

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#8 derrickhands
January 21 2014, 07:55AM
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The way Nelson, the Oiler's scouting staff and player development talk about C.Hamilton's play this year, you would think it was a no brainer that he is resigned. Miller couldn't shoot if his life depended on it and if he did, he couldn't hit the broadside of a barn. R. Hamilton can hit and stand in front of the net that's it. Love Kessy, will hit and fight anything with hair and laugh in your face while he's doing it. Good on the PK and has become the fan favorite in OKC. By the way he plays with Lander on the PK most of the time. Ewanyk not sure about, maybe being it's 1st year chitters, but don't think he'll make it. Ford, your kidding right? Love Pitlick, by far he's the best Baron on the ice most nights, great shot and speed. Lander is the leader on the Baron team and has shown some offensive skill. WTF happened with Klefbom, the last 2 games he was a beast on the ice and him and Musil were the twin towers, made some mistakes the pair, but wow. Musil's skating has improved and has been one of the most solid D for the Barons this season, still needs work. Fedun should be with the Oilers, cannot understand why the Oilers continue to torture us with Belov. Hunt is a PP specialist, that's it. Often get's into trouble in his own end, 1 dimensional, just what the Oilers need. Davidson has had a up and down year, had a good game Sunday, still a better option than Simpson, at least he can skate, hope they resign him.

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#9 the tikk
January 21 2014, 08:12AM
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The issue is often the same for Oiler call-ups - they get shunted onto a line beside a knuckle dragger and whomever can't manage to stay on their skates through a puck battle.

I'm not saying that Lander deserves "a shot with skilled players", but his lack of offensive showing in the bigs shouldn't be surprising when the Oilers seem incapable of finding a mix of reasonably productive players to roll out on their 4th line.

That being said, I wouldn't mind seeing him pop up onto the 2nd line for a shift or two. If eventually he could put up 45 points and support Yak's danger-time forays, that would be invaluable for the big club. He's certainly been able to do this in the minors, showing improvement year over year.

Bottom line - f the Oilers flush a PPG defensively responsibly AHL centre with okay size that they invested a 2nd round pick and 4 years of development work into at this point, they're even further gone than I had feared. (Insert sardonic comment here).

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#10 derrickhands
January 21 2014, 08:14AM
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Grebeshkov is a joke and should be never recalled.

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#13 DisappointedFan
January 21 2014, 08:44AM
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@Jonathan Willis

We've seen this a lot with call-ups, where they are placed in fourth line roles with fourth line minutes and expected to out perform the top lines to get a real spot on the team. Now while this is great on most established NHL organizations, the Oil do not have a plethora of quality on most of their lines outside the top.

When you have a guy like Nail Yakupov who punches his time card in every night for the NHL pay and provides a -31 +/- and very little in the form of defensive or offensive jump right now in his game.

The same can be said about Sam Gagner, currently -21 +/-, who also has little in the point production but is playing second line minutes nightly.

They should be allowing their AHL call-ups or hardworking players eat up these minutes.

Call me an Arcobello fan-boy but when he gets on the ice he plays a lot harder on the puck and a lot better with the puck than either of those two. But regardless of who you pick more minutes need to be given to our prospects to see if they can handle more than just a teaser trailer of an attempt at NHL play. They did it with Marincin, why not give Lander a real chance at cracking the Oilers roster without playing with the Belanger-triangle that is the Oilers fourth line.

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#14 Wohin gehst du?
January 21 2014, 09:00AM
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Isn't Ty Rimmer on an AHL contract as well?

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#15 gcw_rocks
January 21 2014, 09:11AM
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Wow, that's a big pile of crap at the forward position. Lander looks like a player, but the rest is scary.

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#16 derrickhands
January 21 2014, 09:18AM
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@Jonathan Willis

Look what Pitlick is playing with, not really the quickest or offensively talented. As of late Lander and Kessy have been paired up on the PK and I'll have to check the older games, I could be wrong.

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#17 Rama Lama
January 21 2014, 09:23AM
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It will be very interesting when players like Khairia, Chase, Roy, Yak2, Shleplev, Nurse etc.......make this team.

JW which of the players currently not playing in the AHL, do you see making an impact?

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#18 HardBoiledOil
January 21 2014, 09:36AM
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wait, OKC has depth?? since Omark and Rajala left, only the too slow for the NHL Anton Lander can actually score! and there's been talk around the internet that he's one of the next that's out the door! almost all of our "depth" down there is d-men. Tyler Pitlick has a future here and Curtis Hamilton is FINALLY showing signs of life. but these 3 are about it for forward depth. still can't believe that OKC has had no less than EIGHT goalies play there this season....yikes!!

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#19 GriffCity
January 21 2014, 09:52AM
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100% agree on Fedun. No idea how he has not been given a more legitimate NHL shot. I recall him playing very well in his call up stint this season, even scoring in back to back games. I put him way ahead of Marincin who seems to be an Eakins favorite. I even liked what Hunt showed in his brief call up. He is undersized as you've said but I would still take him over Petry!

Fedun needs to be given a real look - He has earned it.

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#20 HardBoiledOil
January 21 2014, 10:08AM
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GriffCity wrote:

100% agree on Fedun. No idea how he has not been given a more legitimate NHL shot. I recall him playing very well in his call up stint this season, even scoring in back to back games. I put him way ahead of Marincin who seems to be an Eakins favorite. I even liked what Hunt showed in his brief call up. He is undersized as you've said but I would still take him over Petry!

Fedun needs to be given a real look - He has earned it.

i remember Hunt looked good in the pre season, but when he was called up to play recently, he seemed over matched in real NHL competition. Merincin is already here and Klefbom and Fedun are players who'll likely come up before Hunt does now.

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#21 pkam
January 21 2014, 10:38AM
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HardBoiledOil wrote:

wait, OKC has depth?? since Omark and Rajala left, only the too slow for the NHL Anton Lander can actually score! and there's been talk around the internet that he's one of the next that's out the door! almost all of our "depth" down there is d-men. Tyler Pitlick has a future here and Curtis Hamilton is FINALLY showing signs of life. but these 3 are about it for forward depth. still can't believe that OKC has had no less than EIGHT goalies play there this season....yikes!!

This is the 1st pro year for a lot of our prospects and you already write them off? Remember Acro was sent down to ECHL in his first pro year and has spent 3 years in the minors to get to NHL.

Wonder what would you rate Acro in his 1st pro year. Please give these kids at least 2 years in minors to learn the pro game before judging them.

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#22 bwar
January 21 2014, 10:40AM
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Poor Anton Lander, doing great in the AHL in a scoring role and then expect to come to the NHL and forget about scoring and instead kill penalties and play 5 minutes a night.

He had a few really good shifts this year as the 2C but its unlikely that he would ever be given the chance to play a full game as even the 3C on the Oilers.

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#23 Wonger
January 21 2014, 10:40AM
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I'D bring up BIG STEVE MACINTYRE,Steve Pinnizotto and sign and bring up BIG,VERY TOUGH ERIK LIZON right now!!!!! I don't wanna hear any lack of skill arguments cause we are gonna finish 30th and draft EKBLAD anyway!

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#24 Steve Ballard
January 21 2014, 10:42AM
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I would really like to see Pinizzotto get the call back up to the big league level. I like his PK and he knows how to grind. I think some of these younger guys need to stay where they are for awhile until the Oilers get their act together and start winning a couple of games.

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#25 loweblows
January 21 2014, 10:50AM
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I hope they don't let Curtis Hamilton go. He has had injury issues but is showing improvement offensively and his role as a defensive type forward takes longer to develop. Most importantly he is a big body. I am sure once MacT releases him he will go on to have a successful career in Detroit.

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#26 dwarr
January 21 2014, 11:08AM
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hey jw do you think there is any chance that Nelson would like to come up to the majors and coach the oilers he has done fantastic work with the group he has and has experience similar to eakins but is familiar with the team already?

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#27 @Oilanderp
January 21 2014, 11:14AM
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It took them a while, but they are finally doing the right thing with Lander. Let's hope they don't do something stupid and flush him now that he is having some success.

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#28 vetinari
January 21 2014, 11:18AM
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Some good young guys in the pipeline... would love it if Lander could chip in some secondary scoring for the big team but I wonder if part of the problem with the Oilers is that the third and fourth liners are always told "defence first" (which it should be for every line), without Lander being given much opportunity to play an offensive role in the top 2 lines. I would love the Oilers to switch Lander out for Gagner as 2C for a few games to see if that generates any offensive punch.

At this point, Jonathan, when do the auditions start for guys on the big club's roster? The trade deadline?

I suspect Hemsky and Nick Schultz are locks to be moved by March, and possibly Gagner-- who would be your call to replace them, assuming that nothing other than picks come back the other way? Some combination of Lander, Horack and Fedun?

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#29 pkam
January 21 2014, 11:59AM
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Wonger wrote:

I'D bring up BIG STEVE MACINTYRE,Steve Pinnizotto and sign and bring up BIG,VERY TOUGH ERIK LIZON right now!!!!! I don't wanna hear any lack of skill arguments cause we are gonna finish 30th and draft EKBLAD anyway!

Since this season is over, I don't mind to bring big Mac up for one game the next time we visit Vancouver.

Just start the game with Gazdic, Hendricks, big Mac, Ference and Belov. And if Torts put Kassian in his starting lineup, beat the crap out of him.

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#30 Brad 21
January 21 2014, 12:10PM
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What happened to Ty Rimmer? I was pretty impressed with him in pre-season.

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#31 Dave Lumley
January 21 2014, 12:15PM
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WTF... Looks like the letter worked. It's been 5 hours and 30 posts and not one single call for Klowes termination. What's a matter with you people?

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#32 billythebullet
January 21 2014, 12:29PM
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Dave Lumley wrote:

WTF... Looks like the letter worked. It's been 5 hours and 30 posts and not one single call for Klowes termination. What's a matter with you people?

We might be better off dressing klowe on the defence vs firing him atm, he does after all, know a thing or 2 about winning.

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#33 A-Mc
January 21 2014, 01:10PM
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After the trade deadline i imagine we'll see a few of our AHL guys play up with the Oilers.

Just for sh!ts and giggles, i would bring up all the big guys. Take all the NHL and AHL assets, and play anyone over 6'2 OR 200+ lbs.

There is a chance that with proper Stapling and pushing guys off pucks, a bigger roster may make up for lack of skill and experience. It might also be an epic failure, but I'd like to see it all the same.

Also, i agree with a previous posters sentiment that we keep calling up these AHL guys and sticking them on the 4th line. As far as I'm concerned, both Lander and Arcobello have proven they have a grasp of the offensive game at the AHL level and therefore I'd let them battle for the 2C spot in the NHL. Both are defensively responsible at the NHL level and IMO that's enough to let them give it a go.

Expecting lander to score goals on the 4th line isn't fair to him.

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#34 Pouzar99
January 21 2014, 04:56PM
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Love these OKC updates JW, so glad you are there. Hope you like being there. It IS warmer. Do you think Klefbom will for the NHL next season, maybe in a bottom six role to start?

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#35 HardBoiledOil
January 21 2014, 07:08PM
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pkam wrote:

This is the 1st pro year for a lot of our prospects and you already write them off? Remember Acro was sent down to ECHL in his first pro year and has spent 3 years in the minors to get to NHL.

Wonder what would you rate Acro in his 1st pro year. Please give these kids at least 2 years in minors to learn the pro game before judging them.

i stand by what i said about the forwards in OKC. Lander has learned to score at the AHL level, but appears too slow at the NHL level to ever be a scorer. Pitlick may still yet be an effective NHL player, but the jury is out on whether or not he'll ever be able to score. and Curtis Hamilton is finally starting to show some offence at the AHL level after really struggling and being injured. he could pan out soon offensively at the NHL level one day. but the rest of the forwards are either journeymen AHLers or guys like Kessy or Ewanyk....both of whom may never make it to the NHL on a regular basis. the real talent is on defence with Fedun, Klefbom, Musil, Gernat and Davidson. future looks bright there!

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