The Bakersfield Condors passed the halfway point of their first season as the Oilers’ top affiliate and charter member of the American Hockey League’s Pacific Division with a 5-3 win over the San Jose Barracuda in Monday matinee.
It’s has been a challenging year in many ways, and result-wise, not what the new fans in Bakersfield were expecting although those hopes were based on a high-profile lineup that was laid out in September and mostly gone by early November. That’s what a top farm club, a Triple-A team, does – provide fill-ins and prospects for the big club.
The Condors will be hard-pressed to make the AHL playoffs and follow up on a short yet exciting post-season run in Oklahoma City last spring.
Here’s a mid-season review of how the players have fared:
Laurent Brossoit – he and Jujhar Khaira are the top-end prospects still in Bakersfield. The netminder has been extremely good and may force the Oil’s hand next season though one more year of seasoning and heavy workload instead of sitting on the bench would be more valuable.
Eetu Laurikainen – left briefly for Finland when there was a three-headed monster between the pipes with Ben Scrivens around. Returned after Scrivens trade and is working his way into long-range future plans.
Ty Rimmer – good story on the comeback from cancer. Worthwhile to look at as a long-term back-up to Eetu if Brossoit gets full-time work in Edmonton.
Brad Hunt – he’s a big shot and not much else other than experienced. He’s not good in his own zone. This may very well be his last year as a veteran gatekeeper in the organization, and would seem like a nice fit for a team in a wide-open European league.
Griffin Reinhart – not once has he had a game where you’d be convinced he’s ready for consistent NHL work. His lack of dominance at this level is very unnerving. If he doesn’t put something together after the all-star break, more in-depth concerns will immerge.
David Musil – more Clydesdale than thoroughbred, he’ll never be a nifty or quick on his feet but his effort and overall game show that he’s worth a long look at the 2016 training camp. There’s something there – maybe the next Brandon Davidson?
Jordan Oesterle and Dillon Simpson – pretty well mirror images in what they can and can’t do. It’s a shame they aren’t 6-2’’ and 225. Neither does enough of one thing (offence, physicality, etc.) well enough to warrant big consideration.
Nikita Nikitin – at this age, he’s very good at this level and seemingly done at the NHL level. If he was a moderately price veteran a la Hunt, he’d be worth re-signing for his presence. But he’s not and we’ll say goodbye in April.
Martin Gernat – ex-Oil King is done as a prospect, if he ever really was one. Can’t see why he’d be a part of next season’s group.
Ben Betker – got the deserving call from Norfolk last week. Up to him now to show he can stick. Likely ticketed for full-time work in Bakersfield next season.
Nick Pageau – AHL/ECHL tweener did decent job stepping in when needed. Possibility he might get a second contract next fall.
They do what they do and hold down three of the top-four spots in team scoring.
- Ryan Hamilton – with his leadership ability and AHL-level skills, he is a keeper for at least another year.
- Andrew Miller – really just an emergency fill-in for Oilers and has been bypassed by as a prospect. Very good AHL skillset so he should be welcome to return more in a veteran role.
- Matthew Ford – good shooter though he takes some undisciplined penalties. California-native is apparently eyeing retirement at season’s end.
This is a unit that has fluctuated the most during the year due to call-ups and injuries. For the most part it has featured Jujhar Khaira who has vastly improved following a lackluster 2014-15 campaign. He is a future Oiler, and would seem to be a good replacement for underachieving Anton Lander. Others on this line have included:
- Anton Slepyshev – derailed by injury and put up only four goals in 20 games. How much of that has been an effect of revolving-door linemates and the departure of Bogdan Yakimov? Lots of eyes will be watching to see if he breaks out in the second half of the season.
- Tyler Pitlick – has been unfortunately snake-bit by injuries again, this time lengthy concussion issues. When he’s suited up, he’s been a force with speed. The question will be do the Oilers want to give him another season or write him off as other healthier prospects need the room.
- Kyle Platzer – a nice rookie season in the ‘A’ and there’s some indications he could be a valuable minor-leaguer, maybe a future Hamilton/Miller spot-filler with more versatility.
- Josh Winquist – hampered by a lower-body injury, but when he’s in, he produces. Doubtful he’ll be an impact prospect but he might have worked himself into being a key part of the Triple-A future or raise his profile for some European league paydays.
- Iiro Pakarinen – only a brief stint in Bakersfield before call-up to Oil and probably won’t be back.
A massive mixed-bag of personnel has made up the third and fourth lines throughout the season. With all the injuries and call-ups, it’s been rare to see the same six in the same spots from one game to the next. At one point in the year, the Condors had all six spots occupied by AHL rookies.
- Mitch Moroz – this season has been about re-inventing and developing. If he can bring that all to the table for 2015-16 then he’s back in the future watch. If he doesn’t, then he will become a case-study of a wasted second-round pick.
- Kale Kessy – Only Ford, Miller, and Hamilton have more goals. That’s not a great sign for your team as a whole but for the player himself it’s golden, and he hasn’t let anything slip in the way of physical play.
- Joey LaLeggia – as a defenceman he was pounded by opposing forwards every single game but he has more than enough offensive skills to play, and be better suited, up front. All in all, though, not a prospect who should be counted on to play in Edmonton.
- Braden Christoffer – junior free-agent has been effective on some nights and rightly a scratch for others. Low production numbers but he’s feisty and combative.
- Marco Roy – was once a failed draft pick and now a serviceable fill-in. Deservedly staying with top farm team (for now).
- Alexis Loiseau – did his part in call-up from Norfolk and if there are wholesale departures in off-season, he could fit better in Bakersfield.
- Phil McRae – succumbed to the nasty Valley Fever and missed two months. Good fit when he’s been in and could fill a role spot next season.
- Josh Currie – an ECHL call-up whose penalty-killing abilities, tenacity, and consistency have earned him a right to stay in Bakersfield. He deserves an AHL contract next year.
- Greg Chase – Missed the boat in training camp as he was expected to be in Triple-A, but was an early send-down to Norfolk. Surpassed on depth chart but a handful of others.
Midpoint Team MVP – Laurent Brossoit
Midpoint Biggest Surprise in a Good Way – Kale Kessy
Midpoint Biggest Disappointment – Griffin Reinhart
From the nest
The Condors got a pair of goals from Rob Klinkhammer in Monday’s win and he now has three including two shorthanded tallies in two games with Bakersfield. Eetu Laurikainen won his second straight between the pipes … It was the second game of a four-game road trip that wraps with tilts on Friday and Saturday in San Antonio. Bakersfield will then play two at home against Manitoba and a take a quick trip to Stockton before the AHL All-Star Game in Syracuse.