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.
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:
Nurse – LaLeggia
Hunt – Oesterle
Pageau – Betker
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.
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.
— Bakersfield Condors (@Condors) October 4, 2015
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.”
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.”
- 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.
NEWS & NOTES
- 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