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The Condors Connection to the Stanley Cup Final

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Tyler Yaremchuk
1 month ago
With the Edmonton Oilers on the biggest stage in the hockey world, a lot of the attention is focused on their star players. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl drive the headlines, get all the clips in the highlight reels, and most of the interview requests.
But as the Oilers take part in their first Stanley Cup Final in 18 seasons, one story that really shouldn’t get lost in all of this is the amount of homegrown talent that this roster has.
Sure, General Manager Ken Holland has made some big external additions over his time with the club. This team wouldn’t be where they are right now without the likes of Mattias Ekholm and Zach Hyman for example.
At the same time, they also wouldn’t be at this spot if the roster wasn’t flooded with players who worked their way through the organizations and were developed internally.
Just look at the Oilers Game 1 roster. There are seven players who were drafted by the Oilers and spent time in Bakersfield (Draisaitl, Holloway, McLeod, Bouchard, Broberg, Nurse and Skinner). 
Not only are those players on the roster, but they’re playing key roles for the most part.
Earlier this week, I spoke with Condors VP of Marketing and Communications Ryan Holt about the organization’s immense pride in watching this group of former Condors play in the Stanley Cup Final.
“It’s kept the buzz alive here in Bakersfield. The connection between the Condors and the Oilers has never been stronger. I think it’s cool now for fans because we’re going into year ten now at the AHL level and you’re seeing different eras of Condors hockey with this Oilers team,” said Holt.
“When we first started it was Darnell Nurse and Leon Draisaitl and they were here for a bit and then there was a little lull and now, you’re really kicking it into high gear with Skinner, Desharnais, Broberg and McLeod,” he added.
Holt didn’t want to just talk about the young pieces that the team has developed. He also wanted to give some love to a few of the veteran players who’ve rolled through over the last couple of seasons.
“With Pickard and Janmark, they’re guys who have kind of reinvigorated themselves here in Bakersfield. The cool part about is you’re seeing guys from year one in 2015 and then also guys who were just in our playoffs a couple of weeks ago.”
Of course, these aren’t just bottom-of-the-lineup depth pieces. The Oilers American League affiliate has produced some key drivers.
“We get to see a lot of these players as kids,” said Holt. “Leon Draisaitl, Evan Bouchard and Dylan Holloway come to us when they’re 19 years old and you’re seeing them become men at the highest of levels. These aren’t guys just playing at the NHL, these are guys playing in the Stanley Cup Final and we had a big part in it.”
Holt even joked that as a guy growing up in Boston, he never thought he’d be rooting for the Edmonton Oilers in a Stanley Cup Final.
Of course, it’s one thing to take first-round picks and turn them into quality NHLers, but it’s a totally different to have late-round picks blossom in your system and become contributors at the highest level.
That’s where Vincent Desharnais enters the chat.
As a seventh-round pick back in 2016 who’s best offensive in college saw him produce just 13 points, the odds of him even becoming a regular at the AHL level were slim, let alone becoming an everyday NHL defenseman.
I asked Holt if there’s a different sense of pride that comes with seeing a guy like Desharnis work his way from a late-round pick to a full-time Oiler.
“We’ve had the first-round picks,” he replied. “The guys that no matter what, they’re going to the NHL but we’ve also had these other guys like Stuart Skinner and Vinny Desharnais.
“One of the moments I had with him (Desharnais) was when we were in Calgary when he got called up for the first and only time. We had just lost and I came down and I knew he was going up and he was already in tears. He lifted me off my feet and said we all had a big part in him getting there.”
He added that he didn’t think this was going to be a permanent call-up either.
“Of course at the time, there were a couple of injuries and I thought we’ll see you in a couple of weeks Vin, don’t worry. But again, he forced people’s hands and he’s forced everyone’s hand along the way,” he added.
The love goes both ways of course. I asked Desharnais ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final about his time in Bakersfield and his face immediately lit up.
“It was a pretty long road for me. My first year I played six games and was up and down a lot,” said Desharnais, who split time between the AHL and ECHL that season.
“The second year I played more, felt more comfortable and then the third year I was like this is my year.”
“It was not always to be a good player, but it was to be a good NHL player,” said Desharnais when I asked him about the way the Condors develop players. “There’s a lot of good AHL players but the difference is in those small details.”
He credited a lot of his success to now-former Oilers assistant coach Dave Manson, who worked on the Condors staff for a number of years.
“I worked so much with him on the small details. He kept telling me that if you keep working on those small details you’re going to make it, no doubt,” said Desharnais.
“I owe a lot to people like him for working so hard with me.”
A lot of love gets shown towards the Oilers big guns and a lot of outsiders will say that the Oilers simply got lucky through the draft lottery but if you dig a little deeper, you start to see the impact of having a quality American Hockey League affiliate.
The Bakersfield Condors’ fingerprints are all over this Stanley Cup Final.

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