One of the interesting complications to the Edmonton Oilers’ decision to dismiss Dallas Eakins and promote Todd Nelson is that the new coach brings with him a firm understanding of what’s happening in Oklahoma City, a firmer understanding than probably anyone else in the organization.
The general manager sets the roster of the team, but the head coach has the power to influence those decisions and it’s going to be awfully hard to tell Nelson that he can’t have Player X from the farm if he thinks Player X will help the situation. Which players currently on the farm might benefit from that?
The Options: Forward
The Barons’ roster isn’t likely to be the solution for the Oilers’ woes, but there are some interesting players who might play a role in Edmonton in the near future. Notable individuals currently in Oklahoma include the following:
- C Anton Lander – The Oilers are crying for a centre, and despite repeated NHL failings Lander has done it all at the AHL level. Presumably if anyone is going to get him playing the way he needs to in the majors, it’s the guy who got his offensive game going in the minors.
- LW/RW Iiro Pakarinen – A big, trigger-happy winger with a range of abilities, Pakarinen had a five-game cameo and an NHL goal earlier this year and must be considered one of the strongest minor-league recall possibilities.
- LW Curtis Hamilton – One of those big forwards from the 2010 Draft, Hamilton hasn’t developed as hoped but he’s big and plays a defensive game and with 13 points through 23 contests is having his most successful AHL season offensively. Importantly, only one of those 13 points came on the power play, so the numbers probably undersell his work five-on-five so far.
- LW Ryan Hamilton – The 29-year-old ‘tweener brings size and experience; he couldn’t stick with the team a year ago in an injury-plagued campaign but he is scoring a goal every other game. Of course, half of that scoring is power play generated.
- C Jason Williams – The 34-year-old offensive centre is on an AHL contract and his career appeared to be fading fast when the Oilers added him this season. Of note, he has 26 points in 23 games, but it’s still a longshot that he appears on the major-league roster at some point.
First-year professionals like Bogdan Yakimov (no goals since October), Jujhar Kharia (no points in a month) and Mitch Moroz (one assist in 20 career AHL games) are scoring at such an anemic pace that it’s hard to imagine any of them being in the conversation at this point.
The Options: Defence and Goaltending
The strength of the Barons’ roster appears to be on defence, though a lot of that strength comes from the department of youth:
- LD Martin Marincin – Nelson has coached Marincin for 124 games now, and has a unique vantage point on the young man who he made a top-pairing player as an AHL rookie in 2012-13. It wouldn’t be surprising if he takes on look at the left side of the NHL defence and asks for Marincin; if he doesn’t it will be perhaps the most significant indicator to date that all is not well with the Slovak’s development.
- RD/LD David Musil – Musil isn’t a popular man with a fanbase that dreams of Boone Jenner, but he did make an impression last year on the farm. The question as always is footspeed; otherwise he’s big enough and smart enough to play NHL hockey.
- LD Jordan Oesterle – The somewhat undersized college defender made an impression in training camp and is second on the Barons’ blue line (behind Brad Hunt) in scoring. He’s 22 but a rookie pro.
- LD/RD Dillon Simpson – The rookie defenceman’s numbers aren’t very impressive (two points, minus-seven) but as always it’s impossible to just look at the numbers and divine how a defenceman is performing. Simpson remains a prospect to watch though a recall this year seems improbable.
- G Laurent Brossoit – Brossoit has pushed veteran Richard Bachman for playing time in Oklahoma City and as of this writing boasts an impressive 0.917 save percentage. Stranger things have happened and the Scrivens/Fasth duo in Edmonton doesn’t seem all that formidable at the moment.
- G Richard Bachman – The nominal third-stringer looked good in a call-up last season but has been middle of the road as a starter over his Barons career.
Who Do We See?
Depending on what happens the rest of the way, we’re likely to see a lot of these players in Edmonton as injuries and trades reduce the roster of a team that’s miles from contending.
In the short term, Lander and Marincin are the guys with the most potential to have an impact on the team. Both are established minor-league talents, both inhabit positions of extreme weakness in the organization and both have a long history with Todd Nelson. Marincin has showed well in flashes in the NHL, while Lander at this moment is a “AAAA” player, too good for the minors but seemingly incapable of making the jump to the majors.
If they are recalled, it will tell us that Nelson thinks they have more to offer than we’ve seen lately. If they aren’t recalled, that will tell us something too.