Markus Niemelainen clears waivers, assigned to Bakersfield Condors
Photo credit:James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports
By baggedmilk1 month ago
Even though we all probably expected it to happen, Oilers’ defenceman Markus Niemelainen has cleared waivers and was assigned to the Bakersfield Condors. Niemelainen, a towering presence on the blue line, will return to the Oilers’ American Hockey League affiliate after going unclaimed by any NHL team.
The 25-year-old Finnish defenceman’s journey back to the AHL is no surprise after being passed on the organizational depth chart by players like Vincent Desharnais and Ben Gleason after an okay-but-not-great pre-season. Known for his imposing 6’5″ frame and ability to disrupt plays in his own zone with his physicality, Niemelainen was considered a promising prospect for the Oilers just last year when he played in 23 games. In the time since, however, Niemelainen hasn’t been back to the NHL level, and I don’t even know what the path back looks like for him.
Niemelainen, who the Oilers drafted in the third round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, has spent most of his post-draft time developing in the AHL with a few cups of coffee in the NHL along the way. Last season with the Condors, Niemo showed promise by recording 18 points in 3o games after being sent down. However, other players on the depth chart took steps forward while Niemo seemed to get left behind, and combined with the arrival of new faces and more experienced players, he’s been left on the outside looking in for an NHL roster spot.
On the bright side, the Condors will benefit from Niemelainen’s arrival. With his physicality and defence-first style of play, Niemo will be expected to play a vital role in their defensive unit, and his experience in the AHL should serve him well in that spot. The move also presents Niemelainen with an opportunity to prove his worth at the AHL level and, hopefully for him, work his way back into the NHL lineup. While it’s disappointing to see a player we had high hopes for unable to find traction, this yo-yoing back and forth isn’t exactly uncommon for many young players, and I think there’s still a ways to go before writing him off.
Markus Niemelainen’s journey to the Bakersfield Condors may be the expected result, but it represents a critical stage in his career development. The Oilers organization and their fans will be eagerly watching his progress in the AHL, with hopes that he can mature into an NHL-calibre defenceman and eventually make good on the potential we all saw in him. In the meantime, the Condors are getting an absolute unit back on defence, and that should help them with their ultimate goal of winning a Calder Cup.
NIEMELAINEN’S PRO CAREER
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