When you’re enduring a lopsided loss by the Oilers (as OilersNation did today) it’s important to remember that this team has a tremendous future. The three kids up front in Edmonton will soon be joined by a group of defensemen with varying skills and ability. In a very real way, the timing of the Oilers progress at the NHL level will depend heavily on the development of the blue in Oklahoma City.
The Barons have a nice mixture of experience and prospects in OKC. In fact, the veterans (mostly Shawn Belle and Richard Petiot, although Jake Taylor plays when healthy) may beat the kids to the NHL in the short term. The future on the farm (on D) is represented by Jeff Petry, Taylor Chorney, Alex Plante and Johan Motin and it’s these players I’m going to look at in this post.
Over the past 10 games, the OKC Barons are 7-3 (I’m not counting all the goofy stuff, just the straight up result). Here’s how the group of four performed in those games:
- Jeff Petry 10gp, 1-6-7 -7. Performed in difficult circumstances, as he has been paired with Shawn Belle on what looks like the tough minutes pairing for the Barons. He played against the Marlies in back to back weekends when Kadri was playing like a magician and had another tough game in there against the Griffins. Still, I think he’s exactly where he should be and would hope the coach would consider giving him softer minutes if the minus numbers continue to grow. I remain convinced he’s going to be similar to Tom Gilbert in style.
- Alex Plante 10gp, 1-2-3 +2. He’s had a nice run on what looks like the 2nd pairing (with Chorney). Some PP minutes, but his main job is to defend and then help with the toughness (41PIMS leads the team). Mobility gets mentioned a lot when discussing Plante, but he looked capable last season during his callup and the Oilers have a couple of guys you can time by sundial right now. I suspect Plante is faster than Vandermeer, as an example.
- Taylor Chorney 10gp, 0-2-2 +2. Clearly not part of the PP for OKC, Chorney’s main skill when he turned pro (offense from the blue) is no longer in the discussion. That’s the trouble with offensive-defensemen, their main strength is unlikely to be utilized as they move along. In Chorney’s case, the combination of better options and the organization’s desire for him to do his defensive homework have him staying away from the fun stuff. Had no disaster during this 10-game stretch and seems to be settling in nicely. Seems to play with Alex Plante a lot.
- Johan Motin 9gp, 1-2-3 +4. Has the most impressive stat line in the group over these 10 games. His +4 stands out but he appears to get a lot of time with a veteran (Petiot) pairing partner and some easier minutes (I think that’s the 3rd pairing). Since he signed with the Oilers and turned pro, I’ve gotten the feeling he’s below the others in terms of the organization’s ranking. You never know, but that’s how it looks at this time. He did have a wonderful game on November 5th (1 assist and a +3).
Now a few questions.
- Are any of those 4 ahead of Belle or Petiot for the next callup? I’ll suggest Plante. With Theo Peckham’s status a little bit in question (there’s some worry he came off the bench for today’s melee), Plante would be the most obvious replacement if they’re looking for a player to match Peckham’s style.
- Would you be surprised if any of the 4 got the call? Yes. I’d be very surprised if Petry was recalled now because he’s clearly adjusting to the pro game and doing it well. If we’ve endured the sundial blue this long at the NHL level, for heaven sakes continue the education. Also Motin. I don’t think the organization is convinced of him. By that I mean they seem to be using him as a replacement level player, not forcing him up the depth chart when opportunitty arises. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe all these kids are passing him the old fashioned way. But I think he’s in danger of getting the Danny Syvret-Cody Wild treatment at some point.
- So they should callup Belle or Petiot? Probably. I think Plante is ready for an extended look at the big league level but that can happen any time this season or early next. I believe he’ll push for a big league job fall 2011, and if that’s what the organization is thinking then maybe a 10-game stretch now is a nice prelude to 2011-12.
- You don’t really like Petry, do you? I like him plenty, more now than a few years ago. He’s got size, foot speed and some puck moving ability. I’m comparing him to Tom Gilbert and I think Gilbert is a good defenseman.
- How can you say that after today? Easy. Defense is damn difficult and when you make a bad play there’s nowhere to hide. That’s why Oiler fans use to boo Paul Coffey so much back in the day.
- They never booed Coffey. You’re making it up. They sure did, I was there. Absolutely true.
- Which of the 4 has the best upside? I don’t really know what "upside" means, but if everyone delivers on their promise then Petry should be the best man of the four. The only thing I’d mention is that Plante appears to be doing a lot of good things and that could have an impact on the final result. Plante has the best draft pedigree, put it that way. You never want to close the book on a prospect at this early stage. He could end up being this generation’s Jason Smith for the Edmonton Oilers.
- Petry’s a new pro, Plante has been around awhile. How can you say Plante will be better? I’m not saying he WILL be better, just that it could happen. Put another way, the outer marker for Petry imo is a solid top 4 defender with size, speed and the ability to move the puck. A Tom Gilbert-type. A really valuable player. Plante’s outer marker is a different type of player. Less PP, fewer points every year. However, he could be a heart and soul player on the Oilers for a decade if he continues to develop the defensive side of the game. More a Jason Smith-Steve Staios type player.
- Gilbert’s more valuable than Jason Smith ever was. You’re sure about that? Defense is still more about keeping the puck out of your net than anything you can do at the other end of the rink.
- You’re saying Plante’s upside is Jason Smith? I’m saying he is a similar player type. There’s a lot of luck, sweat and work involved in getting to that point as a player. He could get hurt, or he could lose interest or the Oilers could lose interest in him. New Jersey and Toronto shipped Smith away, and he was just about ready to be Jason Smith when he arrived in Edmonton.
- How old was Smith when he got to Edmonton? 25.
- How old is Plante? 21. There’s a long way to go, but he does have a nice range of defensive skills.