Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports

Edmonton Oilers recall four players from Bakersfield

The Edmonton Oilers announced on Wednesday that they had recalled four players from the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors. With the Condors’ season now over, the quartet of newcomers will add some depth options both up front and on the blue line for head coach Todd McLellan.

Edmonton already had some spares at all positions, so it isn’t at all certain that any of these newcomers will play, though some are more likely than others.

Anton Lander probably has the best shot at getting into some game action. The Oilers’ fourth-line centre, David Desharnais, has been underwhelming since arriving in a trade deadline deal and his spot in the starting lineup might be vulnerable. Edmonton has some other forwards who could step in up the middle in Matt Hendricks and Jujhar Khaira, but neither forward is clearly superior to Lander.

Lander outscored Khaira at both the AHL and NHL levels this season, and has significantly more experience. Hendricks can play centre but has been most effective at left wing, whereas Lander is a natural pivot. And while Lander’s scoring deficiencies in the majors are well-known, he plays a gritty and responsible defensive game and does a good job in specific assignments, like the penalty kill and faceoff dot.

Mark Fayne is interesting because if there’s an opening on the Oilers blue line, it’s in a right-shot role on the team’s third pairing. Eric Gryba started the playoffs in that spot, but was scratched after a poor Game 1 performance. Matt Benning, his replacement, has mostly performed well over three games, though nobody looked good in a 7-0 loss on Tuesday. Fayne has history playing tough minutes, in both the regular season and the playoffs, and although he’s fallen out of favour with this coaching staff it’s debatable whether he’s actually a lesser option than the more physical but less polished Gryba.

Jordan Oesterle is stuck behind a bunch of left-shot defencemen, and if there’s an injury there it seems likely that the first move by the coaches would be to bump Kris Russell over from the right side. Now 24, Oesterle will need to clear waivers to be sent down to the farm next year, and it isn’t at all clear that he would. He’s in a tough spot, though, because Edmonton is loaded on the left side. If he manages to get into the lineup, he’ll bring speed and passing ability to the back end.

Joey Laleggia is probably my favourite prospect story this year, and this call-up is a nod to the quality season he’s had. An undersized puckmoving defenceman, he was forced up front by virtue of necessity in the AHL this year. He responded with a 20-goal campaign in his first season as a forward. He’s still a long shot as prospect, especially because he turns 25 this summer, but given Edmonton’s relative lack of quality forwards in the minors and the possibility that he can better those numbers he now seems to have at least a shot at getting NHL minutes at some point next season.

Whatever other problems the Oilers may have, the team is incredibly well-stocked in the depth department, which is a departure from years past. GM Peter Chiarelli has quickly and competently built up a series of reserves who can be called upon in any emergency.

Lander and Laleggia join Khaira, Hendricks and Iiro Pakarinen as scratches up front, and with the possible exception of Laleggia none of them would warrant so much as a batted eye if they were to enter the lineup. Defensively, Fayne and Oesterle join Gryba and Griffin Reinhart, giving Edmonton four legitimate replacements if a job opening appears on defence. If injuries hit, the Oilers have options.

    • Petrolero

      I’ve seen enough of desharnais. The last drop for me was last night when he tackled Larsson to the left of his own net and a goal against ensued. Lander in. Bigger stronger better defensively


    I’d love to see Hendricks in the lineup to replace David Desharnais. I feel like Hendrick’s veteran experience, grit, and locker room presence would do wonders right now. LET’S GO OIL!

  • That's My Point

    Matt Benning, his replacement, has mostly performed well over three games????????? What game did you watch? He dropped his stick 4 times and broke his stick two times. He should be banished to the AHL. Reinhart plays better than that. Bring in Joey Legs. Desharnais experiment is OVER, too small for western conference.

  • Bagged Almond Milk

    Shake it up Brother. Fayner in for Benning; Lander in for DD; Also, I don’t think I’d hate I for Pak or Khaira to be inserted for Cagguilla or Slepy, or Hendo in for Pou……. Slepy has looked good, has all the tools, just needs to put them toghether

  • The Dave

    I can think of a few guys in the lineup I’d take out in favour of this crew, starting at 4C. Benning might do well with a bit of a break as well, Game 4 was pretty rough for him (and his sticks)..

  • WhoreableGuy

    Give me LaLeggia on the wing on the 4th line.

    The Oilers need speed in this series, have looked slow at times. LaLeggia can skate like the wind. He’s defensive minded obviously as a defenseman, give him 6 or 7 minutes, see what he can do.

  • ScottV

    Messing up at c, may be the achilles heal for this year. The decision to ride McD Drai – took away from Drai getting valuable 2c experience and gaining chemistry with perhaps Lucic. Thinking that Nuge would all of a sudden start producing offensively with Eberle in a playoff second rotation pinch – was a stretch, based on what we all saw during the season. Bringing in DD was a bad move, particularly with Drai at wing all season and Nuge being questionable. If you cant justify DD in top 6, then there is no other spot for him. DD at 4C is a waste.