Coach Fleming Speaks


Gerry Fleming is obviously very high on what he’s got when it comes to the perspective lineup of the Bakersfield Condors.

And he has every reason to be over the moon with the roster of top prospects that the Edmonton Oilers’ futility and subsequent high draft picks have provided to him and his staff. Fleming will take charge of the bench when the Oilers hit the ice for the Young Stars tournament in Penticton, B.C., which begins this Friday.

Before heading north, Fleming was posed questions about numerous players in various forums, some in Bakersfield and others in Edmonton. He was very coy and deliberate about what he said regarding individual players and whether they would stay with the big club or come down to the team’s new AHL affiliate.

One player that Condors’ fans had wishful thinking about was Leon Draisaitl, but by all accounts, including that of Hockey Hall of Fame writer Jim Matheson, it is sure looking like the big German is going to get a very long look at training camp – such a look that he might as well start shopping for a condo or at least determine which veteran might take him in.

I can recall when the long-gone and long-missed Edmonton Trappers had a stud lineup, one that would eventually go on to claim the Pacific Coast League title. There were several high-end prospects on that team in much the same way the Oilers/Condors are set up now. On the diamond, manager John Russell went about business by educating a handful of those prospects on the finer points of playing multiple positions.

Case in point then was Michael Cuddyer, a ninth overall pick, who was drafted as an outfielder. Cuddyer spent time in left and right field, but also hit the diamond at first, second and third base. When Russell was asked why he’d tinker with a prospect in such a manner, he replied that knowing and being useful at multiple positions could fast-track a guy to the majors. In Cuddyer’s case it was perfectly executed. Sure enough when Cuddyer achieved full-time status in the bigs, he played third, left field, and second, eventually even some first. He did all right for himself, earning an All-Star nod in 2011 and ultimately signing contracts worth $31.5 and $21 million.

Now back to the ice. For Draisaitl, versatility doesn’t mean that he don the pads and get between the pipes. It does, however, mean that cracking the Oilers lineup as the third-line left winger isn’t a bad idea.

If it works, great. If it turns out to be a long-term thing, no problem.

If in a year or two, there’s a better fit for him at centre, so be it.

Fleming basically suggested that Draisaitl will get every opportunity to make the Edmonton roster on left wing. It seems very clear that the Oilers have a spot for Draisaitl and it’s not in the minors.


Another subject that Fleming deftly danced around was that of Darnell Nurse and whether he’d be an Oiler or a Condor at least to start the 2015-16 campaign. Fleming got a sneak peek at Nurse during the AHL playoffs a year ago and he’ll get a longer look in Penticton and Edmonton.

“He showed a lot of good things the year before and he’s kept on track. He’s a good player with a lot of upside. Only time will tell where he’s at at the end of training camp. Looking at the chart the other day, we have a lot of depth on ‘D’. If he does come down he’s going to be a top-pairing defenceman. So we’re going to see what happens at training camp. There are so many factors that come into play between now and the beginning of the season.”

-Fleming on Nurse’s status

As for others that are more certain bets to be headed to Bakersfield, Fleming seems high on the potential all-European line of Bogdan Yakimov, Anton Slepyshev, and Iiro Pakarinen. The two Russians are definitely in need of more North American grooming so they’re ticketed to California but Pakarinen is probably going to be in a dogfight with Tyler Pitlick for bottom-six duty in Edmonton.

“It’s all going to come down to training camp and how he performs. He’s got intensity. I like the way he plays with a lot of passion.”

-Fleming on Pakarinen

Yakimov is the big centre the Oilers have coveted for some time, and if he keeps trending upward, Yakimov could, say in a year or so, be a third-line pivot flanked perhaps by Draisaitl and either Nail Yakupov (which would be a killer for play-by-play guys) or Pakarinen.

Slephyshev is the least-known of the Euro trio and enters this season on the first year of an entry-level contract. He’s got good skills, but unlike many of his winger brethren in the Oilers system, he’s got some size (6-foot-2, 195 pounds).

“I’ve heard nothing but positive things and I’m excited to see him play. I know he’s got skill, he’s quick and big. He’s got a lot of things that can help our offense but it’s all going to come down to training camp.”

-Fleming on Slepyshev


The Oilers are keeping Draisaitl. That’s all but official. Whether he stays past the end of October/early November, that’s definitely up for debate.

The Condors are going to be good and quite possibly a frontrunner in the AHL’s new Pacific Division. They’re young for sure but there’s some gained experience from last year’s playoff run plus leadership from a handful of veterans up front. The Condors didn’t do much in the way of free-agent shopping in the off-season as only Phil McRae was signed – another signal that they’ll need a centre in Draisaitl’s absence. 

And with Draisaitl, at minimum, temporarily out of the picture, that’s a leg up for Kyle Platzer who could now be situated between two of those veteran forwards in Andrew Miller and Ryan Hamilton.

    • Jaxon

      I think the Oilers have a few RWs in that vein: Pakarinen, Bukarts, Chase. I like Pakarinen too, but this Bukarts kid could come in and eat their lunches. He’s a gritty pest with more scoring touch judging from his NHLE of 29pts at a year younger than Platzer and Chase, and 4 years younger than Pakarinen.

      NHLEs on possible RW prospects:

      Miller: (33E,27Y,70″,181lbs), but he is near his peak as a 27 yr old and small.

      Sanford (32E,20Y,69″,165lbs), but he is small and light like Tkachev.

      Bukarts (29E,20Y,70″,192lbs)

      Platzer (29E,21Y,71″,183lbs)

      Pakarinen (26E,24Y,73″,194lbs)

      Chase (24E,21Y,72″,190lbs)

  • fran huckzky

    Hmmm. I just can’t see a situation where Draisaitl comes to camp, blows the doors off, and they say great, let’s shift that natural big bodied centre on over to the third line LW because right now Lander is taking up the third line C spot, and Draisaitl can’t play RW, and even if he could we don’t want him on the top line in Eberle’s spot, and we don’t want both him and McDavid on the same line trying to learn the game.

    There is no way Draisaitl beats out Hall or Pouliot for top 6 LW duties. There is no way he beats out Nuge or McDavid for top six center duties, and he would have to fight Yapupov and Purcell for the last top six RW spot.

    So unless injuries occur (and even then Letestu or Lander or Hall might be a better 2nd line C option), then Draisaitl is fighting Lander, Korpikoski, one of Purcell or Yakipov, and a few guys like Ilro and Pitlick for third line work.

    Considering Purcell likely is not in the long term plans, why not put Drai on the farm to dominate and develop then when Purcell either gets traded or is let go, bring Drai up?

    I think we can all see Yakumov taking over the third line. Moreover, Shlepyshev could easily join him on the LW. With Purcell going, and maybe Lander becoming a fourth line utility guy, Drai should be learning RW so he can play in the top six, or shift to centre when injuries occur.

    Why pencil in Yakimov instead of Drai for third line C? Cause then you could make up an all Russian line of Shlepyshev, Yakimov, and Yakipov, and give your top six a boost in size with Draisaitl.

    Pouliot – Nuge – Eberle

    Hall – McDavid – Draisaitl

    ShlepyShev – Yakimov – Yakipov

    Hendricks – Letestu – Lander.


  • bradleypi

    Man o man….what a new direction to going into from past seasons of ho hum…too many guys getting play based on drafting etc.

    Its awesome to see there are going to be training camp dogfights and uncertainty this year…and what a year for this to happen with the new hot high end talent pool coming.

    McDavid, Draisaitl, Nurse, Slepyshev, Chase, Caleb Jones (very intriguing new prospect)and also, with Yakimov, and Laurikainen, etc.

    I think the Oilers will have McD play most likely with Slepyshev and/or Draisaitl at this Youngstar tournament and this could be wowsers…

    Its been a long long time since things with the Oilers were this exciting and so much improved… and I am sooooo happy I lasted thru and survived the turbulence since 2007… Thank you Hockey Gods for that Lottery win this year!!!

    Go Oilers Go at the Youngstars Tourney!!!! I’m watching every game and lol…. I gotta think there will be new online live streaming viewing records from this tournament.

  • CaptainLander

    As far as injuries go, Edmonton has seen some consistency, (maybe the only concictancy this team has shown, that and losing of course) having a player like Drai starting on the 3rd line left wing is a decent move. Providing he shows well in training camp. He has the ability to replace a top 6 forward due to injury. Rather then bouncing up and down in bakersfield he can slide in and quickly and replace either Hall, Pouliot, Nuge or McDavid. He will have the advantage of practicing with the team instead of trying to jump in after playing a very different role in Bakersfield. I think it is the smart move to keep him in Edmonton for this purpose…again providing he shows well in training camp. (I think he will).

    Pou Nuge Ebs
    Hall McD Yak
    Drai Lander Purcell
    Hendy Letestu Korp

  • bradleypi

    I guess old habits die hard.

    When are the Oilers actually going to have young players have to compete for roles rather than gifting them to the kids?

    Seriously, if Draisaitl can’t beat out a 30+ year old Glencross, then he isn’t ready for the NHL. Give him time to develop and make him take the job rather than handing it to him.

  • hemmertime

    I don’t have a problem with keeping Draisaitl with the big team. He went down to junior and looked like a man playing a kid’s game. There’s no doubt that offensively he can hang with the big boys, but I think defensively he’s still not quite there. So, putting him on the wing is the perfect solution to allow him to find his defensive game.

  • bradleypi

    If the idea all along was to play drai on the wing, then why the gordon for korpikoski trade?? Did gordon want out? Why trade a perfect 3/4 line center for a winger and then turn around and turn a center into a winger? I don’t get what purpose korpikoski was brought in for…