There are qualified men playing in the shadows of the NHL, waiting for a chance to prove they have the right stuff. This year, as in seasons past, six men have shown themselves to be most worthy. These men are the 2012 Minor League All-Stars.

YANN DANIS, OKC BARONS: had a career year in Oklahoma City in 2011-12, helping the Barons to a West Division title while ranking among the league leaders in wins (26-14-2), goals-against average (2.07), save percentage (.924) and shutouts (five). The eighth-year pro from Lafontaine, Que., played in the 2012 AHL All-Star Game became the first goaltender in seven years to record a shutout period. He was re-signed by the Oilers and in prime position to play NHL games this season as #3 on a depth chart that includes 39-year old Nikolai Khabibulin.

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MARK BARBERIO, NORFOLK ADMIRALS: Won the Eddie Shore award as the AHL’s top defender, and led all AHL defensemen with 48 assists and 61 points. Two-way defender with a bright future, had some questions about defensive play in the past but those have been ironed out and the future is bright. Should get a lot of playing time in Tampa Bay in 2012-13.

PAUL POSTMA, ST. JOHN’S ICECAPS: A 23-year-old native of Red Deer, Alta., had a 10-game scoring streak in December and made his second consecutive AHL All-Star Classic appearance in January. Postma has the offense down but improvement defensively makes him a candidate for NHL employment this coming season. Winnipeg has a strong group of blue, so time in the AHL in 2012-13 is possible.

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TJ HENSIK, PEORIA RIVERMEN: Went 66, 21-49-70 with the Rivermen and displays outstanding skill and speed. As with many of the gifted forwards you’ll find in the AHL, the problem for Hensik is size (5.10, 190). At age 26, he’ll need a team to look to him in the Kyle Wellwood role and I’d think there’s every chance that he’ll get at least one more chance. Hensink has played in 112 NHL games so far, scoring 12-26-38.

CORY CONACHER, NORFOLK ADMIRALS: Holy hell what a rookie season. Conacher was selected as the American Hockey League’s Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year. Undrafted former Canisus College scoring star, he scored 75, 39-41-80. At 22, he is undersized (5’8", 175 pounds), but the Lightning have done well with Martin St. Louis so it’s unlikely the organization will buy into the same ‘size’ bias that is rife in the NHL. This guy has an amazing future based on his rookie year.

PATRICK MAROON, SYRACUSE CRUNCH: Massive forward (6.04, 225) has some offensive ability and looks like he might be ready for NHL action at age 24. He went 75, 32-42-74 with Syracuse this season and the Anaheim Ducks may look to him this coming season. There are more talented wingers in the AHL, but Maroon’s combination of size and skill will get him NHL employment soon. If not Anaheim, another NHL city. Perhaps Edmonton?

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All 30 NHL teams have holes to fill and the AHL offers attractive solutions. Some of these men are just stopping off on their way to long NHL careers, others have played exceptionally well and are hopeful it results in another big contract with an NHL team. Either way, the 6 players mentioned here are just the tip of the iceberg.

Past editions of this post (here and here) offer proof. NHL General Managers will have to overcome bias–things like lack of size and the age old belief that AHL men can’t play at a higher level–but the talent is there and available. Often at a fraction of the price paid in free agency or via trade. 

  • Lowetide

    Michael: Originally a Flyer pick, they apparently thought there were some issues (Philly doesn’t put up with crap, haven’t since Fred Shero flushed Rick Foley) but it doesn’t seem to be an issue in ANA.

    As a player, he’s a bit lost in the art of what to do when your team is without the puck apparently.

  • walker59

    Sounds like the kind of player the Oilers need to play with RHN and Ebs. Has size and willing to use it. I don’t require my first line LW to be to cerebral. I need him to be a little more thug like with the ability to retrieve the puck,provide protection as needed and be an obstacle between the opponent and whoever has the puck . Whether that is Eberle or RNH.

    I would like TH to be that guy. But I think he lacks the physicality(willingness to engage ala Lennart Petrell) that that line needs to be successful. With elite guys sometimes you need your 3rd guy to be just there taking up space so that they can do there thing. Chips in with 10-15 goals and 15 assists and provides a presence so that there is space for the other 2 guys do there job.

    I think back to the year that Gretzky and Kurri played with Semenko on there line for a large portion of the year. He had like 12 goals but put up like 200 PIMs. I think WG had like 190+ plus points that year. My point is that sometimes you need to look back at whats been successful. WG and Kurri,Messier and Anderson. Hall and Oates. RNH and Ebs. Hall and Gagner. I think that the Oilers would do well to identify a player who is willing to play a lesser role for the greater good of the team. By lesser I mean scoring wise.

    • longbottom/P.Biglow

      I would be comfortable to ice either Gagner-Hall or RNH-Ebbs depending on the need ,in a one two punch.Unless we decide to pair our offense with a defensive forward we need to compliment these guys with more offense,enter Yakupov.

      We have one full elite line,I feel that Kharkov might be a piece for us to look at.

      We have heard a lot of young men make the statement that they want to step up and challenge our elite skill players,so that alone isnt enough—but backing the statement up with a pint or two of plasma might make the difference—if MPS had teeth we would already have him slotted in on the 1st two lines–but none have had the attitude Kharkov has had,it is healthy and competative.I would like to see him get a shot at filling some system needs.

      It seems our small talented skill guys get “it”but our bigger guys cant seem to stomach the fact that they need to pay more at the gate to get into the party,its that simple,we have a lot of tapes of Bill Guerin and Ethan Moreau,lets use them.

      If our head coach uses a balanced system we wont need to be concerned about size at all and we already have the men we need,if he wants to use a weighted system that leans one direction we need to keep looking or hope for a step-up guy who takes a spot on his own.

      In a balanced system the on-ice responsibilitys are more “evenly distributed”for all 60 mins,in a –leaning system–some guys need to do more in some areas hence the need for size in the top six.

      Our personell needs and the suitability for these roles which the players must exhibit is ALL system dependant,so without this data its back to the drawing board or guessing game if you will.

      In a winning system the farm team and big team both play an identical system and the players are instantly intercgangeable,I hope we will see the effects of this this year,because judgeing by the results for the first time in 20 yrs our farm team and our big team have played the same system exactly,and last year the farm team was more accurate in their execution—-our farm team played a version of the NewAge Hockey System last year ,just like LA did and like we were beginning to do at the end of the year here.Remember this,our farm team is already playing a superior system to our big team,so they are further ahead in their learning curve,so if our coach chooses a system similar to the NewAge Hockey Ststem we WILL see guys come up and take spots away from guys we think are locks here.

      Kid yourself not,the farm team didnt just “turn the corner”like LA did last year without MAJOR system changes,exactly like LA,and those changes are not discussed accurately or enough,we have a boatload of minor league all-stars in our stable,and as far as our system is concerned we couldnt care less what the rest of the league thinks about individual players,because they are baseing their assesment on a player—system dynamic that we dont accept here,I dont believe we will ever tailor our system to a player again after Waynes Gretzkys rule here,so the definition of all-star means something different in the Oilers room I hope.Judgeing by the effort they gave us last year I think my hopes are a reality.

      The real challenge is a money issue–how exactly do you sit a 3 or 4 million dollar player in favor of a “minor leaguer”??You do it if it means system sucess and you dont think twice,you make a seamless decision and you iniatiate the system support you need to execute,period.We just happen to have an owner who might recognise this dynamic and support us in that direction.With effective communication and timely changes when needed we are in an excellent position to utilise all of our minor league assets as soon as the system asks for them.As it looks to me like if our coach chooses last years Cup winning system{Sutter cant even explain how he got there because Stolly and others just led him there}we might need to send guys down to tune them into the NewAge Hockey System because the entire farmteam is already on the same page and ahead of the big team.

      If we again play the NewAge System on the farm we will begin to churn out All-star appearances by individuals representing our system.But we cannot let this affect how we view these players unless we are considering their accomplishments systemwise first,or we will have guys who experience the proper system sucess falter here on the big team when expectations are turned topsy-turvey.

      We require system continuity and as I said I believe our farm team is ahead of the big club on the learning curve,mostly due to the fact that the farm team could risk an all out committment to a new and unproven NewAge Hockey System while our big team couldnt take that risk early enough—and we had internal issues systemwise–,all I can say is unfortunate because LA did exactly that–discovered,experimented with and immediatly executed the NewAge System at a time when the NewAge System was being served up to the Oilers on a Platter—I created it specificcly for the Oilers ,LA took a risk after discovering the system data on-line and it payed off,our farm team took a risk and it payed off,the Oilers didnt make a committed move to the NewAge System until there were about 25 gms left to go,and then we began to actually right the ship–so even that paid off{this means positive results were achieved}.

      I say if we carry on as we did last year on the farm that we will have a minimum of two All-stars on our farm team identified.The NewAge System is superior so the results will force league recognition.

      I love minor league players because they dont know their own potentials yet so the slate is clean so to speak and you can more easily teach them to visualise system data and recognise system form and function.I think with the NewAge System core values in part already instilled into the farmteam that I could soundly take a seven game series from our NHL club in 4 games I believe,and I only give them one because they will adjust at the last second as they turtle defensively,as a tribute to their coaches.Of course I would need the farm team coaches all in place as they have the communication lines functioning at an elite level with their group.As the creator of the NewAge Hockey System I only released parts of my system to the public last year on-line and I held back 75% of the tactical data for the Oilers private use,as a result with our minor league teams headstart on system initiation I think I could step in and in a few days add more core values to what they have and put the team in a position to dominate an NHL roster consistantly.Minor league players are my favorites for good reason,they are all All-stars waiting for the right situation.No one has told them what they “cant do”yet,so they are all champions.

  • walker59

    @Walker59. I can tell you I was not one of those guys complaining. I was posting that the OIlers should take Moroz at 32. I believe in the need for a balance in character in the dressing room.You need that guy who’s willing to step it up and fight for his teammates in a positive way. Moroz was willing to do that all last season in a way that was meaningful and positive. The success of his team outweighed his own personal success on the ice. Moroz to me is a team first guy who is willing to perform a role which few players are willing to do. He combines toughness with speed and skill. My only regret is that the Oilers were not able to draft HS also.

  • walker59

    I know player the Oilers have who has the same I am lost with/without the puck kinda look.His name Eric Belanger. Knows what do without the puck. Hasn’t a clue what do when he has it.I don’t know which is worse. Knowing not what do when you have the puck. Or not knowing what to do when you don’t have the puck. I think the first is worse because you can’t teach a player the second.

  • YFC Prez

    Swaping of the pecking order between Khabby and Danis would ease alot of the concerns I have in net. I don’t understand why Tambi lets one of the best tenders in the A stay down and at the same time Khabby is easily one of the worst Tenders in the NHL and gets hand fed starts.