During the regular chit-chats with my colleagues at TSN 1260 about the comings and goings of the Bakersfield Condors, there are three players that stand out as the ones who are most asked about.
With the Condors about to hit the midpoint of their first season in the AHL’s new Pacific Division, it seemed like a good time to focus on that trio. Condors head coach Gerry Fleming made himself available for an extended chat and a straightforward take on these prospects.
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|2011-12||Edmonton Oil Kings||WHL||66||16||9||25||131||5||20||4||4||8||24|
|2012-13||Edmonton Oil Kings||WHL||69||13||21||34||140||21||22||2||5||7||41|
|2013-14||Edmonton Oil Kings||WHL||70||35||28||63||156||25||21||6||13||19||40|
|2014-15||Oklahoma City Barons||AHL||66||5||4||9||169||-15||6||0||1||1||6|
At only 21, it is too early to consider Moroz a bust. It’s been rightly pointed out that Moroz was selected far too early by the Oilers at the 2012 entry draft. They were desperate for size up front and had a prospect in their own backyard that they didn’t want to let slip away. That was understandable but the Oilers panicked when there were whispers of interest from other teams, and they made Moroz their second-round pick (32nd overall). This was on the heels of Moroz putting up all of 25 points that season with the Edmonton Oil Kings.
It’s true that Moroz had a breakout year in 2013-14 – a virtual man at 19 years old compared to most of his opponents who were young teens. It was a falsehood to believe that those numbers would parlay to instant (or eventual) success at the pro ranks. The impression was something he really wasn’t. Moroz has struggled forgetting about past top-line glory in junior and has yet to really grasp the idea of turning himself as a serviceable grinding, energy bottom-six forward.
“He’s working at his game. We focus on the smaller things with Mitch as far as making plays along the half-wall, being strong to play against down low in the offensive zone, protecting the puck, being a net-front presence, shooting, being aggressive on the forecheck, finishing his checks. All the things you’d want to see from a power forward. Obviously the offensive numbers aren’t where he’d like them to be or the organization would like but sometimes you have to re-invent yourself as a player. Not always do great junior numbers translate into great American Hockey League numbers. You’re playing against men, cagey veterans, guys that have been around a little bit and understand the game. It takes a little while and for Mitch it’s maybe taken a little while longer than people had anticipated. The last couple of weeks his game has improved and there’s still some games where the junior habits that we’re trying to kick him of – undisciplined penalties, controlling his emotion a bit more. He’s here in the minor leagues for a reason and that’s to improve his game.” –Fleming
The good part of Moroz’s game is that his willing to stand up for his teammates. He isn’t shy about throwing big hits or throwing punches against often bigger foes. However, that’s not going to be enough to get him into the NHL. Right now, he has probably slipped a spot or two behind a surprisingly improved Kale Kessy, and he may further fall if the Oilers and Condors see enough of something from Tyler Pitlick to warrant another contract.
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|2013-14||Edmonton Oil Kings||WHL||45||4||17||21||55||20||21||4||9||13||18|
|2014-15||New York Islanders||NHL||8||0||1||1||6||1||1||0||0||0||0|
|2014-15||Bridgeport Sound Tigers||AHL||59||7||15||22||64||-13|
One of new Oiler GM Peter Chiarelli’s bold moves at the draft was to surrender two picks to the New York Islanders in exchange for Reinhart, another former Oil King, who was picked by NYI fourth overall in 2012.
Chiarelli surmised that Reinhart was ready for full-time NHL duty despite playing only eight regular-season games and one playoff matchup for the Islanders, and only one season of grooming in the AHL. Waiver eligibility certainly played a large role in Reinhart’s demotion to Bakersfield after 12 games with the Oilers, but since joining the Condors, he has hardly stood out. He has not jumped off the page, sort to speak.
Consistency and physicality are what the Oilers/Condors are looking for.
“We’ve addressed it with him and he’s aware of it. He knows he has to get better and he’s focused on those areas in his game. There’s things we’ve asked him to work on and it starts with practice. We’ve seen improvement in his practice habits. He’s committed himself to coming down here and working better. His attitude has been great.” –Fleming
A favourable attitude, at least seen by those in the dressing room, is a good sign. Yet there have been very few nights that Reinhart has been a significant factor unlike early in the season when Darnell Nurse was in Bakersfield and looked every bit the part of a high-end prospect who could take his game to the next level. In at least half of Reinhart’s games with the Condors, he’s been only their third-best blue liner behind a variety pack of David Musil, Nikita Nikitin and Jordan Oesterle. That’s not good enough.
|2008-09||Edmonton Oil Kings||WHL||1||0||0||37||5||0||0||8.20||0.773|
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|2009-10||Edmonton Oil Kings||WHL||2||0||0||86||4||0||0||2.80||0||1||0||0.944|
|2010-11||Edmonton Oil Kings||WHL||34||0||0||1664||92||2||2||3.32||13||12||2||0.887|
|2011-12||Edmonton Oil Kings||WHL||61||3||2||3574||147||3||3||2.47||42||13||5||0.914|
|2012-13||Edmonton Oil Kings||WHL||49||4||17||2854||107||3||5||2.25||33||8||6||0.917|
|2013-14||Oklahoma City Barons||AHL||8||0||0||416||25||2||0||3.60||2||5||0||0.888|
|2014-15||Oklahoma City Barons||AHL||53||2||0||3049||130||6||4||2.56||25||22||4||0.918|
The “Man They Call LB” is the Team MVP, an AHL all-star, and, along with JJ Khaira, the top prospect on the farm.
For a Condors team (much like the Oilers themselves) that doesn’t have the most stone-wall defensive corps, Brossoit has been a brick with numbers that put him top-five in the AHL in save-percentage, shutouts (3), and total saves (676).
The accolades and stats have many Oil fans pleading for Brossoit to get a shot at playing in Edmonton much sooner rather than later like the 2016-2017 season.
That would be a mistake.
“I think it would be a step back in his development. He needs to play and he needs to play 75% of the games. We have a young guy in (Eetu) Laurikainen and from an organizational standpoint he can benefit and learn from working with ‘LB’ this year much like LB learned from (Richard) Bachman last year. If you asked ‘LB’ he’d be the first one to admit that watching Bachman play last year throughout the season and the playoffs that he learned a lot. You’ve got to pass that on – pay it forward. ‘LB’s playing a lot and he’s learned a lot and he now passes that on to Eetu and from an organizational standpoint everybody benefits. To bring ‘LB’ up now and have him sit on the bench would just be a big step back in his overall development to where they want him to be coming out of this year.” –Fleming
From the nest
The Condors got back over .500 and picked up their second straight win over the Ontario Reign with a 4-2 verdict on Saturday (Rob Klinkhammer with shorthanded game-winner, Tyler Pitlick, Josh Winquist, and Andrew Miller for the Condors). That came on the heels of a 4-2 loss at home on Friday against the Texas Stars (Winquist and Griffin Reinhart for the Condors)… More changes to the Condors roster in large part due to injuries. Back after being out for a long stretch are Winquist and Phil McRae, along with Tyler Pitlick … Prospect Ben Betker got the call-up from Norfolk and played Friday… The Condors are still without Anton Slepyshev and Kyle Platzer. Once they’re back it’s likely at least one forward will be sent down to Norfolk. Marco Roy and Josh Currie deserve to stay which could put Kellen Jones on the plane out of Bakersfield.