The Bakersfield Condors sent most of their defense north at one point or another during the 2015-16 season, but the minor league numbers that were posted do tell a story. Unlike the forwards, boxcar numbers do not tell the whole story and we are badly limited by what is available. Fortunately for us, there are some smart people looking at the minor league game and estimating time-on-ice. Using those numbers, there are some surprises to be found in the usage of the blue in Bakersfield this year.
Before we begin, it is very important to point out a few things about
AHL players. When NHL teams send kids down for the year to develop, the
outer marker for defensemen—best case scenario—is a player like Oscar Klefbom or Jeff Petry: Less than 100 games in the minors and then off to the top 4D in the NHL for a decade. Sounds easy, but most fail to make it for more than a cup of coffee. Give Edmonton credit, some outstanding athletes are trying to climb that hill from Bakersfield. Only prospec
- Jordan Oesterle. Actual 44gp, 4-21-25. NHLE this year: 22. Last year: 15. A nice step forward this season, his TOI estimates went from 17:47 to 21:15—implying that the coaching staff used Oesterle in more situations this season. I mentioned great athletes above and this young man’s foot speed is impressive, and he appears to be learning the defensive aspects of the pro game quickly (this was year two). Photo by Mark Williams.
- Joey Laleggia. Actual 63gp, 8-19-27. NHLE this year: 16.5. This was Laleggia’s first AHL season after a quality college career and he showed well offensively. The defense was uneven—first year pro is a big adjustment—but he played an estimated 18:50 a night with the Condors and that is a lot for a rookie blue. His time is now—turns 24 in June—a big training camp on the way this fall. One thing that has no bearing on anything but is interesting: Oesterle and Laleggia were born one day apart.
- Dillon Simpson Actual 57gp, 4-16-20. NHLE this year: 13.5. Last year: 9. I marked Simpson in his early days as a player who improved incrementally year over year and caught and passed others over a long period. This may be happening again at the pro level, where his playing time (estimated) increased from 16:18 last year to 17:38. Considering he wouldn’t be playing a lot on the PP, that is a solid number. Can he crash the NHL party next season? If you drew a progress graph from his draft day to this one, betting against Simpson’s improvement would be daft.
- David Musil Actual 67gp, 3-11-14. NHLE this year: 8. Last year: 6.5. Musil can’t be judged by offense, that is never going to be his role. We do know that successful shutdown defenders do play quite a bit, both at even strength and on the PK. In 2014-15, Eric Rodgers estimated his TOI at 15:24, and this year AHL Prospects has that number at 17:19. Many observers have mentioned him impressive defense, including coach Gerry Fleming. We don’t know the future, and Edmonton has a pile of shutdown lefties, but Musil has just posted a solid defensive season.
- Griffin Reinhart Actual 30gp, 2-8-10. NHLE this year: 13. Last year: 14. Reinhart played in both Edmonton and Bakersfield quite a bit this season, and his minor league boxcars basically ran in place year over year. His AHL estimated TOI for this year—18:05—is one of the bigger estimates from the AHL Prospects work. It is difficult to see Reinhart as an everyday Oiler next season, so he could be back again in 2016-17 for some more seasoning.
All of the youngsters have increased their TOI and that is a reflection of some culling during the last offseason and reduced minutes for Brad Hunt (estimates have him down year over year from 25:50 to 21:24).
- The successful OKC Barons defensemen (2010-15) were Jeff Petry (2010-11), Justin Schultz and Martin Marincin (2012-13), Oscar Klefbom and Brandon Davidson (2013-14). Those are the kinds of players we should be looking for from Bakersfield. How many of these men track as top 4D in the NHL? I will say Jeff Petry and Oscar Klefbom—your mileage may vary. A lot of verbal surrounding Martin Marincin was about where he would play, and not about if he would be effective in a role. Is Brandon Davidson a useful player? Damn straight he is.
- Jordan Oesterle is fascinating. When he turned pro, I received quite a lot of info about his inability to play defense at the pro level. Those criticisms are still there, but it is fairly clear he has learned on the job. Those wheels remain and I think he might have an NHL career.
- Joey Laleggia had a solid pro debut—a little better than Oesterle’s first season in pro hockey—and he will be a player to watch this fall in TC. One thing I do wonder about: He played LW for a brief time in Bakersfield, and might have a chance to play a utility role in the NHL should the roster break that way. You never know.
- I wrote about Dillon Simpson here. One of the things that really strikes me about this player: He keeps getting better. At the time I wrote that article, Simpson was 39gp, 2-10-12. Since then? 18gp, 2-6-8. Very interested in seeing him at training camp.
- David Musil has been endorsed by damn near everyone I talk to in terms of NHL defense. Will it be enough?
- Griffin Reinhart should get a big push this fall in the race for roster spots, but that cap bonus will do him no favors. Getting him signed to a reasonable deal for 2017-18 will be a subject for next summer.
- Darnell Nurse played only 9gp, 0-2-2 this year, averaging over 15 minutes a night. I can tell you that, based on the Oilers own stated opinion of him, Nurse is unlikely to see the minors again.
- Photos by Mark Williams.
- Up next: Goalies.
- Christian Roatis equivalency info here.