— Bakersfield Condors (@Condors) August 11, 2015
On Tuesday, Marco Roy returned to the Edmonton Oilers. Sort of.
The Oilers opted not to sign the No. 56 overall pick in 2013 to an NHL contract, but he will be in the system next year on an AHL deal. It’s a bright move by the club and keeps an interesting prospect somewhere the team can keep an eye on him.
Roy the Prospect
Here’s how Red Line Report described Roy in their 2013 Draft Preview:
While thought of as a grinder who brings passion and intensity to each shift (which is accurate), that is short-changing his skill level. Good skater with speed and balance, and accelerates well. Wins a lot of races for loose pucks and is always 1st into corners. Works his bag off every shift and comes back hard on the backcheck. He’s an absolute buzzsaw with a motor that never quits. If his team loses the puck, he wants to go and get it back immediately. Stays in constant motion in the offensive zone, making him very difficult to check or contain. Soft hands for both giving and receiving passes. Gets shots away quickly around the slot and shows good accuracy. Competes like a bastard and always has his head in the game. Rugged and persistent on the forecheck. Reliable player at both ends who is continually improving. Also 6’1″ with a nice frame to fill out.
It’s a nice write-up, painting a picture of a fast, tenacious, defensively responsible forward with some offensive skill, too. The trouble is that his offensive game has been trending in the wrong direction since draft day:
- 2012-13: 65 games, 29 goals, 67 points (1.03 points/game)
- 2013-14: 39 games, 14 goals, 35 points (0.90 points/game)
- 2014-15: 59 games, 26 goals, 50 points (0.85 points/game)
That last season falls into the Kale Kessy/Mitch Moroz range at around the same age; Roy simply isn’t producing the way an offensive prospect needs to. It’s dangerous to write a player like Roy off – every coach likes a quick skater that “works his bag off every shift” and “competes like a bastard” and has an idea where the defensive zone is – but he has to find a way to increase his scoring because he’s not big enough to stay in the league just chipping in here and there.
If he finds his scoring touch, though, he’ll be an awfully nice player to have kicking around the system.
Using AHL deals as a way to get around the NHL’s 50-man list is just smart business. An entry-level contract for a player like Roy can be a big risk because it takes up a space that may be useful for somebody else up for three whole years.
The Oilers have been doing this a fair bit recently. Josh Winquist and Mitch Holmberg both joined the organization on AHL deals as rookie pros. Winquist started in the ECHL and worked his way up; the organization liked him enough to bring him back on another minor-league deal after a nice run with the Barons. Holmberg scored 62 goals in his last year of junior, but was less successful as a pro and would up below the 0.5 points/game mark in the ECHL.
Holmberg in the organization on an AHL deal is fine because there’s no risk, but if the Oilers had signed him to an entry-level contract they’d now have to look forward to two more years of having a mediocre ECHL’er clogging up a spot on their 50-man list. They’ve done it before – Tyler Bunz’s ELC just ended after three seasons with three different ECHL teams – and it’s one of those things that must just eat away at a manager when he realizes there’s a useful body on waivers but that he’s already at 49 contracts.
For the Oilers, this was the best possible way for the situation to end. They’ve kept around a guy who might be a useful prospect, and they’ve done it at no risk whatsoever.