Todd McLellan appears to be a typical NHL coach in that he prefers forwards who cheat a little on the defensive side of the puck. I imagine there were nights when he was challenged to find enough to cover up for the fast cars who were set on offense most of the time in year one. I believe it is one reason Iiro Pakarinen found work in McLellan’s first Oilers season, and will likely see more work in the coming season. As much as fans love the gifted kids, those men who mind the store will have a place in the game as long as coaches get fired for losing. If Iiro the hero was the first of McLellan’s men, who’s next?
Pakarinen was signed by Craig MacTavish, a man who valued forwards who worked hard on the defensive side of the game. The first scouting report I read on the Finn sounded exactly like the kind of player MacT would like:
Elite Prospects: A large winger shooting from
his right. An energetic player with good skating and a nice frame.
Possesses a good sharp, wrist shot and is a solid finisher. A hard
worker and versatile player who can also play as a defenceman. (Matias Strozyk, 2012)
That is pretty much a MacT player. Short of saying ‘Iiro has videotapes of Toby Petersen he watches daily’ it would appear the young man has some coachability and two-way acumen—and those things have value to NHL teams.
In his first season with Edmonton, Pakarinen spent 39 games in the minors, scored well, and was the top forward on the OKC Barons in even-strength goals for-against differential:
Among this group, Pakarinen (+17), Bogdan Yakimov (+10) and Anton Lander (+8) stood out, along with AHL winger Josh Winquist (+9, recently signed with Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL). Combined with good size and speed, Pakarinen’s showing (good offense, things went well with him on the ice) earned him an NHL look and some success with the organization.
2015-16 BAKERSFIELD CONDORS
Among players who are on the Oilers 50-man list and could be considered two-way forwards, the best showings in 2015-16 were:
- Jujhar Khaira. He was +1 in goal differential and scored far better than he did as a rookie pro in 2014-15.
- Tyler Pitlick. The now veteran AHL winger was -1 in even strength goal differential and on this team that puts him in the group as the possible two-way farm wingers with a shot at the NHL.
- Marco Roy. Former second-round pick who is not signed to an NHL deal, but he was -1 in goal differential and scored at a decent pace in the minors this season.
It is interesting to see that both Greg Chase and Mitchell Moroz scored well here (among others), but neither man is regarded as a two-way player—and Chase played only 19 games in the AHL this season.
Todd McLellan will probably have a long look at both Jujhar Khaira and Tyler Pitlick in training camp, and maybe Marco Roy gets a look, too. The Oilers have signed an AHL veteran (Taylor Beck) and a KHL Finn (Jere Sallinen) so there is competition behind Pakarinen for this role.
I bet Khaira gets a very good chance in 2016-17. He could make the team out of camp, or receive a recall during the year. The year over year totals suggest he is worthy of a look.
(Pakarinen photo by Rob Ferguson)
(Khaira photo by Mark Williams)
- All stats via the hard work and generosity of Eric Rodgers