Condors Shuffle

Shuffle

A week away between home games resulted in Bakersfield Condors head coach Gerry Fleming getting out the blender to re-mix line combinations.

The Condors home opener was a 1-0 win over Grand Rapids which was then followed by a rather deflating 5-0 loss to the Ontario Reign just one night later. After five straight days of practice – thank you, Pacific Division realignment – the Condors were down in San Diego this past Friday and managed five goals. It ended up being a 6-5 shootout loss, but the case was made that the shuffling had paid off by igniting the offence.

Bakersfield’s last home-ice outing was this past Saturday – a 4-3 loss to the San Jose Barracuda in a game the Condors had all sorts of offensive presence. Everything that is, except for actually hitting the net on almost every one of their high-quality scoring chances. The Condors still had 33 shots on goal with at least 10 more misfired ‘shoulda beens’ that either could have gone in or at minimum resulted in rebound opportunities.

The mixing of lines looked something like this:

Miller – Draisaitl – Pakarinen // Hamilton – Drasaitl – Ford

This was the smartest move of the bunch putting the German tank in between two talented yet well-seasoned offensive weapons. It wasn’t a bad idea to put Draisaitl alongside arguably the two most-talented wingers the Condors have but maybe it just came down to too much of a good thing. Ryan Hamilton and Matthew Ford have good AHL-level skills and can offer the kind of guidance that a top prospect can use. The trio was hands-down the best line for Bakersfield against San Jose.

Miller – Draisaitl – Pakarinen // Miller – McRae – Pakarinen

The Condors pretty well put their first power-play unit as a line and it paid off. Phil McRae, a onetime decent prospect for the St. Louis Blues, has got some synchronicity with Andrew Miller. The end result was Miller getting a call-up on Monday to replace the injured Matt Hendricks. Instead of another reshuffling, the Condors might just slide Josh Winquist into Miller’s spot. Pakarinen was better on opening weekend. Perhaps this is more of a pairing than a trio and Pakarinen could be further maneuvered.

Christoffer – Khaira – Platzer // Khaira – Yakimov – Christoffer

Jujhar Khaira slides to the wing and Braden Christoffer crosses over from left to right with Bogdan Yakimov at pivot. The move didn’t result in anything tangible on the scoreboard, but the line was very dangerous at times. Khaira was muscling along the boards, Christoffer creates some havoc, and Yakimov, while appearing not to be overly mobile, gets from here to there with a long stride. This trio will need some time together but there’s potential. Christoffer’s gamesmanship and hustle have made him a prospect to watch and pushed him past some other more-touted hopefuls.

Hamilton – Yakimov – Platzer // Moroz – Platzer – Kessy

Rookie Kyle Platzer seems a better fit at centre and he worked hard on the penalty kill, even spending some of it teamed with fellow first-year pro Braden Christoffer. Moroz and Kessy didn’t see the ice much at all after the midway point this past Saturday. One may get sat in exchange for Tyler Pitlick this coming weekend. The duo might want to keep an eye on who is behind them too once the Norfolk Admirals get a few games under the belts. A push from say Greg Chase, Marco Roy or Alexis Loiselle could mean an exchange of personnel with the ECHL affiliate.

Fleming

“We scored five last night and three tonight so obviously we were more productive than we were the first weekend when we scored one goal in two games but it’s a work in progress. We’ll be tweaking with it until we find those right combinations.” – Fleming

Hunt – Oesterle // Hunt – Oesterle 

Nurse – LaLeggia // Nurse – Musil 

Pageau – Musil // Pageau – LaLeggia

Brad Hunt leads the Condors with six points. He was the second star in Friday’s game in San Diego (four assists) and the third star in Saturday’s game at home against San Jose (two assists). He also directly and indirectly caused two goals for the opposition Saturday. How he was named second star is a Hardy Boys-worthy mystery. Darnell Nurse is pillar-to-post the Condors best defenceman and he’ll contribute more on offence as time goes by. David Musil is good partner for Nurse. Jordan Oesterle needs to be teamed with a steadying influence but the Condors don’t have that. Sight unseen at this point, Dillon Simpson is a needed figure on the back end. Nick Pageau is an AHL-ECHL tweener. Fans in Edmonton were raving about Joey LaLeggia during training camp. There’s not much to rave about right now. He’s physically overwhelmed and frightening defensively. If the Condors didn’t already have Oesterle and Hunt, you might be able to live with LaLeggia but in this case three-of-a-kind is a fold.

Brossoit // Laurikainen

Laurent Brossoit, the Oilers top goaltending prospect started three straight games to open the season. He made 35 saves in 65 minutes against San Diego and went 2-for-3 in the shootout. Eetu Laurikainen was solid in his pro debut versus San Jose but got burned by horrible bounces and a dreadful miscue. They could easily make a tandem all year but that’s likely to be temporarily shelved with Ben Scrivens expected to at least dress this coming weekend when the Condors face the Reign and Gulls. If Scrivens stays in Bakersfield for a spell, Laurikainen will get shuffled to Norfolk and the Oilers/Admirals will have to do something with the tandem of Ty Rimmer and Philippe Cadorette – perhaps a loan to another ECHL team.

All in all, it has been an interesting opening two weeks for the Condors. Many more changes are in store. It’s a long season.

  • I always look forward to your articles, and this was another excellent one.

    As usual, this paints a very clear picture of what’s going on in the system. I’ve found it interesting how many early struggles the team and some individual players seem to be having after being considered to be such a powerhouse on paper.

    I love seeing Christoffer continue to rise on the depth charts. Inspiring to see an unheralded guy come in and earn it – something this organization hasn’t seen a lot of since the days of Rem Murray and Fernando Pisani. It seems like the Oilers have had a culture of giving guys spots rather than have them earn it and I love all the early signals that this culture is changing.

  • If Scrivens is going to upset a solid tandem in Brossoit and Lauikainen why not tell him to stay home or loan him out to Europe or somewhere.

    Doesn’t make sense to hinder the development of two solid young goalies just to have some aging shooter tutor (who won’t be with the organization after this year) playing in Bakersfield.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    ah, so much talent ! it will be interesting to see when a half dozen of these guys are ready to play in the NHL who’s going to be gone. (other than the obvious guys like Purcell, Nikitin and Scrivens).

  • Spoils

    Nikita is coming as well… I tend to like the idea of lending guys out to places like Europe etc. to ensure a group of players you want to invest in get the ice time and coaching attention you want.

    The AHL is the place to make choices based on the organization long term NOT winning.