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:

  1. C Shawn Horcoff 796 games (active)
  2. L Jason Chimera 710 games (actIve)
  3. R Georges Laraque 695 games 
  4. C Jarret Stoll 641 games (active)
  5. D Marc Andre Bergeron 490 games (active)
  6. C Kyle Brodziak 467 games (active)
  7. D Matt Greene 466 games (active)
  8. R Fernando Pisani 462 games
  9. D Tom Gilbert 447 games (active)
  10. R Brad Winchester 390 games
  11. R Zack Stortini 257 games
  12. G Ty Conklin 215 games
  13. D Alexei Semenov 211 games 
  14. 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?

  1. D Jeff Petry 156 games
  2. C Anton Lander 67 games
  3. R Linus Omark 65 games
  4. L Teemu Hartikainen 52 games
  5. C Chris VandeVelde 28 games
  6. L Phil Cornet 2 games
  7. C Mark Arcobello 1 game
  8. 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.


I expect the number of players who’ll graduate from the Barons to the Oilers to increase in the next three seasons, because:

  1. The Oilers are going to have several high rent players and will need inexpensive support players
  2. MacTavish is clearly going to have the Oilers more aggressive in college and undrafted CHL free agents
  3. 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?

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    Gawd I hope Marincin makes this team and plays well for us! I’m also hoping he doesn’t become collateral damage in a trade. just say no MacT or 6 rings or whomever. I wanna see him play here after this season.

    • RexLibris

      I don’t think they trade Marincin. Not with Nurse so far away and Klefbom’s injury situation still up in the air. Marincin has more internal value than external at this point (ELC, maturing defenseman, etc).

      MacTavish only does that if the Oilers are sitting in the top three of the division and he has a chance to land CFP v2.0, in my opinion.

      • Chico Santana

        Add in the fact that Marincin is the only non-NHL blue line prospect that has actually shown promise against men on the small ice surface. It is interesting to see Oilersnation bloggers and the media in Edmonton throw his name in on trades. Right now he is the d-prospect closest to playing in the NHL and making a difference. All of the others are unproven at the AHL level, let alone the NHL. They need to be patient with Marincin, develop him further, and then have him ready to step in a year or even two from now.

        Nurse is at least 2, but more likely 3 to 4, years away from the NHL. It would be great if the team were to take the patient route with him and let him develop in the minors if he cannot crack top 4 minutes on the team.

        Klefbom appears to want to challenge RNH for the most injury prone Oilers’ 2011 draft pick title. In an ideal world he plays one year in the AHL for the year he just missed, and even another for seasoning. No need to rush him – they need to take the Detroit approach with him and the other d-prospects so that they can step in and play well.

        Davidson is interesting, but is still an unknown quantity at this point. Another season in the AHL, possibly paired with Marincin or Gernat, would be good.

        Gernat and the others are still too young and/or unproven to know if they will amount to anything.

  • RexLibris

    I think Tambellini could be a decent middle management person. His role in the Canucks organization was, I believe but could well be wrong and if so expect to be judiciously corrected on the matter, to assist in their AHL team. The Moose were a dominant team during those years.

    Tambellini made some good moves in regards to the AHL. The weaknesses that we see now are also a result of Tambellini but need to be separated from his better structural efforts: drafting.

    Tambellini hired Nelson and encouraged a development atmosphere in OKC after the train wreck that was Springfield.

    He then, unfortunately, populated it with sub-optimal draft picks, many of whom have subsequently struggled. It’s like he built a good pizza joint with a solid oven and lots of tables and chairs, then went and got industrial-grade tomatoes for the sauce. OKC – nice joint, bad food.

    Would I want him back as GM? More so than I’d like to see a second Stanley Cup banner in the rafters at the Saddledome, but not much higher.

    I suspect we’ll have to wait about four more years before we can say that the Barons are beginning to really turn out some better talent, provided Yakimov, Gernat, Khaira, Chase and a host of others stick around. Heck, we could be talking about old man Hall showing this young Chase kid around the NHL. That’d be something.

  • StHenriOilBomb

    How about MPS? Does his rookie season in the NHL not qualify him as a product of OKC? He really struggled at times in his second season, and he seemed to be impacted greatly by his 70+ games with Todd Nelson in in the AHL.

    Perhaps he’s not a great benchmark by which to measure the organization, but I think he deserves to be part of the discussion.

    163 NHL games. And counting.

    • Lowetide

      That’s what I’ll be looking at with Detroit. I want to know how many first rounders in their system play in the AHL and then have NHL careers; also, if one a year is on par with what Detroit converts; and finally, how many in the same time period (97-09) were CHL college or Euro free agents.

  • DSF

    A “player per year” between 1997 and 2009 is, at best, underwhelming.


    Olli jokinen – 1087 GP

    Joe Corvo – 683

    Mathieu Biron – 253

    Frank Kaberle – 523

    Brian McGrattan – 233

    George Parros – 452

    Alex Frolov – 579

    Andreas Lilja – 580

    Lubomir Visnovsky – 806

    Dave Steckel -419

    Mike Cammalleri – 606

    Cristobal Huet – 272

    Dennis Grebeshkov – 227

    Aaron Rome – 201

    Dustin Brown – 641

    Brian Boyle – 309

    Jeff Tambellini – 242

    Jonathan Quick – 286

    Trevor Lewis – 283

    Wayne Simmonds – 367

    Alec Martinez – 142

    Slava Voynov – 102

    Andrei Loktionov – 87

    Brayden Schenn – 110

    Kyle Clifford – 205

    Jordan Nolan – 70

    That’s about twice the rate of the Oilers.

    No wonder one team has won a cup and the other is still wandering in the desert.

    • John Chambers

      The Chicago Blackhawks were awful at the draft in the 1990’s. Since 2001 they look like this:

      Tuomo Ruutu, Craig Anderson, Anton Babchuk, Duncan Keith, James Wisniewski, Adam Burish, Brent Seabrook, Corey Crawford, Dustin Byfuglien, Barker, Bolland, Bickell, Brouwer, Skille, Hjalmarsson …

      .. then things kind of fall off a cliff in ’07 and ’08 when they draft Toews and Kane high, but nobody else of note. ’09 they draft Kruger, ’10 nobody, and ’11 Saad.

      Those 2001-2006 years are un-freakin’-believable draft years.

  • Lowetide

    DSF: A quick glance at your LAK list has several guys like Lubo, Kyle Clifford, Wayne Simmonds, Dustin Brown (he played in the AHL only in lockout year) who wouldn’t qualify–I didn’t look at the entire list there might be more. LAK is a terrific organization though, maybe we’ll look at them after Detroit.

  • DSF

    Clifford played 7 games in the AHL.

    Brown played 79.

    You got me on Lubo and Simmonds.

    4th and 2nd round picks who stepped right up.

    Jeebus those guys know how to draft.

    Derek Forbort, Tyler Toffoli and and Jordan Weal, all from the 2010 draft, look like they’ll have NHL careers.

  • djc

    @ DSF

    Lowetide listed 14 players who played for the Oilers’ farm teams (not including the lockout year) who went on to play 200 or more games in the NHL.

    You listed 26 players. Of that list:

    – only 21 have played 200 or more games

    – Clifford, Simmonds, and Brown played during the lockout years

    – Biron, McGratton, Frolov, Visnovsky, and Rome never played for the LA farm teams.

    Which means your list is now down to 13 players. Less than the Oilers.

    I hope I am not as sad and bitter as you when I am a senior.

  • Supernova

    I don’t think the OKC Barons should be regarded as a positive for Nelson.

    Good move by Katz and The organization to actually have a development system.

    The list of 8 players should be embarrassing to Nelson in my opinion and he should be very aware he is on the chopping block, not be hurt he didn’t get hired to coach the Oilers.

    Well OKC has won a good amount, they have done a brutal job at advancing careers and players who will play in the NHL. They have sacrificed development for wins in the AHL.

    OKC producing players and the pro scouting department are my two biggest frustrations with the oilers.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    You left MagnUs Paajarvi, a prospect reclaimed by Nelson, and Justin Schultz off of your list.

    Would Schultz have been as NHL-ready without the 40 AHL games? I doubt it. Look at Marincin’s progress under Nelson in one full season.

    Nelson’s work with Paajarvi is the only reason the Oilers were able to get David Perron.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Before this conversation gets derailed into another stupid trolling exercise in non-knowledge, let’s return to the very interesting parameters LT is setting:

    We aren’t talking about players drafted who have made an impact on the NHL.

    We are talking about players acquired via any means who have played a significant number of games in the minor pros who have gone on to (or are projected to go on to) an NHL career (200 games, 100 for goalies).

    That’s the target. It provides concrete information for analysis and judgment.

    Stick to it.

    • John Chambers

      Why can’t we comment on a team’s drafting success? It’s at least tangential to the subject, no?

      Based on my list of Hawks I assume most of the have spent a good deal of time in the A, I just don’t have the time or desire to qualify it.

      • Romulus' Apotheosis

        I think you misunderstood my comment, which wasn’t directed at anyone in particular.

        The point being that drafting is necessary to the topic at hand… but it isn’t sufficient.

        Lt’s question about players acquired, developed and graduated to the NHL includes a lot of draft picks, but also players acquired through other means. And, it excludes players drafted that never play in the minor pros.

        The point is to narrow your question to get a specific set of data to analyze.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    I think to gather a good baseline of what’s reasonable to expect from this situation (acquire and develop to NHL) we would need to look at more than 2 or 3 teams and from a broad cross-section of teams, not simply teams that are actually or perceived to be successful.

    One thing to watch for would be stability in mgt. and structure and its relation to success on these lines (obviously personnel changes and changes in affiliates, or loss/lack of a dedicated affiliate will affect results).

    Another to watch for might be the affect of having a 3rd pro team affiliated, ie. an ECHL team.