As expected, the sudden wealth in depth in paying off for the Bakersfield Condors.
With five straight wins to their credit, the Condors have passed over San Diego and San Jose in the Western Conference standings and now stand eighth. That’s still a long way off from qualifying for the playoffs, though, as they’d pretty well have to leapfrog another four teams to squeak in. Three of those teams might undergo some significant changes in the coming weeks as their parent clubs wheel and deal for their own playoff hopes at the NHL level.
There are questions those teams ahead of the Condors face much in the same way the Condors themselves have some questions to answer as the NHL trade deadline lingers in two weeks’ time.
With a nod to the TSN 1260 Morning Show, here are three questions regarding the Condors:
What’s to become of the Condors goaltending situation?
This has been an issue for much of the season beginning with the saga of Ben Scrivens’ demotion which resulted in Eetu Laurikainen being loaned to a team in his native Finland. Then Scrivens was traded and Laurikainen returned. Consensus No. 1 goalie and top-rated prospect Laurent Brossoit has been just short of brilliant all season, earning a spot in the AHL All-Star Game, and just last week getting the call to join the Oilers. Of course, ‘LB’ was great in his NHL season debut just as he was a year ago.
Now it becomes a matter of whether the Oilers want to keep ‘LB’ but potentially only play him a handful of games behind Cam Talbot. If Brossoit stays, then Anders Nilsson, who was sent down to make room, is another heavy burden for the Condors just as Scrivens and Nikita Nikitin have been this season. If Nilsson is kept buried in Bakersfield, then there’s no point having him stagnate the growth of Laurikainen. It’s one thing for the young Finn to learn the ropes behind Brossoit. It’s quite another to have him give up experience in playing time behind Nilsson who will surely be back in the KHL come next season.
Do the Oilers give Tyler Pitlick one last chance?
There would likely have to be some room created in Edmonton for this to happen, perhaps something come Trade Deadline Day. He will get a final opportunity as an Oiler because he’s earned it or he won’t because the Oilers have decided that the breakable winger has run out of chances.
Pitlick’s speed, tenacity, and willingness to get to the net make him a valuable commodity. The problem is no secret, he’s just can’t be relied upon to stay healthy whether it’s a knee or post-concussion symptoms. Yet with the Oilers all but officially out of it, it seems like a reasonable venture to try Pitlick one last time and see if they’ve got anything left to work with or if it’s time for him to find better luck elsewhere.
Who’s going to get late-season call-ups?
From the current roster, the Oilers have seen almost everybody worth seeing already – JJ Khaira, Anton Slepyshev, Nikita Nikitin, Griffin Reinhart, Andrew Miller, Ryan Hamilton, Rob Klinkhammer and Luke Gazdic.
Some roster spots might become available if the un-playoff bound Oilers clear house to some degree at the end of February. If not, then most of this edition of the Condors will stay where they are. The only other two players who deserve to have a look or two are David Musil and Kale Kessy.
Musil lacks footspeed, that’s no secret. But he is rugged and a gamer, much more so than Reinhart. He’s got some offence in his game with a heavy shot and a willingness to join the rush when able to do so. Musil has had a cup coffee before and there’s no reason he shouldn’t get a thermos of it by April.
Kessy’s shot would be a gesture if nothing else, a signal to the rest of the prospects that if you show up every night and go above and beyond when called upon, then you will get a chance. It’s a pamphlet Reinhart and Bogdan Yakimov might want to pick up.
In the nest
Condors forward Andrew Miller will be in the hunt for AHL Player of the Week after putting up nine points in the last four games … The Condors’ five-game winning streak included three in a row on the road at San Diego, Ontario, and San Jose. They’re back in Bakersfield for the remainder of February including this weekend with games against San Diego and Texas … Braden Christoffer and Alexis Loiseau scored for the Norfolk Admirals during games this week but the Oilers’ Double-A affiliate lost to both Reading and Greenville. The Admirals also acquired former Kelowna Rockets defenceman and Texas native Cole Martin in a trade with Atlanta.