One of the ways we can see progress among young players–especially rookie pro’s–is checking progress in the season’s second half. The OKC Barons have played 58 of their 80 games and almost half of those since the Christmas break. Are the kids making progress?
The current Edmonton Oiler players shouldn’t be too worried about what’s behind them on the farm, but there are some talented rookies, some of whom should be knocking on the door in the next couple of seasons. These new pro’s are behind names like Teemu Hartikainen, Anton Lander and Linus Omark but their time will come if they continue to progress.
As a group, these forwards have done little to move the needle during the 11-12 season. It doesn’t mean they are failed prospects, but there’s plenty of work to do.
Tyler Pitlick started the season smartly, turning heads with physical play; however the offense wasn’t coming and by Christmas the numbers weren’t encouraging. The pre-and-post splits suggest offense is a major issue:
- Pitlick before Christmas: 28, 4-5-9 -8 321ppg
- Pitlick after Christmas: 16, 2-3-5 +3 .313 ppg
Pitlick’s plus minus has improved but the offense isn’t there at this point in time. Pitlick has been running in place since Christmas, not improving his offensive output. His current rookie season in the AHL is a good comp for Colin McDonald, a 2003 2nd round pick who did not emerge as an NHL player (although he’s still trying).
Pitlick’s scouting report suggests he should be able to make himself useful in a checking role if his offense is too shy for a feature role on a skill line. Edmonton badly needs a strong, physical winger to go with all that talent in Edmonton, so I’m sure he’ll get plenty of opportunities to show what he can do.
Hamilton is the other 2010 pick who was turned pro this past fall along with Tyler Pitlick. Hamilton was expected to deliver more offense based on his WHL season in 2010-11 but he’s been disappointing from the start. Hamilton has played on the PK and did get some early PP time, but a recent injury may mean his season is over.
- Hamilton before Christmas: 23, 2-5-7 even .304ppg
- Hamilton after Christmas: 18, 3-1-4 +2 .222
The comps from Edmonton’s draft past are names like Dan Baum, and you can’t really find an AHL rookie with a similar season in the Oiler system who went on to success in the NHL (Jason Chimera wasn’t special, but had a much better season than Hamilton). He has way better hands than he’s shown so far in the AHL, so he’ll need to impress the coaching staff this fall with hard work and aggressiveness.
Hunter Tremblay’s rookie season in the AHL comes at age 25, so all of the things we read into his numbers must be viewed through that lens. His time as an "NHL prospect" is limited, and he needs to emerge from the pack quickly.
- Tremblay before Christmas: 29, 5-6-11 +4 .379ppg
- Tremblay after Christmas: 21, 7-5-12 +4 .571ppg
Tremblay has shown some nice growth since Christmas and is on track for a solid AHL rookie season. He is an RFA this summer and one would reasonably expect him to earn a second contract with the Oilers. A callup to the NHL is probably a distant bell, but he might see action in a "Oilers recall Charles Linglet" way.
House has a rep of being a solid 2-way center and a good penalty killer. AHL hopefuls who want to make their mark still have to bring offense, and in the case of House it’s wanting.
- House before Christmas: 27, 4-5-9 +9 .333ppg
- House after Christmas: 24, 0-6-6 +1 .250ppg
Another 25-year old AHL rookie, House has a wide range of skills than Tremblay but is not his match offensively. House has another year on his entry level deal, so will be back again next season in OKC. Like Tremblay, an NHL recall is possible but unlikely.
Tyrvainen is a 22-year old Finn who took some time to get rolling but has turned some heads since Christmas. Tyrvainen was probably the least touted of the rookie AHL forwards in OKC last fall but has meant his presence felt during the year.
- Tyrvainen before Christmas: 10, 0-3-3 +5 .300ppg
- Tyrvainen after Christmas: 27, 3-6-9 +5 .333ppg
The young Finn has shown slight improvement and his +10 stands out on the team. He has some edge to his game and is certainly a layer of interest for next season in OKC.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
The high draft picks (Pitlick and Hamilton) did not emerge as strong AHL rookies and in Hamilton’s case it may be a matter of starting all over again next season. Hunter Tremblay and Tanner House are 25 year olds and needed to impress and they did, although only Tremblay has shown enough offensive ability to get noticed on a league-wide basis (he is tied for 47th among AHL rookies this season). Antti Tyrvainen took time to get rolling, but he has some grit and might end up being the most interesting player in the group.
It’s safe to say that none of the men mentioned here will have the kind of impact Teemu Hartikainen had as a rookie one year ago, when he finished in a 14th place tie for AHL rookie scoring (66, 17-25-42).