Lost In The Supermarket

Tonight, the Oilers and the Barons are playing on the left coast. The current swing for the Barons might be the closest many of the minor leaguers get to Edmonton this season. The problem doesn’t appear to be prospect development–there are some impressive starts in OK City–but rather good to great performances and terrific health at the major league level. For some of the Oklahoma City Barons, the time is now. And it isn’t coming.

One of these players–the "time is now" group–is Chris VandeVelde. He’ll be 25 years old in March and has enjoyed a solid start to the season (9, 1-2-3 +2 in 11-12 so far) after a nice NHL debut late last season. However, the Oilers drafted RNH, signed Eric Belanger and brought Anton Lander over from Sweden this summer. Bottom line: it’s hard to create a scenario that allows VV to see the NHL without several moves or injuries. He’ll be an RFA in the summer of 2012 and according to last night’s lineup he was behind Green, O’Marra and Arcobello on the lineup card. His linemates were Triston Grant and Tanner House.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Players who are in a similar position to VandeVelde are Gilbert Brule (is he every coming back?) and Ryan O’Marra. At some point this season, it probably makes sense for the Oilers to trim the hedges at the forward position.

This is Curtis Hamilton. #13 in your lineup is at the other end of the spectrum: new pro, 20 years old and looking to establish himself in the AHL. For Hamilton, this season is about getting into as many games as possible and showing enough to stay with OKC (and avoid Ryan Martindale’s fate–the ECHL and Stockton).

Among 20-year old AHL rookies, Hamilton (5, 0-1-1 entering tonight) trails Tyler Pitlick (8, 1-2-3) in both points and games played. It’s a long way to go, but each game played is a step closer to having the game slow down for these kids and that means they can begin to show their abilities at this level.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The third group is the one we should be paying close attention to this winter. This is "go time" for the young pro’s in the middle or at the end of their entry level contracts. The idea is to deliver enough to become a legit option for the organization. A guy like Phil Cornet (in photo) has enjoyed a quality start to the season and has given the Oilers something to think about as his contract enters year two of his three year entry level deal.

Based on their early season performances and long term potential, here are my top 10 AHL level prospects:

  1. D Jeff Petry: 2, 0-1-1 +1: Although he hasn’t played much in OKC I think Petry is clearly the class of the group. Back in the NHL tonight, he’s showing great poise and has improved to the point where sending him back will be a very difficult choice.
  2. L Teemu Hartikainen 10, 4-3-7 +2: Hasn’t done a thing to discourage the Finn-crazy Oiler fanbase. His 31 shots on net lap the field of Baron forwards. Hartikainen is probably better than some of the men playing for the Oilers in the NHL this season, but patience should pay off when he arrives for good.
  3. C Tyler Pitlick 8, 1-2-3 +1: I’m not sure why he’s been a healthy scratch so often, he’s a gritty kid and has made a quick early adjustment to pro hockey. Oiler scouts have always been strong on him, this AHL season has already been more impressive than his average AHL year.
  4. L Curtis Hamilton 6, 0-2-2 +1. Started slowly and was in the pressbox a few times in the first couple of weeks, but seems to be coming along and the points are beginning to come. Oilers are stacked at LW in the NHL but Hamilton’s range of skills should find him employment when he’s finally ready.
  5. D Colten Teubert 9 2-2-4 +3: Big, right handed defender made his NHL debut earlier tonight. We won’t really know about him as a player for some time, but if he can play in the NHL and be a physical, effective defender then he’ll have a job in Edmonton for a long time.
  6. L Phil Cornet 9, 7-1-8 +4: Has really stepped up in the early portions of the season and impressed. Tied with Hartikainen for team lead in PP goals and despite an unsustainable shooting percentage has clearly done enough to stay in OKC this season.
  7. L Hunter Tremblay 9, 2-3-5 +1: 25-year old has played a lot of hockey at different levels–CHL, Canadian university and now pro–and appears to have a pro skill set. You never know, but he’s playing ahead of some high draft picks and contributes in a lot of areas.
  8. D Kirill Tulupov 4, 0-3-3 +5: I don’t even know if this fellow is technically Oiler property, but he’s crazy and hits anything that moves. Big time hitter and must be a very intimidating hockey player at any level.
  9. C Chris VandeVelde: 10, 1-2-3 +1: The great depth Edmonton enjoys at center currently pushes VV down the list. He might get lucky via a trade to another NHL team but at this point he’s pretty much blocked.
  10. L Antti Tyrvainen 6, 0-1-1 +4: The "other" Finn who came over this fall, Tyrvianen is not a stand out player in any category but is building a resume.

  • The Goat - Team FIST

    Gee I miss those days of Dustin Penner sleepwalking through 60 minutes and Ethan Moreau taken stupid penalties 180 in the offensive zone. What a team we used to have!

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Some observations:

    1) The Oilers at some point, are going to have to pick between a rising Hamilton/Cornet/Hartikainen and a declining Smyth (although he hasn’t shown much decline yet).

    2)The Oilers are weakest at ‘d’ and this list is forward heavy. Tambo needs to start dealing some forwards for some defencemen

    3) Not sure its a good thing to have Tremblay taking ice time from Hamilton and/or Cornet

    • oilersOne

      “The Oilers are weakest at D” seems to be loosing a bit of steam with the emergence of Smid, the play of Potter, and the quiet brilliance of Gilbert. Whitney is world class. Not to mention Petry and some of the other young guns on the farm. There are only a handful of elite defensemen in the NHL. Most winning teams succeed with team defense and good goaltending. That is what the Oilers are now bringing and that is why they are improving. A stud defenseman may help in some areas but isn’t necessarily the answer. Pittsburg and Carolina won cups with good (not great) back ends. Who does Vancouver have? Green for Washington? Not in my books. Oilers are going to be just fine without spending $7 mill on a prayer.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    I’m not sure why he’s been a healthy scratch so often, he’s a gritty kid and has made a quick early adjustment to pro hockey. Oiler scouts have always been strong on him, this AHL season has already been more impressive than his average AHL year.

    Judging from what the guys at HF have had to say it appears that he was tired last week.

    Last night I suspect it has something to do with adding yet another forward to the roster.

    They might be better off in the ECHL.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Just took a look over at Hockeyfutures… they have Pitlick ranked as our #10 prospect.

    If that’s even close to the truth, we’ve got a damn deep group.

  • oilersOne

    After having digested the win/ excitement over night, I have a few concerns. Did anyone notice that the Oil looked like a bunch of bumbling fools at times and have at several junctures this year even though they continue to win. It just never seems to bite them in the a#@ except in that Calgary game which they should have won for an even 20 points. Don’t get me wrong I was impressed with the shut-out but it seemed more like LA beat themselves. Also I’m not sure Lombardi will do any more trades with Tambo for awhile/ ever!! Steve 2 Dean 0 yet another shut-out!

  • justDOit

    Just… wow. It’s early in the road trip, and I know they’ll have some tough moments coming up, but that was a road game played to a T (tee, tea…?).

    And considering the back end had two rookies and Peckham playing, it’s beginning to look like this success can be attributed to the system and coaching as much as it is to star performers. Props to Krueger/Renney, along with Smid, Potts and Gilbert!

    Although Gagner looked better at times, there were still too many embarrassing moments out there for him – the spin move to avoid checkers in the neutral zone was laughable (hope O! doesn’t see that).

  • A-Mc

    I Didn’t like Petry last night. I caught him making some silly moves. Usually he’s solid but i thought he was Iffy last night; Peckham had his moments too.

    A few times it looked like both of these guys just stood around watching the puck float by them.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Ok… the haze of the win has worn off, now I can actually read and digest this article. Some thoughts:

    1) I assume if healthy T. Fedun fits on that list somewhere? Are you not counting injured players? Including him, where would you put him?

    2) Is Hartikainen the second coming of Tikkanen? Finnish, LW power forward? Also, I think this is awesome: “patience should pay off when he arrives for good.” I am keen on a new no rush policy. Work the boy up to the NHL, don’t throw him in and hope. Long term pay off.

    3) I nominate Kirill Tulupov for best name within the Oilers. And, who cares if he isn’t technically Oiler property. A guy with a name like that never does things by the books (it’s unlikely he knows was a book is). He is clearly some rogue Hockey wayfarer… he simply appears at the rink on gameday toothless with a makeshift sack holding his things attached to the end of his stick and quickly, quietly disappears again without a trace. For he is “Kirill” second son of Latveria.

    4) does it trouble anyone that there are no RWs on that list? and where does Bunz and Roy fit in?

    5) has anyone else followed the Baron updates on the Oiler site? they have some nice profiles of games and players. Also Coach Nelson sounds just like Ricky from Trailer Park Boys

    thanks for another insightful article LT. Always great to read.

    • Dipstick

      They continue to have depth at RW. Hemsky is on IR, Gagner can/is playing that position and Omark is in OKC. Eberle is untouchable and Jones seems to be in Renney’s good books. Resolving their oversupply at that position is probably a priority.

      • Romulus' Apotheosis

        Good point. But “competitiveness through the whole organization” would dictate that even if the NHL team is flush with 5/6 guys (depending on Gags; and including Petrell who definitely looks like he’s sticking around) you still want a number of solid options at that position at the lower levels don’t you?

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            He might have to, we’re so blotted at C right now. If you look at the Barons’ roster it seems like half the forwards a technically Cs…

            Here’s a topic for an ON article: Players, Positions and Success – I imagine there are numerous cases of players switching positions either to find a spot or to get another look; and I imagine some players flourish in new roles and others crap out big time… Interesting to see if there are any trends in the numbers and how common switching positions is?

            as a total aside, I imagine in a fluid game like hockey, or soccer, it is more common than in a relatively static game like baseball or football. But that is just an assumption from ignorance.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            I guess you mean through trade or [edit]? Either of those factors would certainly add pressure to building up the RW position at OKC.

            [edit] duly noted @Fastoil… you never can be too cautious.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Right. There’s enough smoke around ST to think he’s going to deal if he hears something he likes.

    As for the “i” word, let’s not even say or type it!

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Well, we know now that it takes about two to four years to stock an organization with talent from the draft.

    As I read the summary of the AHL prospects and players, I kept thinking, oh yeah, I totally forgot about Brule and Green for forward depth. And Hartikanen should be here. And Pitlick. And Petry on defence. For the first time in years, the organization has depth and can use it, if necessary, in trades for established players or to stock up on draft picks.

    I thought Barker would have been our point producing defenceman/reclamation project signed in the offseason, but it looks like Potter’s the man (quick, sign him to an extension while he still may be reasonable!).

  • RexLibris

    I had argued a while back that the Oilers, in spite of appearances to the contrary, are actually a little thin on RW prospects. It doesn’t look that way with Eberle, Hemsky, Omark, Jones and Eager but based on what I’ve read, Toni Rajala is the next RW on the depth chart. That was part of the reason I was secretly hoping for Nail Yakupov to replace Ales Hemksy or Linus Omark after the trade deadline/draft day.

    It’s funny when you look at that proposed Heatley deal now and see the value that we have by not doing that deal: a second round pick that could turn out to be a decent selection if the Ducks have a downturn next year, a shot-blocking automaton in Smid, and the picks and prospects formerly known as Dustin Penner. Compare all of that variety and depth to a single Dany Heatley and it seems ludicrous to compare them.

    It seems that the Oilers right now are playing as more than the proverbial sum of their parts and that is a good thing. People like Kent Wilson, Jonathan Willis and most analysts would argue that the math isn’t sustainable. And I think most Oiler fans agree that we’re all waiting for the real Oilers to show up again, but if the group is coming together and playing as a cohesive unit that speaks volumes about the character and unity of the dressing room.

    When Smyth rejoined the Oilers I was really concerned about his place taking ice time away from PRV and Hartikainen. I’m still concerned about his remaining on this team for sentimental reasons rather than objective ones and whether that causes us to flush some young talent or stunt it’s growth because of a nostalgic connection, but for the time being all is good and I’ll leave that decision to Tambellini.

    P.S. One of the best parts of this Oiler renaissance is watching the blood boil in Flames fans whenever our team is brought up.

    • I’m OK with trading Paajarvi for a defenseman, but I wouldnt be disappointed at all if they decide to hold onto him and see if he will develop. There doesnt have to be a superstar on every line, and he has some great tools.

      But for the right defender I would part with him.

      • John Chambers

        With Hartikainen and Hamilton in the system, I see Paajarvi as potentially being an odd-man out in a few years. I think we’ll end up retaining Ryan Smyth for what is likely to be a 2 or 3-year extention, and given that Paajarvi, although good, probably won’t be an elite-level player like Hall, he might command excellent trade value.

        Excellent enough to return Suter or Weber provided that the player communicated their openness to signing a lengthy extention with the Oil prior to the trade.

    • Peterborough

      I hope the second part was a joke. Lets not trade any of these young kids just yet. In point of fact, while we are winning, we should keep the roster intact.

      Having NHL ready players in your AHL club is what good teams have, its called depth.

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      Brule for Penner would be hilarious just to see the look on Lombardi’s face at the proposition!

      Seriously though… any update on Brule? His line doesn’t look that bad at OKC (not great mind you): 7, 3-1-4 and -2; he’s missed 3 games (not sure why) and if you look at the Oiler site he isn’t listed as “in the system” anymore… did we cut him loose?

      Personally, I’d be really happy if he turned his game around. guy had a lot of talent and seemed like a total not-douche.

  • OutDoorRink

    Why would we ever consider trading PRV? He’s playing very well and it’s just a matter of time before he breaks out big time. He’s big, has great wheels, and lots of skill with the stick.

    Omark would be long gone in my books before Maggie.

    There must be somebody out there who wants the Swedish Schremp.

  • Abby Oil

    Was just at the Baron/Heat game tonight. Omark looked good, but was very impressed with Pitlick. Cant wait for him to make the big team. Also why dont the Oil sign Helmer? Would be a good leadership guy. On a side note, my wife and I ran into Kevin Lowe at the arena tonight. Classy guy through and through!

  • SoonerPenguin

    Hey, all….I don’t mind my pics being used, but please ask me beforehand, and I’d also like photo credit to be given as well.

    It’s only fair, and it’s only the polite thing to do.