The Oilers AHL affiliate, OKC Barons, start their season tonight against the Colorado Avalanche’s affiliate, Lake Erie Monsters.
As the lockout drags on I’m certain many of you will check out the odd AHL game on the web, go on a road trip (four seats left) or just follow them here at the Nation. Between Lowetide, Willis, Brownlee and myself we will give you regular updates on the happenings in OKC.
Before we get going, let’s see who knows the Barons. Can you name the five players from left to right in the above photo?
I’m certain Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall, when he gets down there in a few weeks, will garner much of your attention, I’m much more interested, however, in the progress of Teemu Hartikainen, Tyler Pitlick, Anton Lander, Magnus Paajarvi, Colten Teubert, Taylor Fedun and Justin Schultz. Their development is key to the future of the Oilers.
Hall, RNH and Eberle will be the leaders in Edmonton, but if the Oilers are going to become a legitimate contender in two or three years they will need those other guys to prove they can contribute and succeed in the NHL.
THINGS TO WATCH
- I’m certain Paajarvi will be a regular NHLer, but does he have the tools to fit in the Oilers top-six? Hall, RNH, Eberle Sam Gagner and Nail Yakupov are the skilled guys, but will Paajarvi be the right piece to fit in amongst them? Will he turn out to be a better 3rd line guy, who kills penalties and chips in with 15-18 goals?
- Does Hartikainen have the speed and hockey sense to play with RNH and Eberle? His big frame is exactly what the Oilers need in their top-six. Can he become like Tomas Holmstrom or Johan Franzen, a big body that is difficult to move and works hard down low? If so, he’d fit perfectly in Edmonton.
- What type of player is Pitlick? He had a slow start in OKC last year but got better in the second half. Todd Nelson will start him on the second line and second PP unit and wants to see him develop his offensive skills. I see him as a possible 3rd line guy in the NHL who might develop into a 2nd liner. He needs to add some sandpaper to his game.
- I see Lander as a vital 3rd line centre who takes draws, kills penalties and hopefully adds some offence. His best attribute is his desire to win. The Oilers need more guys like him; players who will do the ugly little things to win.
- I’ve said for months that Schultz will benefit the most from the lockout. Nelson told me earlier this week that Schultz looks great, while Eberle was really impressed with his vision and passing skills. He’ll play loads of minutes in OKC and should flourish on the PP with RNH and Eberle. Forty games in the AHL will make him a much better player.
- How will Fedun rebound from his broken leg? The Oiler’s management feels Fedun’s hockey sense is his best quality. Could he replace Nick Schultz in a few years? I see him as a similar player.
- Teubert needs to stay healthy and play consistent. If the lockout lasts the entire year, he could pass Andy Sutton, Theo Pechkam and Corey Potter on the depth chart. The ugly part of the lockout is how many #6/7 D-men could lose their job strictly by not playing. Teubert could benefit in this scenario.
- TRIVIA answer…Ryan Martindale, Cameron Abney, Brandon Davidson, Dan Ringwald and Olivier Roy. I had all of them but Ringwald.
Paajarvi – RNH – Eberle
Josh Green – Ryan Martindale – Pitlick
Hartikainen- Lander – Mark Arcobello
Curtis Hamilton – Chris Vande Velde – Dane Byers
Martin Marincin – Schultz
Taylor Fedun – Alex Plante
Brandon Davidson – Teubert
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Tonight is the first of four meetings over the next 12 days between the Barons and Monsters. The Barons will start the season with a 5-2 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: RNH and Eberle combine on a PP goal in the first period. The Monsters will start Calvin Pickard, former Tri-City American, in goal and RNH and Eberle will light him up like they did in the WHL. Eberle pots two goals and quietly states he plans on beating the Barons goal record of 42 set by Colin McDonald in 2010/2011.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: During the starting lineup introductions, RNH shocks everyone. When they announce his name, he takes off his gloves, reaches down to the ice, scoops up a fist full of snow, smashes it in his hands and then tosses it up in the air above his head. The Monsters share the same rink as the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the fans aren’t sure if they should boo his Lebron James impersonation or applaud it.
Meanwhile at the Pint, Wanye is hosting the LOCKOUT PARTY, details HERE, and when he catches wind of RNH’s epic snow toss, he goes and grabs some salt and tries to mimic RNH. He fails horribly, and runs to the washroom crying that he has salt in his eyes.
- Why is Hall allowed to go the AHL? When the NHL allowed teams to send players down between Sept 10th and 15th, Hall wasn’t healthy so they couldn’t send him down. Teams aren’t allowed to send anyone down after the 15th, but due to his injury the Oilers asked the NHL for an "exception status" for Hall. It was granted and he will be going down within the next two to three weeks.
- The main reason the NHL is fighting so hard to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix is because the City of Glendale paid for a new rink. The NHL doesn’t want to leave a city that put up money for their arena. The city of Edmonton hasn’t done so, and while it is a longshot the Oilers leave, the NHL won’t feel nearly as bad because the city has yet to build a facility. If the Katz Group and the City can’t agree to an arena deal, I wonder if the city builds ones themselves? Bettman doesn’t want a team to leave a market that has funded, partially or completely, a new facility. Food for thought.
- The Oilers AHL franchise record for most goals in a season is 57. Dan Currie had 57 in 75 games with the Cape Breton Oilers in 1992/1993. He had 50 in 66 games the previous year. John Leblanc was the other farmhand to pot 50, when he tallied 54 in 1989/1990 with Cape Breton. If the lockout lasts all season, I wonder if Eberle can become the third.
- Tom Roulston scored 63 goals with the Wichita Wind in the CHL in 1980/1981, which was equivalent to the AHL. So he could have record, but he wasn’t in the AHL.
- Do you know an amateur coach who does an excellent job and should be recognized? If so, send me an email to email@example.com and tell me what makes them so great. We have lots of excellent coaches who donate their time and make sports enjoyable for kids. Each Friday on my show we honour our Elite Sportswear Coach of the Week. They get lots of great stuff from Elite and an interview on the show. It doesn’t matter which sport they coach, just tell me what makes them so special. It is nice to see volunteer coaches recognized for their hard work.