Oklahoma City: The Best of the Rest

Looking at the Oilers’ forward prospects in the AHL this year, I see three distinct groups. There is the NHL trio of Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, three fantastic players who have nothing to prove and will (barring serious injury) enjoy long careers in the majors. After that three, there are two legitimate prospects – Teemu Hartikainen and Magnus Paajarvi. Then there’s everyone else, a group of players who aren’t doing nearly enough. 

It’s something that becomes particularly obvious when this year’s group is compared to the 2004-05 Edmonton Roadrunners. 

The Roadrunners produced seven forwards who would play in the NHL after the 2004-05 lockout. Two of those players – Raffi Torres and Jarret Stoll – already had a full season under their belts and were only in the minors because of the lockout.

Of the other five, the best NHL career belongs to Kyle Brodziak.

Brodizak was always a long-shot, a 214th overall pick as an over-ager. If today’s draft rules, with only 210 picks, were in place in 2003, he may not even have been selected. Timing was an additional problem: 2003 was the strongest draft in recent memory, and Brodziak’s first professional season was in 2004-05 – a year where the ranks of the AHL were bolstered by NHL-calibre players thanks to the lockout.

Here is how the five guys to make the jump to the NHL after 2004-05 performed statistically compared to the current crop of Oklahoma City Barons; the Roadrunners players are highlighted in grey:

Brodziak had the best season of the lot, despite the paltry goal totals. At the age of 20, as a rookie professional, he was a useful AHL player. He did what the Oilers had to hope Hamilton, Pitlick and Lander would do this year; it’s awfully hard to imagine brilliant NHL futures for the latter three when combined they are scoring at an inferior pace to Brodziak as a rookie. Brodziak did it without the benefit of draft pedigree, or a year to adjust to professional hockey. None of the Oilers’ depth prospects are enjoying a comparable season; only Magnus Paajarvi is in the same range.

It is difficult to look at Salmelainen and St. Pierre without thinking about Mark Arcobello and Toni Rajala. Salmelainen, a 5’9” winger, played 57 post-lockout NHL games for a lousy Chicago team; the similarly small St. Pierre played for Chicago, Boston and Ottawa, managing 38 appearances. Both Arcobello and Rajala are outscoring their 2004-05 counterparts; they probably will not get a shot with the Oilers but an NHL cup of coffee for one or both is far from out of the question, despite the size issues.

The other thing that stands out to me is the line here. All five guys who played NHL hockey are bunched together on this list. Hartikainen, Paajarvi and Arcobello are all on the right side of the line; Josh Green and Chris VandeVelde are in the same range as Toby Petersen and everybody else needs to score lots more than they have so far this season.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

  • RPG

    Did JFJ play on the PP for those above stats? Curious because we know that Lander, Pitlick and Hamilton don’t. Just not sure it’s fair to compare them based on this years stats given Hall, Ebs and Nuge take up so many minutes and eat up so much PP time.

    • I wouldn’t call Pitlick, Lander and Hamilton done; I’d say there’s a decent chance that someone out of that group turns into a depth NHL’er (given their age). But I don’t think they’re prospects worth spending a lot of time on.

  • Toro

    I haven’t watched too many Oil Baron games this year only 1 to be exact but I was impressed with the work ethic by Pitlick… He obviously isn’t putting up the points this year but he seems to me he could be a hard working depth forward for us in the future.

  • I think we should be extremely skeptical of either Hamilton or Pitlick as more than fringe NHlers at this point, but doesn’t special consideration have to go to Lander, since he scored at a good rate in an AHL comparable league in the SEL at age 19? One has to wonder if his problems may actually be more explicable by circumstance due to actually succeeding in the pro game at a young age (being pushed too early into the NHL resulting in confidence issues, little powerplay time due to NHL quality players higher than him on the depth chart). In short, I think trying to explain the play of Pitlick and Hamilton amounts to excuses, whereas explaining the play of Lander amounts to legitimate reasons. Time, however, will tell.

    • Oilertown

      Stu the magnificent bastard lol, in all honesty though the only ones I would maybe write off is Hamilton and Pitlick. The rest I think are all coming around or have not even played a pro game yet.

    • Well, we need a fair par to measure him against, don’t we? What is an average batting number for second round picks? How many are singles (say, 100 games) versus doubles or triples (200 and 500 NHL games, maybe) and how many are home runs and grand slams (top pairing defencemen or star forwards, or even superstar players).

      I suspect only about a third of second round picks get to 100 games. Maybe a touch more. If Lander, Musil and Maricin all break 100 games, with Lander a fringe fourth liner, Musil a bottom pairing guy for a decade and Marincin a legitimate top four player in his prime… And I don’t think that scenario is entirely unreasonable…. That may be well above average.

      I think saying “less than half of his second round picks are tracking towards meaningful careers!” overestimates the talent in the second round quite a bit.

      I think a successful draft is one quality NHL player and one or two bit or fringe players. First overall picks skew the picture a bit–either too much credit is given, or not enough because the rest of their draft is compared to teams who have their first round pick factored in.

      Seriously, all three of their second round picks from 2010 could wash out, and having Lander and Musil enjoy long, productive careers in middle six roles would be a success for their draft group.

      • DSF

        While I don’t disagree with your overall approach, I think you have to make it more draft specific and take a look at the players who were still on the board when a player was chosen.