There’s some excitement in Oilers Nation with regard to this year’s minor league team. The Oilers are spending actual dollars on making certain the Barons are competitive, and that has the added advantage of giving the parent team some strong options during the regular season.
Oilers fans know Injuries and ineffectiveness can reduce roster depth in a heartbeat. We’re quickly arriving at a point where we can (with some confidence) list the likely Barons in their first AHL season.
Goal (an extreme weakness, Oilers need to address the issue before training camp)
- Bryan Pitton (AHL $: 55,000). Tall, lean goalie 2 years pro experience. Most of that has been in the ECHL, with only 8 AHL games on his resume (56 in the ECHL).
The available AHL calibre goalies are drying up. Yann Danis is still available, but he won’t come cheap, plus there’s the waiver wire to worry about with 4 goalies on the roster who could play in the NHL next season (Khabibulin, JDD, DD, Danis if he signs). (Updated info courtesy Racki, below).
Defense (nice depth here, Oilers have addressed weakness in a real way)
- Shawn Belle (AHL$: 150,000). A nice size/speed combination and a "tools" guy who, at 25, might make a push for the big league roster. If he’s a Baron, Belle will be a big part of the team.
- Richard Petiot (AHL$: 105,000). This is a player we should keep our eyes on. Petiot (mobile, good passer) has some negatives (mostly coverage) according to his scouting report. However, he has played 242 AHL games (plus a baker’s dozen in the NHL) and might get called up over the kids if he shows well.
- Alex Plante (AHL$: 65,000). Showed more improvement last season than any other first year pro on the Falcons. Suffered a concussion, so it is a concern. If healthy, he could be the first callup to the Oilers.
- Taylor Chorney (AHL$: 62,500). Fine skater, Chorney appears to be Poti-lite. John Short had a theory about American kids who came through high school-college: they were so good at those levels the puck was always on their stick. When the arrive at the pro level, the adjustment is monumental. I think Chorney needs a full season in the minors to regain his confidence and adjust to the physical nature of the game.
- Jeff Petry (AHL$: 62,500). Mobile defender with a nice range of skills. A chaotic pro debut at the end of last season combined with Taylor Chorney’s wonky adjustment to pro likely means a full season in Oklahoma. This is one of the prospects Oilers fans should watch very closely this season.
- Johan Motin (AHL: $50,000). There is some anecdotal evidence that suggests Rob Daum moved Alex Plante up the depth chart when injuries and callups impacted the minor league team a year ago. Motin remained at the lower end of the depth chart (while remaining a regular), and this would represent a tell in terms of how the organization sees these two players at this time.
- AHL SIGNING: Jake Taylor. A veteran AHL defender, Taylor should play top 4 minutes and give the coach an opportunity to spot the kids and make them earn playing time. His resume includes over 300 AHL games (676 pims in those games).
The Oilers might sign some more depth (possibly on a level similar to their own free agents from a year ago–Dean Arsene, Matt Nickerson) but there’s a nice combination of experience, skill, size and toughness in that group. I didn’t include Theo Peckham on this list due to his waiver risk. Some feel it isn’t much of a risk, so by all means include him in the conversation if you wish.
Forwards (the best group at F we’ve seen in years)
- L Alexandre Giroux (One way: $500,000). Eye-popping AHL numbers come at a big cost (one-way deal, as noted by speeds below). He could sell a lot of tickets in Okla City, and he could certainly make the big club with a strong camp (although that runs counter to the rebuild). Exciting signing.
- C Brad Morin (AHL$: 225,000). Former point-per-game player in the AHL returns from solid seasons in Sweden and gets a strong 2-way deal from the Oilers. He’s undersized but very skilled, and he might take a run at making the big club this fall. The Oilers C depth chart isn’t so strong that he can be dismissed as a candidate.
- R Ben Ondrus (AHL$: 130,000): They used to call guys like this "robust, energy line players." He’ll mix it up, come to the aid of his linemates and has plenty of minor league experience. In 392 AHL games, he has 64 goals, so we shouldn’t expect an impact player at the AHL level.
- L Greg Stewart (AHL$: 105,000). Big, tough winger who is an actual player (as opposed to being just a knuckle dragger), but–like Ondrus–he isn’t going to help you offensively.
- C Ryan O’Marra (AHL$: 70,000): Oilers like his grit and tenacity, and apparently believe the offense will come. He did have his best pro season in 09-10, and has embraced the checker role.
- L Magnus Pääjärvi (AHL$: 67,500). He should make the big club this fall, but it is also true that MPS will have more adjusting to do than Eberle. Should he spend time in Okla City, I’d expect some impressive numbers.
- R Jordan Eberle (AHL$: 65,000). I’m listing him here because there’s a chance he spends some time in the minors this season. Eberle’s Desjardins AHL equivalency is 80gp, 30-34-64 so if he starts in the minors and scores at that clip it won’t be long before the cell phone rings.
- L Linus Omark (AHL$: 65,000). Timing is everything. Had Omark signed a year ago there’s every reason to believe he would have either made the club or been called up when the locusts arrived. This season, he’s Davy Crockett at the Alamo. He has a good chance to be a legend in Oklahoma by season’s end, or he might get called up when one of the kids struggles.
- L Teemu Hartikainen (AHL$: 65,000). Big Finn has improved his foot speed and many regard him as a strong candidate for "6th round steal" from the 2008 draft (that was the Magnificent Bastard’s 1st draft as chief scout). Could surprise, although he will most likely spend the season in the minors.
- L Matt Marquardt (AHL$: 65,000). He’s big, doesn’t score, check or take penalties. Maybe he’s a goalie.
- C Chris Vande Velde (AHL$: 62,500). Big center who won a lot of faceoffs in the NCAA, he also has enough skill to be considered a candidate for top 6F time down the line (NHLE for 09-10: 82gp, 13-21-34). He is one college prospect who could surprise (Petry may too) and make the big club in a depth role if he performs well in pre-season. Unlikely, but he fills a need in a weak area on the roster.
- L Philippe Cornet (AHL$: 55,000). The classic "tweener" is going to be hard pressed to make the Barons out of training camp. He might find a home on a scoring line (he has skill) or an energy line (he has gumption) but we shouldn’t be surprised to see him land in Stockton this fall.
- C Milan Kytnar (AHL$: 55,000). Stayed an extra year in junior but I don’t know that it improved his chances to make the Barons. He does have some defensive pluses on his resume, so Kytnar could surprise. Still, Stockton seems like a more likely place to send his mail.
- AHL Signing: Colin McDonald. Signed a minor league contract and has some range of skills. Can score some goals but is most likely to join O’Marra on a dedicated checking line in Okla City.
I think the Oilers will add some depth here, guys like Reddox (who is still an Oiler, he’s RFA but not yet signed) and his type. Should Eberle and MPS make the big club, this team won’t have a lot of skill on the wings beyond Giroux and Omark.
This is a much stronger group than a year ago, save for the goaltending. We should hear about a veteran AHL or European goalie being signed in the next few weeks. The Oilers have some real question marks in net at the NHL level, so expecting JDD or DD to start the season in the minors isn’t reasonable. And that’s without worrying over the waiver risk.The list of strong callup candidates is long and impressive up front: Morin, Giroux, the two kids who might make the big team in camp, Omark, Vande Velde, Hartikainen. Belle is the likely man on the blue.
Are they a playoff team? I have no idea. The Oilers need to finish the roster business before we can project that far down the line. However, they’ve done some nice things this summer.