AHL teams have been grinding talented kids into a fine white powder and churning out checkers and role players to the NHL for 77 years. The pipeline to Edmonton from Oklahoma City has delivered Jeff Petry and little else so far; do the Oilers have anyone knocking on the door this fall? Are the Barons ahead of the Oilers own past in graduating AHLers to the best league on earth?
During the 13-year period before the Oilers arrived in Oklahoma City, they had a robust minor league system that produced an abundance of NHL players. If we use the ‘line in the sand’ of 200 NHL (100 for goalies) games, the following players qualify:
- C Shawn Horcoff 796 games (active)
- L Jason Chimera 710 games (actIve)
- R Georges Laraque 695 games
- C Jarret Stoll 641 games (active)
- D Marc Andre Bergeron 490 games (active)
- C Kyle Brodziak 467 games (active)
- D Matt Greene 466 games (active)
- R Fernando Pisani 462 games
- D Tom Gilbert 447 games (active)
- R Brad Winchester 390 games
- R Zack Stortini 257 games
- G Ty Conklin 215 games
- D Alexei Semenov 211 games
- G Devan Dubnyk 139 games (active)
That’s a player per year, and the Bulldogs, Penguins, Roadrunners, Falcons have some active players who will join the list someday (Theo Peckham is at 160, as an example) but I think we can probably say "the Oilers produced an NHL player per year" at the AHL level 1997-2009 and be accurate. Fair?
I’d also like to point out the quality of the players who spent at least some development time in the AHL. LOOK at the good players! Horcoff, Chimera, Stoll, Brodziak, Pisani–that’s a strong list, the Oilers could use a couple of those guys (age 22 or so) right now! And the defenders–Bergeron, Green and Gilbert–are a nice (if small) group. It goes without saying they did well in the goaltending department with Devan Dubnyk and Ty Conklin.
It’s interesting to note the following: two of the players above were signed as minor league free agents (Conklin, Bergeron) and there’s exactly one first round pick in the group (Devan Dubnyk). The AHL is a league that welcomes hockey players who lack draft pedigree, and teaches them how to make it with sweat equity.
Remember, only ONE first round draft pick spent a long period in the AHL and then became an established NHLer. During the 1997-2009 era the Oilers picked names like Michel Riesen, Jani Rita, Jesse Niinimaki, Marc Pouliot and Rob Schremp in the first round, but none of them could crack the 200 NHL game mark after turning pro (and developing in the minors).
Since 2010–that’s just three seasons and of course two and a half NHL seasons to move forward to the big leagues–Todd Nelson and the Barons have graduated some quality talent. Do they have three guys at 200 NHL games? No. Do they have three guys "on track" for 200?
- D Jeff Petry 156 games
- C Anton Lander 67 games
- R Linus Omark 65 games
- L Teemu Hartikainen 52 games
- C Chris VandeVelde 28 games
- L Phil Cornet 2 games
- C Mark Arcobello 1 game
- C Milan Kytnar 1 game
I counted Lander as an AHLer, your mileage may vary. Petry is an established younger NHLer, I think we can include him in the "bona fide" group and there is some hope for Lander and Omark. If you add Martin Marincin (a player who looks like he’s going to step into an NHL job sometime during his entry level deal) things are actually looking up in the procurement department.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
I expect the number of players who’ll graduate from the Barons to the Oilers to increase in the next three seasons, because:
- The Oilers are going to have several high rent players and will need inexpensive support players
- MacTavish is clearly going to have the Oilers more aggressive in college and undrafted CHL free agents
- The focus in OKC appears to be "development" more than "wins"
If you’re Martin Marincin this is the time to show well in Oklahoma City. There are going to be a lot of eyes watching, and the club will be very interested in well priced players who can step into the NHL and survive. In-house options are vital for the Oilers in the next few seasons.
Up next: how do the Oilers compare to Detroit over the last 15 seasons of AHL-to–NHL development?