We’re now 10 games into Oklahoma’s season, and that seemed like a good time to grade players on their performance so far.
Head of the Class
Justin Schultz: A+ (10GP – 6G – 9A – 15PTS, +6). It’s pretty hard to find anything bad to say about the rookie defenceman who just happens to be leading the league in scoring. He’s been the best of the Oilers’ young stars; his offensive game is already likely outpaces every defender currently on the NHL club; he can skate, shoot, pass and he’s smart to boot. He should step right on to the Oilers’ top power play unit when this lockout ends.
Jordan Eberle: A (10GP – 6G – 5A – 11PTS, +3). Eberle is delivering pretty much as expected in the minors; despite a slow start points-wise (one goal over his first four games) he’s now tied for fifth in league scoring and is clearly a superior player at this level.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: A- (9GP – 3G – 7A – 10PTS, +2). The comments here are much the same as they are with Eberle; offensively, he’s out of his league at this level. On the other hand, he’s also getting an opportunity to take own zone draws and play the role of ‘two way center’ – and he’s still a little rough in that department. Even so, he’s an outstanding AHL’er and he doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his physical game – he throws a good hit, and he isn’t shy about hammering a guy if he takes a hit, either.
Teemu Hartikainen: B+ (10GP – 3G – 6A – 9PTS, +4). I’ve been awfully impressed with Teemu Hartikainen, though he clearly isn’t at the same level as Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins. He’s been an effective guy in front of the net, and he’s been a pretty decent wingman for the NHL kids. The play typically dies on his stick more than it does on that of the other two, and despite improvements in his skating he’s not exactly fleet of foot, but he’s shown enough that he might get a skill line audition when NHL hockey returns.
Mark Arcobello: B+ (9GP – 3G – 4A – 7PTS, -1). Arcobello gets high marks because he’s been the only guy off the NHL lines to consistently generate offence; he’s also second in even-strength scoring on the team to Hartikainen. He’s small and his defensive game needs work – I’m not just saying that, he’s actually had trouble at points – but he’s a high-end AHL player and is going to be vital to the team’s fortunes once the NHL kids leave.
Martin Marincin: B+ (9GP – 2G – 2A – 4PTS, +6). I’ve been harping a little bit on the rough points in Marincin’s game, and they are definitely there – he’s a rookie professional, and there are moments when he definitely looks it. However, the raw skill level is exceptional – he’s huge, a good skater, and a surprisingly good offensive option. He’s probably two full seasons away from major-league play, but he’s an exceptional player: he just needs to smooth down the rough points.
Colten Teubert: B (10GP – 0G – 1A – 1PTS, EV). In terms of his defensive game, Teubert’s been okay. He’d probably look better if he were playing with another veteran. Even at the AHL level, he doesn’t at this point look like a pure shutdown defender (though it should be mentioned that his game is trending up of late). His physical presence has earned rave reviews, though – he laid a licking on Brett Bulmer one night for a late hit and followed it up the next game with immediate retribution for Antoine Roussel’s knee-on-knee hit on Jordan Eberle.
Fair To Middlin’
Brandon Davidson: B- (6GP – 0G – 1A – 1PTS, EV). Davidson had a relatively impressive start before being diagnosed with cancer; he’s out of the lineup for the foreseeable future. He’s not a strong skater but he has a nice range of skills and the brains to compensate for that limitation. He does a lot of things well but doesn’t have any one standout quality.
Olivier Roy: B- (4GP, 2-2-0, 0.915 SV%). Roy’s second professional season started much the way his first did; he looks like a legitimate prospect and has fared well in his four starts. IT’s far too early too say much, of course – other than that he’s never going to be a plus puck-handler.
Magnus Paajarvi: C+ (10GP – 2G – 4A – 6PTS, -1). Paajarvi can flat-out play, but… is he going to be a scorer? It’s the same question that’s been debated 100 times (at least) around these parts, and it’s the same thing I ask myself every time I watch him play. He’s one the power play point in OKC (though the arrival of Hall has shifted the alignments), where he’s been a good distributor but not much of a shooter. He takes a lot of shots at evens but he hasn’t been consistently dangerous.
Chris VandeVelde: C+ (9GP – 0G – 3A – 3PTS, +1). Offence is not a good way to judge this player. In the early going, VandeVelde has been Todd Nelson’s go-to checking line center. Nelson doesn’t seem to employ a defensive zone line (every forward, including Ryan Martindale seems to have been used in the defensive zone) and also seems to stick to power-vs.-power in the matchups, but VandeVelde’s the guy out for critical draws with the game winding down, or out on the penalty kill.
Taylor Fedun: C (10GP – 0G – 3A – 3PTS, EV). It’s been an uneven start for Fedun. A clearly bright player with good passing ability, he’s mostly been a third-pairing guy out of the gate and has struggled (though not to the extent of usual partners Ringwald and Plante). Still, he’s coming off a full season lost to injury – he deserves a lot of slack in the early going.
Tyler Pitlick: C (9GP – 0G – 2A – 2PTS, -1). Seventeen shots on the season; not a single goal. Last year, Pitlick fired the puck 130 times and scored just seven goals. It’s easy to see what the fuss is about, watching him – he’s a good possession player, rushing and passing and while not a power forward per se he’s also a decent physical player. Still: the lack of offense is disappointing, particularly since Todd Nelson has given him a second-line push since Day 1.
Dane Byers: C (10GP – 1G – 1A – 2PTS, EV). Byers has been confined to the fourth line until recently, and I don’t think his numbers on the season reflect his actual level of offensive ability. He’s also a very tough customer – sometimes for good, and sometimes for ill (he’s been burned for a few bad penalties).
Tanner House: C (7GP – 1G – 0A – 1PTS, +2). A hard-working forward who is getting a little long in the tooth for prospect status, House seems to have carved out a spot in the lineup as the team’s fourth-line center. He’s another guy who could post better numbers if used in a different role.
Curtis Hamilton: C- (7GP – 1G – 0A – 1PTS, -3). Hamilton needs to do more. He’s been solid in a penalty-killing role and has definite virtues, but he’s simply been too vanilla – he’s been playing like a lower-tier Pitlick or an ultra-low tier Paajarvi.
Ryan Martindale: C- (6GP – 0G – 3A – 3PTS, +2). Despite superficially impressive numbers, Martindale has been a definite disappointment. After a hot preseason, and with Nelson lauding his off-season commitment (Martindale showed up to camp in tremendous shape, as per the coach), Martindale had a chance to impress. He’s been handed the second line center role when dressed, and he has not lived up to it. The only reason he gets a passing grade on the season so far is that the ‘not being an AHL second liner’ portion of this grade is counteracted by the ‘not being stuck in the ECHL’ portion.
Anton Lander: C- (6GP – 0G – 0A – 0PTS, +2). The only other forward on the team without a point is Cameron Abney. Lander hasn’t even been particularly noticeable offensively, despite generally playing on good lines. Six shots through six games isn’t nearly enough in the AHL, even for a primarily defensive center.
Yann Danis: C- (6GP, 3-2-1, 0.895 SV%). Danis has struggled early. Some of that has been his team – he’s held the club in certain games, even where his statistics say otherwise, and he’s made two of the finest saves I’ve ever seen in his six starts. History suggests he’s a better goaltender than he’s shown so far.
Alex Plante: F (6GP – 0G – 0A – 0PTS, -2). The Barons, an awfully green team on the back end, needed a strong start from Plante, one of a very few experienced veterans. While Plante’s play has improved over the last few games, he was a disaster early on and is now a regular scratch for coach Todd Nelson.
Dan Ringwald: F (6GP – 0G – 0A – 0PTS, EV). With Plante’s struggles and the glut of right-side defencemen on the Barons, Ringwald had an opportunity to climb the depth chart. Instead he’s oscillated between “awful” and “serviceable.”
Antti Tyrvainen: F (7GP – 1G – 0A – 1PTS, +1). One of the big things successful agitators do is draw more penalties than they take. While Tyrvainen does things a lot of other agitators do – he takes cheap shots, he embellishes hits – he’s so far only managed to hurt his own team with idiotic penalties. Two of his three minors so far have been for diving, while the other 15 minutes came from a major and a game misconduct for spearing less than three minutes into a game versus Lake Erie.
Josh Green: Inc. (3GP – 1G – 1A – 2PTS, +2). Dependable veteran looked pretty good at both center and on the wing out of the gate, but a rib injury has him on the shelf for now.
Kristians Pelss: Inc. (3GP – 0G – 2A – 2PTS, +1). Rookie pro looked pretty decent in a checking role over three games, but the numbers crunch means he’s in the ECHL for now.
Taylor Hall: Inc. (2GP – 1G – 0A – 1PTS, EV). Hall joined the Barons in time for this weekend’s games, and while he was held out of Saturday’s tilt on a precautionary basis, he turned heads on Friday with a goal on his first shift and a hard, hard check on Jonas Brodin that injured the young Wild prospect.
Teigan Zahn: Inc. (3GP – 0G – 1A – 1PTS, EV). So far, Zahn has held his own on a pairing with Colten Teubert after being recalled to replace the injured Brandon Davidson.
Cameron Abney: Inc. (3GP – 0G – 0A – 0PTS, EV). A pure enforcer, Abney’s skating looks quite good for what he is, but he’s been a disaster with the puck in the early going.