After just one game back with the Edmonton Oilers, Nikita Nikitin is once again heading back to the minor leagues. On Sunday the Oilers announced that the veteran rearguard had been reassigned, and at the same time named his replacement on the roster. That honour goes to 23-year-old Jordan Oesterle, who has 22 points in 39 games with the Bakersfield Condors.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) February 21, 2016
Nikitin wasn’t terrible against Colorado. The coaching staff was extremely careful with his deployment, getting him lots of ice-time in the offensive zone and putting him in a position to succeed both in terms of his teammates and the matchups he handled. He got caught a bit on the Avs’ third goal of the game but by no means embarrassed himself.
The timing is interesting because Colorado was explicitly named by TSN’s Bob McKenzie as a potential trade destination for Nikitin back in November. It wouldn’t be a huge shock if interest from the Avalanche was part of the reason for his one-game cameo with Edmonton.
Oesterle, along with David Musil, was one of the two prospect defencemen who it made the most sense for the Oilers to take a look at late this season. He picked up an assist in a six-game run with Edmonton last year but struggled with the defensive side of the game as a rookie pro. However, according to Bakersfield head coach Gerry Fleming, Oesterle has been the team’s best defenceman over the last while.
“Over the last six weeks Jordan Oesterle has been by far our
best defenceman overall,” Fleming told 630 CHED’s Bob Stauffer earlier this week. “His positioning defensively, his ability to skate the
puck out of trouble, his ability to make plays both defensively and offensively
has really elevated our defensive core as a group.”
Oesterle is a left-shooting defenceman, but Fleming also noted that he’d spent significant time on right defence this season. It’s likely that he’ll lineup on the right side if he gets game action with Edmonton. The top pairing of Andrej Sekera and Justin Schultz seems likely to stay together until Schultz is traded, while Brandon Davidson is a lock for one of two spots on the left side and prospect Darnell Nurse isn’t likely to be scratched. That leaves Oesterle competing with Mark Fayne and Adam Clendening for one of two spots on the right side.
Oesterle now has most of two pro seasons under his belt and he turns 24 in June, so he should be pushing for a roster spot out of training camp next season. A strong run on the right side wouldn’t hurt his case at all.