Keeping Up With The Condors


The Condors have wrapped up their AHL pre-season and now it’s time to get down to business with starting the regular season on Friday night against Todd Nelson and the Grand Rapids Griffins.

The problem is they don’t exactly know who is going to be along for the ride. The Edmonton Oilers need to sort a few things out and the NHL waiver wire will help that effort. 

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The Condors added $4.5M defenceman Nikita Nikitin and quite possibly will also get Ben Scrivens by Monday. How they fit is going to be left to head coach Gerry Fleming, who played it very coy when asked about Nikitin’s potential role, giving a ‘wait and see’ type of response.

Bakersfield played pretty much played the roster they’ll start the AHL regular season with on Saturday night as they wrapped up the pre-season with a 4-2 win over San Jose:

In Net:

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Nurse – LaLeggia

Hunt – Oesterle

Pageau – Betker

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Hamilton – Miller – Pitlick

Kessy – Khaira – Chase

Winquist – Yakimov – Ford

Christoffer – McRae – Platzer

For Nikitin to get squeezed into the lineup, it will likely come at the expense of Ben Betker, which will not be a terrible thing as Betker looked as if at least a half-season of experience in the ECHL would be a smart move. Pageau could slide to the 7D spot allowing David Musil and Nikitin to form the final pairing, and it most definitely means Martin Gernat goes to Norfolk.

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As for Scrivens, if he clears and reports to Bakersfield it tickets Eetu Laurikainen to Norfolk. That’s not a bad scenario either as he’d be the clear-cut starter with room to grow into his prospect role.

The Condors still have to get Iiro Pakarinen, Mitch Moroz, and Dillon Simpson into the mix once they are healthy. Fleming said he will keep a 24-man roster with two extra forwards and two extra defencemen.


The veterans on the Condors did most of the offensive damage against the Barracuda with Andrew Miller, Josh Winquist, Brad Hunt, and Ryan Hamilton accounting for the goals. After the game, Jujhar Khaira drew rave reviews from Fleming.

“I thought JJ was a man amongst boys. That was the best game I’ve seen him play. If he brings that every night he’s going to give himself a chance this season to play in the NHL.”

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Fleming on Khaira’s performance

Late in the third period, Khaira didn’t hesitate for a second in dropping the gloves with San Jose’s Ryan Pinkston and winning their tussle. Steady improvement could put Khaira in line for a future third- or fourth-line role with the Oilers.

“This year I’m more comfortable playing against this calibre of players. I’ve come in with more confidence and playing my game, and every game I want to get stronger and stronger and prove myself to the coaches and the organization.”

-Jujhar Khaira

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  • The Condors defence is unquestionably mobile and loves to take off with the puck or join the rush. They were strong in the first but struggled in the second against a tighter Barracuda forecheck.
  • Darnell Nurse played a good overall game with a highly evident nasty streak. He ended one shift in the third with a long barking session with the San Jose bench. Nurse looked especially smart at making long breakout passes to get the Condors out of their own end. He also played on the second-unit power play with Jordan Oesterle.
  • Bakersfield went with four forwards on the first power-play unit with Andrew Miller taking the point with Brad Hunt. On the penalty kill, Braden Christoffer teamed with Matthew Ford, Ryan Pitlick was with Ryan Hamilton, and Kale Kessy went with Kyle Platzer.
  • Braden Christoffer went from standing out at the Young Stars tournament to impressing at Oilers main camp, and now probably landing a spot with the Condors. He was a good presence in front of the San Jose net on the Condors power play. All in all, it’s been an excellent run for an unheralded and undrafted free agent out of the Regina Pats. The question will be if he can stay ahead of Mitch Moroz on the depth chart.
  • Kale Kessy had three fights in two pre-season games – a pair in Stockton on Friday, and one on Saturday against San Jose’s Mike DiPaolo. DiPaolo got smashed at centre and moments later ran Greg Chase which caused Kessy to jump in. Kessy’s stand-up job earned him a hearty stick-tap from the rest of the Condors when he exited the penalty box.



  • Last week the sudden arrival of Daniil Zharkov at Condors camp caused a stir since no one expected the Oilers once highly thought of draft pick was still in the mix.

    The experiment didn’t last long, though, due to unfortunate circumstances. Zharkov tore the ACL in the same knee that forced him out of action last season. He’s expected to undergo surgery in Bakersfield and will be out for 6-to-9 months.

  • Keeping an eye on the game Saturday night was Oilers goaltending coach Sylvain Rodrigue and Norfolk Admirals head coach Eric Veilluex. The Admirals start camp on Tuesday bolstered by recent Condor cuts like Marco Roy and Alexis Loiseau.

    Veilleux hinted the Oilers’ system may have a hidden gem in goaltender Philippe Cadorette, a free-agent signing out of Veilleux’s former junior team, the Baie-Comeau Drakkar. Cadorette went undrafted primarily due to being only 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds.

    “In my opinion, he was the best goalie in major junior hockey. How that translates into pro, we’ll see. He played in two finals as a 17- and 18-year-old. Last year we weren’t a very good team and he was the only reason we were not too bad.” 
    -Veilleux on Cadorette

    • vetinari

      Not a Nikitin fan (likely no one other than mama Nikitin is!) but you are laughing at a guy who made $9M over two years. Good luck at making that kind of money over your whole lifetime.

      And as for MacT… I’ll be surprised if he’s still around in a year or two but when he leaves, he’ll likely have more money to his name than Nikitin.

  • Wanyes bastard child

    Nurse in the AHL is definitely a nice outcome of training camp – he needs to refine his skills and he’ll be relied on in every game.

    At some point this season (likely by Christmas) there will be 2 inures on defence meaning the #8 (Ference or Davidson) will be needed and instead Nurse may get the recall. A Nurse – Reinhart pairing may be extremely inexperienced… but man that could be a dominant pairing if they develop chemistry.

    • YakCity1039

      Reinhart couldn’t fit in Nurses skates.

      Reinhart is an experiment gone bad.

      Will not have a long career in the NHL.

      By midseason, Nurse up, Reinhart down to stay.

      Reinhart too slow, out of position, and no puck sense or quickness.

  • Johnnydapunk

    Bit off topic, but Umm just noticed a tiny little thing, did the Oil get rid of Dustin Schwartz as I had no idea that Sylvain Rodrigue was the Oilers goaltending coach. Anyone know anything about him and what happened ?

    • Johnnydapunk

      Ahhh he is a consultant and Schwartz is still the goaltending coach, well looks like I’ve learnt a new thing today. Still wish they went after Burke, but let’s see how this goes.

  • JackB

    @Scott Zerr

    “Fleming said he will keep a 24-man roster with two extra forwards and two extra defencemen.”

    What is the maximum roster size in the AHL?

    I assume the maximum game roster is the same as the NHL (18 skaters + 2 goaltenders)

  • Johnnydapunk

    Looking at it from a completely different perspective, making and having some serious money (Nikitin on 4 mill ish, Scrivens on 2 mill) and playing a sport you like in what appears to be a not bad place can’t be that awful. Fair enough if you were skint and had to worry about grocery money and dunno, bus fare and all as that might kindof suck, but both of them can afford a decent place to live there, enjoy constant sun and nice weather, eat good food and enjoy life (I mean work hard to play of course but outside of hockey)

    They will be ignored for the most part by the public, be able to have a life that isn’t in a bubble like here and take this season as a chance to find what they lost and get back to the NHL. Also the new AHL set up means minimal travel so it actually sounds half decent.

    I know nothing about Bakersfield, but from what I have read it seems pretty nice, confusingly big Basque culture which I am all for, so it should be good for them both.

    • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

      Well, I have been to Bakersfield; several times, in fact. There are lots of places I’d rather live or even just visit. I suppose someone who could be happy just about anywhere could be happy in Bakersfield.

      Bakersfield is a medium-sized, sprawling auto-based city without much of a downtown core. It has an economic base in agriculture and the industrial components of oil and gas. It is kind of isolated. It is not a tourist destination. The climate is dry and harsh. Most of the people who live there were not born there – and moved there for work. Few people choose to move there for retirement and many choose to move away for retirement. That said – there are people in Bakersfield that defend their continuing residence there – with family and cultural roots that generate a sort of loyalty. People in Bakersfield get fairly excited about any local-born making it big in TV or Hollywood – they feel pride in one of their own ‘hitting the big time’. Bakersfield had a big boom early on because it was a transportation hub for a gold rush. Bakersfield rarely comes up in conversation … ask yourself: how often would it be mentioned in the Edmonton media if the Oilers AHL team were not there?

      Come to think of it, Bakersfield has a lot that we Edmontonians can readily understand …

      • I’ve been to Bako as well, but your post sounds like a wikipedia page description……..I think that “nice” is about the most positive thing I could say about it. It is close to nothing, it is not big, it is dry and harsh.

        To be honest, as you said, it is not a place i would ever choose to live and very few people do choose to live there……but, if I were making $4.5mil to live there i could probably suck it up for one year. Good luck NN and Scrivy…

      • Scott Zerr

        I sort of call it the Red Deer of California because there’s much more agriculture near RD (thus Bakersfield) than Fort McMurray.

        It is very oil-centric for sure, a bit of a health care hive for Central California, and very heavy on correctional facilities both state and federal.

        As they say here, “Sure it’s not the best place in California but it’s not Fresno or Stockton!”

        Location-wise, yes it’s dry but all in all it’s not terrible by any means. Nice neighborhoods, some decent stores, lots of golf courses. And you’re 1 hour to Six Flags Magic Mountain, 2 hours to Universal Studios and LAX, 2 hours to Santa Barbara County’s beaches, and 4 hours to Vegas.

        The Mexican food here is fantastic … and there’s 2 In & Out’s! My recommendation – the 3 by 3.

  • I don’t get the fancination with the dollar amount buried in the minors. Isn’t a moot point as a fan unless your signing the cheques? They could have 20 mil buried in the minors…does it really matter to the average fan? What matters is for once the players who competed and out performed these players on waivers were kept regardless of contract status!

  • camdog

    My best friends brother used to live/work in Bakersfield in the oil patch. From his description I’d say it sort of reminds me of what Ft. McMurray will be like when most of the oil and gas mining is finished.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    With all the western teams now having farm teams in Ca what changes will it bring to our big clubs. Some thoughts from having lived in Ca for 9 years. 1. With each team playing each other a ton will rivalry’s grow deep at the farm level? I think so and having a player get called up to Calgary and play Edmonton that night only to face someone he hated on the Condors will be interesting.
    2.Will the California teams have a leg up on the rest of the NHL when it comes to trades with the three Canadian teams due to being so close that they can see the AHL players so easily and so much?
    3. Will the California teams have an even greater advantage in signing players who have lived in the AHL cities in California? I would think so.
    4. Will the close proximity and reduced travel give those AHL players in California a better chance to make the big club due to more rest and practice time?
    5. Will this swing the power structure of the AHL and create a powerhouse of talent in California allowing the AHL championship to become more centered in the west over time?
    Only time will tell but this will change hockey in the west and if Vegas gets a team they will in all likelihood add a team there as well.
    6. Anyone who has flown a lot will tell you that it is far easier to adapt to a time change when flying east then to the west. This should allow players called up to the NHL to be fresher on game day after a call up then if the AHL team was farther east.