It’s pretty clear that the Bakersfield Condors roster just got a whole lot stronger than many originally expected.
After the twin bill of pre-season games on Monday night during which the Edmonton Oilers knocked off both of the Calgary Flames’ split-squads, Oilers head coach Todd McLellan said he was going to quickly move towards separating the roster. By that it would mean the locks for the roster and the very close contenders would be muddled into one group. The other group would be the longshots and sure-to-be-sent-down prospects and minor-leaguers.
Darnell Nurse was not in the locks/contenders group.
So it would seem that Nurse is going to require some seasoning in the minors, which is entirely good news for the Condors.
Depending on who was speculating, Nurse was either too good to be held back from making the Oilers or it would be more prudent to let him grow with the AHL Condors, at least at the start of the 2015-16 season. The Oilers’ top defence prospect, who was chosen in the first round of the 2013 draft, was slightly pushed down the depth chart with the highly touted off-season acquisition of Griffin Reinhart, and Reinhart, as of Monday, was in the upper crust group.
8 d are Sekera Fayne, Kelfbom Schultz, Ference Gryba, Reinhart Nikitin
— Ryan Rishaug (@TSNRyanRishaug) September 22, 2015
McLellan said last night there’d be separation with the roster. Certainly evident this morning.
— Reid Wilkins (@ReidWilkins) September 22, 2015
While that’s not the greatest of situations for Nurse personally, it is a big boost to the Condors. Their probable top-6 D just got a whole lot more appetizing:
Brad Hunt – Darnell Nurse
Jordan Oesterle – Dillon Simpson
David Musil – Brandon Davidson
Joey Laleggia – Nick Pageau
It won’t hurt Nurse being groomed in the AHL for a bit, which the Oilers are starting to do more of now than rushing prospects. That’s chapter-and-verse out of the Detroit Red Wings’ playbook, one which the Oilers seem to be delving further into, and one that McLellan is very familiar with, being a former assistant to Mike Babcock in Motor City.
For the Condors, it’s a big bolstering of their blueline, and having a highly touted seventh-overall pick on the roster is a significant presence. There are still some pieces to fall into place, however, for the final six (plus one spare) to be finalized.
The Oilers will have to decide whether they want to risk putting Brandon Davidson on waivers in order to send him down to Bakersfield. But Edmonton might not have a choice considering there are eight defenceman already in the main group, including fading veterans Andrew Ference (oh, yes, that’s Captain Ference which makes matters even more convoluted), and Nikita Nikitin. Depending on how those two, especially Nikitin, fare in the next series of pre-season games, it would seem more than likely the Condors are going to get Davidson unless another NHL team sticks their hand up when he hits the waiver wire.
A further monkeying of the entire situation could also happen if the Oilers elect to send Reinhart down, should they try to move out Ference or Nikitin.
Nurse’s seemingly forthcoming demotion very likely affects Joey Laleggia, the former NCAA standout, former ECHL Condor Nick Pageau, and onetime hopeful Martin Gernat.
The Condors will keep seven D so you’d have to suspect it’s better for Pageau to play the spare-part role than have a mid-range prospect like Laleggia sit instead of playing in Norfolk. Gernat could squeeze Pageau out, but it’s still reasonable to assume Gernat either goes down to Norfolk or the Oilers loan him out to a European team.
To The Nest
Forwards Alexis Loiseau, Connor Rankin, and Marco Roy, along with defenceman Ben Betker and goalie Ty Rimmer were all sent down by the Oilers and assigned to the Condors over the weekend. All three of the forwards are going to hard-pressed to stay in Bakersfield.
Tyler Pitlick seems on the verge of a demotion sooner rather than later and Braden Christoffer may have made enough of an impression to at least start the year in the AHL.
Roy was a former high pick of the Oilers but dropped so badly after being picked in the second round (56th overall) of the 2013 draft that he was not offered an entry-level contract and was instead signed by Edmonton at a far lower price tag as a free agent. With Bogdan Yakimov, Kyle Platzer, Jujhar Khaira, and Phil McRae — all centres higher on the depth chart — Roy is probably headed for Norfolk, which is rapidly becoming the Paris of Virginia with the number of French-Canadian players ticketed for the Admirals lineup, along with new head coach Eric Veilleux.
It’s a shame that Rimmer is unlikely to stay in Bakersfield since he was a good presence with the ECHL Condors a year ago and is a feel-good story with his successful battle overcoming cancer. But with Laurent Brossoit headed here for sure and either Ben Scrivens or Anders Nilsson getting a demotion, Rimmer is bound for Norfolk.
However, there’s a chance that depth chart changes if Scrivens or Nilsson are either picked up on waivers or traded instead of being assigned to Bakersfield. Finnish import Eetu Laurikainen is still going to be the main man in Norfolk.
The Condors played host on Monday night to a pre-season tilt between the L.A. Kings and Phoenix Coyotes which drew around 6,000 to Rabobank Arena along with some praise from Kings mascot Bailey.
There’s every good reason to expect the Oilers come to Bakersfield in 2016 for a pre-season game against the Kings who play just two hours away.