GOOD ARROWS FROM THE STREETS OF BAKERSFIELD (DEFENSE)

OESTERLE GRANT WILLIAMS

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

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

DEFENSE

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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).

reinhart nikitin williams

OBSERVATIONS

  • 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.

        • RJ

          Vatanen played top-4 minutes for a pretty good team, and you have him slotted in at 5/6 next season for the Oilers.

          Sure hope you’re right.

          (How did they get rid of Fayne?)

        • HardBoiledOil 1.0

          as much as i do like Davidson, Oesterle and Reinhart, we need established NHLers in order to move forward. if Vatanen and/or Hamonic cost us a few of the younger and more inexperienced d-men, then so be it ! @good kid. yaak city….i would love to see that combo above on this team next year and run with it and see what it can do!!

    • TKB2677

      While Osterle showed some good things, if Osterle is going to be a full time NHLer, he needs to work on his shot big time. He doesn’t have to be the next Al McInnis but he has to be able to shoot the puck a little bit especially if he’s supposed to have an offensive flare to his game. When he was with the Oilers, he got some glorious looks and all he could muster was a floater each and every time.

      • HardBoiledOil 1.0

        both could be traded. if the Oilers want to *really* improve the back end like they say they do, then only Sekera, Klefbom and Nurse should be the safe guys moving to next season.

    • TKB2677

      I agree. As an organization, you need to have guys on the farm that can come up and step into the line up without killing your team. If you are as small as Osterle and especially LaLeggia are, you better be destroying the AHL and putting up crazy points then carry that point producing ability to the NHL. Otherwise, guys like Osterle and LaLeggia shouldn’t be regulars if your defense is any good.

      Osterle at 23, turning 24 in June is 6’0, 182lbs soaking wet. There is no growth spurt coming, he’s as big as he’s going to get. He doesn’t have the size to handle big forwards in the NHL so he better be able to put up big points to counter act his lack of size because he will give up more defensively than a bigger Dman. LeLeggia is 23, turning 24 in June as well and he’s even smaller. 5’9, 182lbs soaking wet. He’s exactly in the same boat as Osterle. Skating and smarts can only get you so far, especially as a dman having to go up against bigger bodies. If you are a smaller guy, you need to be really competitive and a bitch to play against. Plus you can’t just be OK in a bunch of areas when you are that small. Tyson Barrie is a really good example. He’s 5’10, 190lbs. Is competitive, doesn’t back down and puts up big time points. So what he lacks defensively, he more than makes up for it on the score sheet.

        • TKB2677

          You may want to do a little research before you comment next time.

          Seabrook is 6’3, 220lbs. He’s big, strong, tough, hits. He moves the puck well, skates well, has a big shot. He had 14 goals and 49 pts this season and easily hovers around the mid 30’s to 40 pt range without trying very hard. The guy doesn’t get as much attention as he should because he happens to have a Norris trophy winner on his team.

          Keith is 6’1, 192lbs. He’s an elite skater and puck mover. He’s won the norris trophy twice. He has 2 Olympic gold medals. He’s got some edge to his game and has scored more than 40 pts 8 years in a row. He’s got 4 more than 60 pt seasons in that 8 years. In lock out year, he had 27 pts in 47 games which if you pro rate that out, is a 47 pt year in 82 games.

          How can you possibly compare Osterle and LaLeggia to these 2 guys? As I said in my post. Size isn’t everything. But if you are on the smaller end, you need to be able to do something really, really well to compensate for being smaller. You can’t just be mediocre at everything and be small on top of it to have a chance. If you go down the list of all the small guys who excel in the league and they all do something really well.

    • Morgo_82

      Nice to hear that the defence is progressing nicely in the minors and no one needs to be rushed into NHL action, except for Nurse. It’s been an interesting learning curve for him and time will tell but we all know Rome wasn’t built in a day. Almost guaranteed that Chiarelli will shore up the defence this summer.

    • madjam

      Next years defence might look like this : Vatanen or Yandle with Klefbom , Hamonic with Sekara , and Gudbranson or Gudas with Nurse . 7-8 might be Reinhart with Davidson .