Minor league seasons are not measured on wins and losses, but rather on prospect development. How many kids took a step forward, how many ran in place, and how many are lagging? In OKC, the pace is brisk and most of the arrows are headed in a very good direction.
All of the impact players are playing well, as reflected in league scoring:
- #1 Justin Schultz 15, 8-13-21
- #2 Jordan Eberle 15, 6-13-19
- #3 (tied) Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 14, 7-10-17
Taylor Hall (7, 3-3-6) isn’t among the league leaders but he got a late start and it is only a matter of time. Hall’s most recent games show he’s back to being a chance machine in the offensive zone and his shot total (19 in 7 games) is increasing. Schultz came highly touted, but I don’t think anyone thought he’d have this kind of impact on the AHL. For Eberle and the Nuge, the adjustment period is over and offensively they are certainly doing good things.
THE LEGIT PROSPECTS
- Magnus Paajarvi (15, 2-7-9) I think he’s recovering nicely from last season’s crisis of confidence and having a solid year. Although his NHL offense likely won’t put him on a scoring line, Paajarvi’s speed will create chances and he’s driving to the net with more authority (from what I’ve seen) this season.
- Teemu Hartikainen (15, 4-8-12) is the star of this group so far this season. Big Finn has embraced the power forward role (he’s mentioned it several times in interviews) and he’s also impacting the game on the scoresheet. Hartikainen spent a lot of time with Nuge and Eberle in the season’s first 10 games, but did not get the job handed to him (it went to Paajarvi, then Green, and finally coach Nelson checked down to Hartikainen). At this point, I believe he’s earned his NHL ticket. Scored the first two goals in OKC Barons franchise history.
- Martin Marincin (13, 2-4-6) has been impressive in his first full pro season (so far). Sure you’ll see some chaos and a few vapor lock passes, but rookies have been doing that for a hundred years. What I like about him is that he can already play at pace and makes a crisp head-man pass. He’ll need at least a year in OKC, but looks like a player. He may one day form part of a top 4 that will include Jeff Petry, Justin Schultz and Oscar Klefbom.
- Taylor Fedun (14, 2-4-6) Took a few games to adjust, and I do think his footspeed is going to be an issue, but we can’t forget he’s coming back from a career altering injury. Fedun appears to be playing in more prominent spots for the Barons, taking on a veteran’s role despite his rookie status. I have no idea where he’ll land on the NHL depth chart when he arrives, but Fedun does have a nice range of skills.
- Curtis Hamilton (11, 2-0-2) Winger isn’t getting the offensive push usually reserved for higher picks in year 2 of their entry level deal, but he is playing hard and doing good things on the depth lines. A new facet of his AHL game is the PK, something he did in his junior career. Hamilton scored a SH goal last night and should get more chances this year to show his stuff 4×5.
- Tyler Pitlick (14, 0-2-2) He’s getting his chances (26 shots) and has rung iron a time or two, but Pitlick’s AHL career so far suggests he may end up being one of the "Kent Manderville All-Stars" who look like hockey players without actually scoring goals or being part of the offense.He could easily adept his skill set to a checking role, but will still need to impact the scoresheet.
- Colten Teubert (15, 0-1-1) Playing a physical game and has been effective defensively. Teubert’s abilities are not reflected in the boxcars, but he is a defender coach Nelson relies on. His road to the NHL is blocked by Andy Sutton (injured), Theo Peckham and higher up the chain by Ladislav Smid and Nick Schultz. An NHL top 6D role for next season would appear to be waiting for him.
- Anton Lander (11, 0-0-0) Its like he’s been cursed or something. Seriously, Lander has shown improved play recently, after being placed on a line with Paajarvi and Hartikainen. His scouting report was always backwards–it read like he was the son of Habs great defensive C Doug Jarvis–but as with Pitlick he’ll need to show more offensively if he hopes to make the NHL.
- Olivier Roy (5, 3.05 .898) Roy has struggled so far this season, which shouldn’t be a surprise based on the lack of experience in front of him. That said, the young goalie has also had strong performances and should be capable of solid play this season for the Barons.
Men like Brandon Davidson, Ryan Martindale and Kristians Pelss have not been included, as they didn’t play enough games. These players are most certainly prospects and worth watching in the future.
THE LONG SHOTS
- Mark Arcobello (15, 5-4-9) He can play center or wing and is an effective even strength player. Arcobello is a long shot based on size, but he’s a battler and a smart hockey player. The Oilers 3rd and 4th lines have been a trainwreck for some time, so there’s a chance Arcobello could slide in there. He certainly will get noticed with his work ethic.
- Dane Byers (15, 1-2-3) Has been a disappointment this season. Byers isn’t getting a push, but he’s also not able to provide veteran leadership and scoring to either depth line. Will need to show better as the season rolls along.
- Chris VandeVelde (14, 0-3-3) The longer Lander goes without emerging, the longer NHL veterans like Eric Belanger keep struggling, the better the chances for VandeVelde. He is very long in the tooth for a prospect–he’ll turn 26 on the Ides of March–but he’s a good bet to see more NHL playing time soon and could have a career. The last remaining ember for the Oilers from the lockout (2005) draft.
- Antti Tyrvainen (9, 1-0-1) Its funny. He entered the season as a guy whose truculence was badly needed, but at this point he’s a pim magnet who plays addled hockey. I don’t think that’s too harsh, and wonder about his future.
- Tanner House (12, 1-0-1) If Chris VandeVelde is a poor man’s Shawn Horcoff–and he is–then Tanner House is one rung below on the Horcoff ladder. Smart 2-way players are a favorite of mine, but House is a long shot based on skill level and age. He also looked out of it last night after taking a vicious shot in a fight.
- Alex Plante (11, 0-0-0) Wildly inconsistent play this season have many wondering if the concussions have taken a larger toll than first thought. Plante has not played well for long stretches this season, and the Barons badly need him to be better.
- Yann Danis (11, 2.76 .914) Lots of chatter recently about the NHL kids finally delivering, but the truth is those guys were doing well from the start. Danis was not himself early in the year, certainly not at a level similar to last season. He is now, and the result has been an increase in W’s. I think he’ll come right to the NHL after the lockout.
Men like Josh Green and Jordan Henry should also be on this list, but didn’t play enough games for us to get a clear view. Hopefully, they’ll be ready for the next update.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
If the lockout ended today, I would suggest the following players would be called up to the NHL roster:
- G Yann Danis (as replacement for Nikolai Khabibulin)
- D Justin Schultz
- C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
- L Taylor Hall
- R Jordan Eberle
- R Teemu Hartikainen
Those 6 men would join Devan Dubnyk, Ladislav Smid, Ryan Whitney, Nick Schultz, Jeff Petry, Theo Peckham, Corey Potter, Sam Gagner, Shawn Horcoff, Eric Belanger, Ryan Smyth, Nail Yakupov, Ben Eager, Darcy Hordichuk, Ales Hemsky, Ryan Jones and Lennart Petrell as the 2012-13 Edmonton Oilers.
First callups: D Colten Teubert, L Magnus Paajarvi.
The Barons will send a solid goaltender, an amazing defense prospect and a big Finn who is having a fine season, along with the three impact kids who should hit the ice on the fly when the NHL resumes play. You can’t always get what you want, but the Oilers look like they’ll get a lot of what they need from OKC when the lights go on again.