Photo courtesy of Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved.
In the more than 30 years the Oilers have been sending kids to the farm, the team Todd Nelson will send out into the Cleveland night tomorrow will be the best in team history as soon as the first skate blade cuts into the ice.
Some of these NHL kids have seen some time in the minors, but there’s a big difference between being an 18-year old kid playing a few AHL games at the end of the season and the player Jordan Eberle is today. Add in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Justin Schultz and Taylor Hall possibly in a few weeks and it’s an all-star cast!
HOW DOES THIE GROUP COMPARE TO PAST OILERS FARM CLUBS?
The 1992-93 Cape Breton Oilers won the Calder trophy (AHL championship) with big scorers like Dan Currie, Bill McDougall and Steven Rice. The club had a large number of future NHL role players (Shaun Van Allen, Scott Thornton, Kirk Maltby, Sjhon Podein), but scored only 20 more goals than they allowed (356-336) during the regular season.
In 1980-81, Garnet "Ace" Bailey was the coach of the Wichita Wind, a strong minor league team. Bailey took them to the finals. the next season John Muckler would coach and they’d get bounced in round 2. The players from that team included:
- Andy Moog, who would become one of the finest NHL goaltenders of his era.
- Charlie Huddy, who would be a strong contributor to the best Oiler teams in history and play in over 1,000 NHL games.
- Walt Poddubny, who would score 184 NHL goals, 116 of those in a stunning three season run from 86-89.
- John Blum, who would play 250 NHL games (most with Boston).
- Don Jackson, who was a solid role player for the Oilers during those years.
- Tom Roulston, who played 195 NHL games (and 47 goals) for the Oilers just before they started bagging Stanley’s every spring.
as well as some veterans coming down, some kids trying to make it to the NHL and a few tweeners. Neither group–the Cape Breton bunch or the Wichita ("train don’t run through Wichita, unlessin you’re a hog or cattle. People train run through Stubbville") Wind–had the firepower of the current group.
Is three graduates a season "reasonable" to expect? Should an NHL team assume three kids from each minor league team will graduate, per season? I think you have to factor in quality along with quantity. A quick example: The 2006-07 Springfield Falcons graduated Devan Dubnyk, Theo Peckham, Marc Pouliot, Rob Schremp, JF Jacques, Danny Syvret, Jeff Deslauriers and Liam Reddox.
How would that compare to the Hamilton Bulldogs of 99-00? That team graduated a rebuilt Daniel Cleary, Jason Chimera, Dan Lacouture, Brad Norton.
For this year’s team, we can’t really count the Nuge, Ebs or Hall. Can we count Justin Schultz? I’d say so, this is the beginning of his pro career, so 40 game in OKC for him would count just as it did for Jeff Petry.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Ten years from now, we’re going to know which of these players developed into useful NHLers. I think Schultz is a no-brainer, and beyond that would bet heavily on Paajarvi, Martin Marincin, Teemu Hartikainen and Tyler Pitlick. Your mileage may vary, and I think that’s a reflection of just how deep the talent pool is for the Oilers currently.
The amateur scouts have filled the cupboards. A lot of very talented kids have arrived in OKC looking to refine their skills; it’ll be interesting to see how many of them emerge as Edmonton Oilers.