During the 2010-11 season, the Detroit Red Wings employed 37 players with their AHL club (Grand Rapids). It’s interesting to look at the makeup of those 35 players–prospects, AHL veterans–suspects–and compare that group to the bunch Edmonton sent to Oklahoma City same year. Does it offer us some clues about how Detroit develops their players? 


For our purposes, I’m going to use 24 years old as the ‘prospect cutoff’, meaning players 25+ aren’t considered prospects unless there are special circumstances (goaltender, injured player, NCAA grad). Here’s how the Griffins 35 man roster broke down in 2010-11:

  • 19-to-24 year olds (19): This included several names we’re now familair with, including the mercurial Joakim Andersson (43 NHL games now, he’s a solid 2-way talent–typical Red Wing); offensive buzzsaw Tomas Tatar (27 NHL games now, he’s just emerging at age 22); Brian Lashoff (31 NHL games now, interesting tool box but raw skills mean he’s no sure thing); Thomas McCollum (1 NHL game now, slow developing goaltender who doesn’t look like he’s going to be a #1, and may not have much of an NHL career); Gustav Nyquist (40 NHL games now, an impressive offensive prospect with a great opportunity); Brendan Smith (48 games now, the jewel of the minor league system then, and despite slow development, is still well thought of and much is anticipated); Jan Mursak (46 NHL games now, skill player who was passed by others but had enough talent to play in the NHL at 22); Cory Emmerton (now 121 NHL games, two-way forward who looks like he’ll have a decent career despite a lack of offensive ability); Jakub Kindl (now at 147 NHL games, he’s an NHLer although we don’t know that he’s going to be a heavy minutes defender), and they also have a (now) AHL vet named Frances Pare who is posting consistent numbers–though likely shy of the NHL.

Of the 19 players aged 19-24 on the Griffins in 2010-11, 9 of them (47%) have played in the NHL. More important, guys like Andersson, Tatar, Nyquist, Emmerton, Smith and Kindl have provided the club with inside solutions to roster problems. That’s a massive advantage, a GM can look two or three years down the road and let veterans go on a team timeline. Smart, smart hockey club. 

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  • 25+ year olds (16): Jamie Tardif (2 NHL games now, this past season with Boston at age 28); Derek Meech (144 NHL games now, but only 18 since 2011); Doug Janik (190 NHL games now, but only 16 since 2011); Joey MacDonald (122 NHL games now, and 50 of those since 2010 fall). 

These are the minor league veterans who serve as mentors for the kids and play the tough opposition (in most cases) until the youngsters can take on more of  the chores. MacDonald looks like he’s caught on to a major league career, but that’s not terribly unusual for goaltenders (they often blossom late, or at least get their opportunity later on).

That Griffins team had 35 players roll through town, and 13 of them (37.1%) contributed at the NHL level (mostly for Detroit).



To repeat, I’m going to use 24 years old as the ‘prospect cutoff’, meaning players 25+ aren’t considered prospects unless there are special circumstances (goaltender, injured player, NCAA grad). Here’s how the Barons 38 man roster broke down in 2010-11:

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  • 19-to-24 year olds (23): Colten Teubert (24 NHL games now, Oilers cut him loose this summer); Phil Cornet (now 2 NHL games, Oilers cut him loose this summer); Teemu Hartikainen (now 52 NHL games, Oilers chose to retain his rights but he’s now in the KHL); Milan Kytnar (1 NHL game now, Oilers cut him loose long ago); Alex Plante (now 10 NHL games, Oilers cut him loose this summer); Mark Arcobello (now 1 NHL game, minor league free agent signing has a chance); Jeff Petry (156 NHL games now, he’s a legit NHL player of good quality); Chris VandeVelde (now 28 NHL games, Oilers cut him loose this summer); Taylor Chorney (61 NHL games now, but just 5 since summer 2011); Ryan O’Marra (33 NHL games now, just 9 since 2011 summer); Linus Omark (65 NHL games now, currently attempting to get away from the Oilers); Zack Stortini (257 NHL games now, but 1 since 2011 summer); Liam Reddox (100 NHL games, none since 2011 summer). 

Of the 23 players aged 19-24 on the Barons, 13 of them (56.5%) have played in the NHL. That’s a slightly higher percentage than Detroit’s but that could be explained by losing teams turning over rosters more quickly in search of success and consistency. 

More important, and this is incredible, 11 of the 13 (84.6%) have either been cut loose from the club or are chewing on the rope night and day in an effort to get their release. That’s an insane, insane number. Only Mark Arcobello and Jeff Petry remain, with Teemu Hartikainen banished to the hinterland to think about what he’s done (or didn’t do, more likely). 

Incredible. Comparing this list to the Detroit list above, I’m not certain we can blame the scouting department but am absolutely certain development should be under the microscope. Fascinating results since the Barons rolled into OKC. The team has had some on ice success, is that the reason for the poor showing? 

One thing we’ll know soon enough: if this bunch who were castaway are any good at all, we should be hearing about some nice beaches they’ve washed onto all over the hockey world. 

  • 25+ year olds (15): JF Jacques (166 NHL games now, but only 6 since spring 2011); Colin McDonald (52 NHL games now, 50 since spring 2011); Shawn Belle (20 NHL games now, but 0 since spring 2011); Jeff Deslauriers (62 NHL games now, but just 4 since spring 2011); Richard Petiot (15 NHL games now, but 0 since spring 2011); Alex Giroux (48 NHL games now, but only 9 since spring 2011); Martin Gerber (229 NHL games now, but none since 2011 spring).

Of the 15 players 25+ on that team, 7 (or 46.7%) played in the NHL. That’s not surprising overall, because a weak team will bring up a veteran and Gerber or Petiot are typical examples. 

However, Colin McDonald’s career didn’t really get started in Edmonton, and they drafted him (spending a dear pick in a deep draft), spent time and effort in developing him and then cut him loose–sound familiar?

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This is kind of galling–the Red Wings are better at developing their picks in the AHL and many of their best kids aren’t the first rounders–I think we knew that much. However, of the players Edmonton employed in OKC in 2010-11, Edmonton threw pretty much everyone overboard, many of them this summer. 

The new GM wants to put his stamp on things, I understand it. In fact, I don’t really disagree with the decisions to offload Teubert, Plante, VandeVelde and Cornet this summer. I am disheartened by the Islanders getting a perfectly useful player for nothing (Colin McDonald) and that the Oilers can’t seem to develop these players in the minor leagues. 

Whatever Craig MacTavish has planned, one would hope this development issue is front and center. 

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    You’d have to think MacT’s comment about more direction in OKC from the big club was a sign that he recognized the issue.

    It looks like Nelson was told by Tambo to win. MacT sounds like he’s going to put development up the to do list.

    The next crop about to be hustled off (Pitlick, Hamilton, etc.) might get a strong final crack with that new attitude.

    ps. there is some mixup with the numbers in the first paragraph.

    • Totally valid tactic. Trash the NHL team for high picks while pointing to the AHL affiliate and saying “But we’re making HUGE progress on the farm – PROGRESS!”.

      That’s not a Tambo decision. It goes higher up.

    • TayLordBalls

      The issue is Grand Rapids has done both. They’re not a garbage team only focused on development, they’re the 2012-2013 Calder Cup champions. OKC can still finish in the final 4 of the AHL the past 2 seasons, and develop players.

      I think where the difference lies, in TOI with prospects vs. veterans at the AHL level. At no point are the Wings prospects rushed. Pitlick, if he is going to be a skill NHL guy, doesn’t need to jump instantly to the top 2 lines (and credit Nelson for not gifting him gravy ice time).

      In the end though, Abdelkader, Emmerton, Smith, Nyquist, and Tatar don’t look like a group that will keep the Wings playoff record intact. Other than Hank, Datsyuk, and Lidstrom, most of their long term projects have developed into role players.

      In the next 50 years, how many 3-5rd picks will be unanimously considered the most all around talented hockey player on the planet? Sometimes your amateur procurement has to be lucky to be good, and good to be lucky

  • TayLordBalls

    LoweTide – you hit the nail right on the head with this article.

    While the stucture of the Oilers has improved dramatically since Catz took over the team, portions needs re-structure.

    Point: You can’t teach kids at the NHL level. Teach them before, so the’re ready for the big leagues.

    FREDERIC CHABOT (goaltender coach),

    STEVE SMITH, (assistant)

    KELLY BUCHBERGER, (another assistant)

    MIKE SILLINGER (player dev),

    STEVE SERDACHNY (skating coach)

    This NHL coaching support staff should be shuffled to OKC where they teach players from the bottom up.

    Clearly the current staff in OKC are incapable.

    Just in the last year alone, the current structure has failed to mature talents like Paajarvi, Peckham, Teubert, Plante, Cornet, Lander.

  • Supernova

    Historically speaking, I think there has been far too much emphasis on the AHL ( especially the NHL sponsored teams) to win………and usually this takes precedence over individual player development.

    Understanding this reasoning is obvious………exactly which teams wants to send the message that they accept losing? Framed around player development this takes on a whole new meaning. I’m sure if a AHL coach has a chance to win a game, he will do this every time. Ask the same coach if developing a recently signed player ( use any one of the recently signed Oiler players to a Entry Level Contract) over wining a game by playing a veteran player and I’m sure they will struggle over the answer.

    Coaches do not get promoted by a losing record and until there is a more balanced approach the OKC Barons will not be focused on player development. Mac T giving Dallas Eakins a job over Todd Nelson seems to be based on Eakins ability to develop players………..I hope that Nelson recognizes this?

  • It wasn’t that long ago the Oilers didn’t even have a farm team. Dubnick, Deslaurier and how many others lost a whole year of development. Who made that brilliant decision? Once Tambo came on board he at least committed to a farm team and wanted to create a winning attitude. With changes and hiring of coaches etc it seems MacT is committed to taking it to another level again.

  • Rocket

    Yikes! What a sobering article. The Oilers have at least started to develop prospects by bringing in a (hopefully long term) AHL club but man did they have to play catch up.

    the development under Tambo is disconcerting but it seems like MacT has decided to clean house & start over with his picks so that’s something.

    I think The Detroit model is a good one to follow. Man, The Oilers have been such a mess for years. I really hope they have their stuff together so that all these moves brings results in the NHL standings.

    I wonder how MacT and Nelson get along. They both seem like pretty smart hockey guys.

  • RexLibris

    I’d agree with bulldog12 above.

    Let’s not forget about where the Oilers were before OKC. Springfield, and that was a dark time.

    That the Barons have struggled, and the names listed above, is a reflection of a few things. One of them being scouting (Mr. Prendergast, please stand up) and the other being how those teams were run and supported (this being Scott Howson’s responsibility with some culpability going to the EIG’s limited financial resources).

    The Oilers need to do much, much better at developing their players. I’ve been happy to hear about some of the comments about creating a seamless organizational transition from Oil Kings to Barons to the Oilers, but we will probably have to wait until Moores gets a chance to work with all the coaches before seeing any results.

    Another detail to keep in mind with regards to the Detroit model of development is that they have no need to rush prospects because they have had a strong roster for a decade or more. The Oilers could well mean to emulate this strategy, but first must fashion a roster strong enough, and with a slow rate of turnover, to make it feasible. Otherwise the pressure to promote players quickly will be too great to resist.

    On the bright side, I see some management hires that lead me to believe they are putting the men in place to help make that happen.

    • Supernova

      I agree that they have come along way in the past few years but it is still short of expectations.

      Tough to blame Howson for running a bad team, when the EIG pulled almost all the funds.

      Kind of like trying to drive a car with no engine or tires. Might as well grab a bicycle, but the problem is you won’t get to the destination as quick or efficiently.

      I do agree ( as I have posted many times before) that one of the Oilers issue’s is post 2007 they lacked depth throughout their entire organization, and although I think Nelson has done a less than adequate job developing players, I will give him the credit that he didnt have a full deck of cards right away.

      It is a very good sign on drafting and developing when you can continue to churn out NHL players from your system, when you aren’t picking high. Chicago is seemingly doing a fantastic job of this now.

      This year is very interesting to me at the AHL level because essentially on a go forward basis they are tasked with the job to develop bottom 6 players like Chicago and Detroit.

      • RexLibris

        I think Howson did a poor job with the Falcons, but yes, I’ve a somewhat nuanced relationship with the EIG.

        They ran the team on a shoestring budget and that meant they cut expenses where they could in order to keep the main team afloat. This included that disastrous episode of sharing affiliations with Dallas and Pittsburgh.

        However, the EIG also worked so incredibly hard to keep the team around during those dark years from the late 90s to 2004. That was almost a decade where I felt that every win kept the team in town for another day, and every loss brought them one step closer to Austin or points beyond.

        Chicago and Detroit are great examples of teams, both recently and historically, that have managed to create a pipeline of NHL talent. Interestingly, both do this by investing heavily in development resources (coaches, communication, etc).

        I took a look at other teams’ development structures for FN a short while ago, and there are some developing similarities between the Oilers and the franchise models we discuss here.

          • DSF

            Yes I did.

            But you didn’t stay within the lines of logic and common sense.

            You always start with the presumption that Flames management is absolutely stupid and are not capable of making ANY rational decisions.

            While there is some evidence that they are not the sharpest knives in the drawer, there is even more evidence that Oilers management is worse.

            Here…I’l get you started…Khabibulin, Whitney and Barker.

            How many more examples would you like?

            I’ve got dozens.

          • RexLibris

            Okay, so just to be clear here, when you and I are discussing bias, am I the pot or the kettle?

            Actually, the first thing I do when writing anything on the Flames is take my proverbial fan-hat off and approach things as logically as possible.

            I didn’t know what I’d find when I compared development teams around the league. I began by seeing what the Flames had in-house, then chose several teams without any clear preference for “winners” or “losers” and created a list of their management staff overtly listed as being involved in prospect development, always including the GM at the top of the list.

            What I found was a variety of structures around the league, with some smaller groups like Anaheim and larger ones like the one in Chicago, and a loose correlation between manpower and success.

            From that I argued that the Flames have an average, to slightly below-average level of manpower devoted strictly to prospect development and that this was likely to change given their current situation.

            Within 48 hours of writing that the Flames announced they had hired two new people, Ftorek and Woodcroft, to address some of these organizational needs.

            I also noted that they seem to have incorporated a high level of multi-tasking within their management group, where people are assigned to a variety of responsibilities, not all of them directly connected.

            Interesting that I never included the Oilers in that development article. Nor the one after that examining the draft history of teams who have rebuilt. This was a deliberate omission, explanation for which is in response to a commenter’s query.

            Granted, when I comment on something at ON, or occasionally at FN in a lighter spirit, I sometimes speak as an Oilers fan as a part of banter. I never speak about the Oilers to Flames fans in a boastful attitude or with malicious intent.

            This may be a bias, but it is one I admit openly and park when in sincere dialogue with other fans.

            Can you say the same?

            ****Sorry LT, for the hijacked thread.****

          • DSF

            Here is your conclusive staemtent:

            “but in either case the Flames will need to continue drafting and preferably as high in the draft order as they can manage, if they wish to improve.

            Only once a strong collection of prospects has been acquired can there be any serious consideration of improving the roster, be it internally or by trade.”

            Look at your last phrase closely.

            “Only once a strong collection of prospects has been acquired can there be any serious consideration of improving the roster, be it internally or by trade.”

            Are you absolutely certain that the only way to “improve a roster is by drafting high and then using those assets “internally or by trade’?

            How do you explain the recent Stanley Cup finalists who did nothing of the sort?


            New Jersey






            And so on.

            You’ve bought into the Oilers rebuild “strategy” so completely that you haven’t even considered there are other models of success. Many of them

            When was the the last time Detroit had a draft choice in the top 5?

            The answer is 1990.

            23 years ago.

            How many cups has Detroit won in that time frame?

            Smart management trumps tanking every time.

            Your theory is built on a foundation of sand and it is predicated upon your bias that the Oilers are right and the Flames are wrong.


          • DSF


            I don’t.

            When you step back from the “fanboy” aspects of following the team, you tend to see things more clearly.

            For example, I’m very happy the Oilers sent Paajarvi on his way in return for Perron.

            That was a good move.

            However, fanboys will continue to ignore that the Oilers just traded a 10th overall pick and a likely a top 40 pick for a player who was drafted 26th.

            That’s a huge organizational failure.

            There are dozens of other examples.

          • DSF

            You frame it as a crusade against ineptitude, and an appreciation for proper GM’ing, but at its core, it’s a bias.

            Sad that you can’t recognize it.

            Even sadder that you think every “fanboy” on this site thinks the Oilers are perfect. You aren’t reading the comments, are you? Just waiting for your turn to speak, I think.

          • Cubro

            Your blanket statement that trading for a player that was a lower pick than the one you sent away is a huge organizational failure makes no sense. Based on that logic every draft pick should outperform every pick below them – sure that’s cute in theory, clearly not in reality. If Edm. traded Paajarvi + a top 40 pick for Subban, Bergeron, Weber, etc., etc. those would hardly represent “a huge organizational failure”.

  • TayLordBalls

    What a depressing list. I like what Mactavish has said about the Barons becoming more of a development program as opposed to their main focus being winning. Drafting is half the battle but a lot has to go right for players picked after the ‘sure things’ come off the board. Clearly, this is an area needing improvement.

  • TayLordBalls

    To me the difference is drafting. Look at the Detroit players. More talented players, in the middle of the pack in size, I would bet they all skate well.

    The Oiler prospects mostly have fatal flaws. Too slow, no hockey IQ, too small to the point others passed them over including Detroit.

    The guy who had the full tool belt has made the team in Petry. It seems MacT changed the drafting so hopefully it will improve as new player come in because they are better talents.

  • RexLibris

    Nelson is doing a fine job developing players.

    From the 2010 team. Petry and MacDonald are NHL’ers. Arguably, Nelson fixed a broken prospect.

    Teemu Hartikainen and Linus Omark are late round draft picks who are on the verge of becoming NHL’ers. With Omark, it is more that the big club doesn’t want him.

    Nelson rehabilitated Plante into an AHL all-star before injuries and concussions took their toll.

    Teubert’s was failing in LA’s organization way before he got to Nelson.

    Arcobello was an undrafted free agent, now on the verge of being an NHl’er.

    Since then he has graduated Paajarvi and Justin Schultz. Lander is on the verge. Fedun, Marincin, and Davidson all had exceptional first years. Rajala is rocking and rolling, just like Omark and Hartikainen before him.

    Martindale actually made a lot of progress from his 1st to 2nd year. Pitlick looks good, but never produces. And Hamilton just looks like a bad draft pick.

    But then if we are using the Detroit model, why are Hamilton and Pitlick being judged so early, after only two years?

    Maybe Hamilton and Pitlick were just bad draft picks.

    • Supernova

      Disagree with you greatly on this, LT’s article clearly illustrates that the oilers are very weak at developing players.

      I will give you that maybe Nelson deserves one more year for the players that are about to come now, but I would say to date Nelson is far below expected development standards.

  • RexLibris

    The President runs the entire organization.

    Wait, doesn’t the President of the club for the last ten years, who has more Stanley Cup as evidence that he knows how to win.

    • Spydyr

      Take Harvey with him and hire experienced general managers and coaches.Why do Edmonton teams hire inexperienced coaches and general managers when experienced ones are available?

    • RexLibris

      Not arguing that point, but the blame for that doesn’t rest with Nelson, in my opinion. In fact, one could strictly say that their actual development (ie: time in a feeder league) was handled rather well, but their use once they got to the NHL was a waste.

      Both spent extra time overseas, both did well developing in the AHL, and both were used improperly, if at all, once they were in the NHL.

      I miss Paajarvi already.

  • Cubro

    Interesting note with Tatar – DET signed him the summer he was drafted, and moved him to the AHL at 18. His 3 year ELC slide twice, because of which he’s heading into the 5th year on his 3 year ELC. He was picked 60th OV.

    If EDM plays Khaira (drafted 63rd OV) in the AHL at 19, how sure can fans be that they are “rushing” him? Can it be said that they would be following the Detroit model?

  • Cubro

    The lotto picks, excluded, and to include Eberle, the rest of the bunch is suspect.
    To quote an over used, phrase, ” you can’t make a silk purse out of a sows ear”. I think there have been to many “sows ears” drafted in the past several years.

    The AHL being pretty much a bus rider league
    there is limited time to develop players.

    The likes of Quin, Renney and Krueger did not help much at the Oiler level.You then add a couple of Zamboni drivers [ Smith and Buchberger] What did you expect.

  • DieHard

    DSF is what you would call an ass. I’m beginning to not enjoy these articles and comments because after DSF trashes them, I realize that maybe I really should be a hockey fan of everyone BUT the Oilers cause they just suck like hell.

  • RexLibris

    I think there is, maybe, at times, a little bit too much emphasis at following “The Detroit Model.”

    Don’t get me wrong – the Red Wings seem to be pretty good at “developing talent,” but I’m not sure if the staying power for that organization will last very long after Zetterberg and Datsyuk are gone (which may not be for a while, granted).

    And I’m just not convinced that the Red Wings are as good at “developing talent” as everyone says. Or, to be more exact, I’m not sure if the talent they developed in the AHL has been the reason for their success for lo’ the past 20 years.

    In my humble and admittedly-uneducated opinion, I think the Red Wings had a couple of Drafts for the Ages in the late 1980s and early 1990s and, combined with earlier drafts (Stevie Y, et al) and some shrewd trades and free-agent pickups, they’ve maintained a high standard. That obviously makes them the best managed team in the 20 years but I’m not sure they’re the best at talent development.

    How many games in the minors did Lidstrom play? Or Datsyuk? Or Zetterberg? If they played any, it wouldn’t have been many – certainly not enough to stake any claim on the AHL experience “developing them.”

    And, let’s face it – Nick Lidstrom is probably in the top five defenceman … of all time. He was, simply put, a “generational” player like we say of all the other all-time superstars. The Red Wings benefited greatly from his presence, both on the ice and in the dressing room, and were always good at keeping him surrounded by stars and an excellent supporting cast (their acquisitions of guys like Maltby and Draper and, later, Cleary, were strokes of genius).

    But, like I say, I’m not convinced that guys like Justin Abdelkader and other minor-league graduates have been the storyline in Detroit.
    Take a closer look at some of Detroit’s first-rounders of late. Kindl’s decent, but Brendan Smith has been a much-ballyhood prospect for a long time … so long, in fact, that there are kids now entering Grade 1 who were born the year he was drafted (2007). Riley Sheahan has made headlines for a drunk-and-disorderly arrest. Landon Ferraro (who was a high second-rounder, granted) is no great shakes, at least not so far (gotta give the kid time, obviously). And I’m not convinced that any of their other non-first-rounders are going to become the next Zetterberg or Datsyuk.

    Heck, even if I believed the Detroit Model were true, I’m not sure if it’s the model to be following, anyway. In reality, it’s the Pittsburgh/Chicago/Boston/LA model (or Quebec/Colorado model, if you have a longer memory) that’s winning the Cup nowadays. Draft high, draft well, hope they pan out right away, right out of the box and make a few timely trades along the way. No one has the patience or tolerance to develop-from-within in the NHL. That’s why coaches and GMs get fired so fast.

    The supposed “Detroit Model” – manufacturing players out of prospects by putting them in the minors for a while – is really more the model that’s used in Major League Baseball. It doesn’t really work in the NHL.

    The Red Wings’ expiry date will occur right after Zetterberg and Datsyuk are gone. And then they’ll be like everyone else – hoping their European scouts find an unexpected superstar; hoping their high first-rounder is exactly as billed and hoping they can trade well to fill in the rest of the roster. That’s the NHL model.

  • RexLibris

    I think when u look at detroit they also have taken some flyers on players way past there prime like chelios, bertuzzi etc. that worked out well for them, also enabling them to keep prospects in the minors longer, if edmonton did that u would say there holding the young players back and keeping a roster spot from them!