WING AND A PRAYER

The Oilers new management team are sorting through the system and finding what works and what doesn’t, with a few unusual news items trickling in.

New management means a shuffle in the prospect deck and we are seeing some interesting things in Bakersfield. A few items so far this season:

  • Andrew Miller, a winger during his Oilers contract, has played way more center this year. He has also had some NHL audition time, probably because of speed and skill. Miller’s lack of size is probably an issue for him as an Oiler—Edmonton has more skill among their current NHL forwards and are determined (it appears) to surround them with bigger men in a complementary role.
  • Joey Laleggia, as mentioned above, is playing a lot of forward despite being drafted as a defender. This is an interesting development, suggesting (to me) the new Oilers brass doesn’t see Laleggia as a power-play force from the blue line and size is certainly an issue—although Laleggia is almost the same size as Torey Krug, who was a regular for Peter Chiarelli’s Bruins while he was there. Laleggia scored tonight, he is an interesting prospect and this recent development will be fun to follow.
  • Jujhar Khaira was playing more of a feature role in Bakersfield this season, even before his recall. In OKC, Khaira scored 10 points in 51 games, and that suggests a player who is well shy of being an NHL-calibre prospect. Come this year, the Condors put Khaira in more of a feature role, and he had seven points in 16 games before his recall.
  • Kale Kessy has seven points in 19 games, and is a game rooster along with being 6.03, 212. That kind of resume could get him a look in the NHL later this season. The same goes for youngsters like Mitchell Moroz and Greg Chase—playing time seems to have increased for the prospects on Edmonton’s AHL team this year.

YEAR OVER YEAR

It is always interesting to compare recalls season over season, especially this year when we have had a change in administration. Here are the totals from callups last season around this time;

  • Steve Pinizotto 13GP, 1-1-2
  • Tyler Pitlick 7GP, 1-0-1
  • Iiro Pakarinen 5GP, 1-0-1
  • Martin Marincin 12GP, 0-1-1
  • Oscar Klefbom 10GP, 0-1-1
  • Keith Aulie 12GP, 0-0-0
  • Brandon Davidson 3GP, 0-0-0
  • Bogdan Yakimov 1GP, 0-0-0
  • Source

That is through December 16 one year ago, and Edmonton used the minors for 63 games, collecting 3-3-6 in boxcar numbers. Now, part of this is because management decided to send down two outstanding prospects, but read ’em and weep:

  • Leon Draisaitl 20GP, 9-17-26
  • Darnell Nurse 25GP, 2-5-7
  • Iiro Pakarinen 22GP, 3-2-5
  • Jujhar Khaira 7GP, 0-2-2
  • Andrew Miller 6GP, 0-0-0

I didn’t count Anton Slepyshev, he made the big club out of camp. Edmonton has called up 80GP, 14-26-40 so far this season, that is a lot of firepower. Taking away the two big time prospects, the numbers are more in line with a year ago (35GP, 3-4-7).

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

There is a new sheriff in town and that means we should expect some unusual things. New management appears to be tweaking things and the Khaira recall suggests they are willing to push up the kids who rise above the event horizon.

Who to follow, with all of the obvious talent in the NHL now? I will pick Bogdan Yakimov, Laurent Brossoit, Anton Slepyshev, Griffin Reinhart and the kid Laleggia. He is 6GP, 2-4-6 in his last six AHL games (including tonight) and he is getting some clearance. Interesting times in Bakersfield.