The Young Guns in Bakersfield
Photo credit:Bakersfield Condors/Twitter
2 months ago
The Bakersfield Condors have been a successful franchise since banding with the Edmonton Oilers in 2015. They won the conference championship in 2021, the COVID season, and have had six seasons above 500. The pipeline between them and the Oilers has grown stronger each year too with ten members of the NHL roster having spent time in California.
“Well, that’s what the American Hockey League is about,” said Keith Gretzky, the General Manager of the Bakersfield Condors. “It’s for guys, you know, to grow in Bakersfield and play hard and grow their game and eventually get called up and good for both guys. They look like they belong, and sometimes it takes longer than others. And that’s why you never give up.”
The Condors are in the retooling phase with plenty of hopefuls dreaming of playing in the NHL one day. Three of those talents are Xavier Bourgault, Tyler Tullio, and Carter Savoie, who have all taken different paths in their young hockey careers. Bourgault is a first round pick from the Shawinigan Cataracts, Tullio pathed his way through the Ontario Hockey League into a late NHL draft pick, and Savoie stayed close to home with the Sherwood Park Crusaders before making his way to the University of Denver to win an NCAA National Championship.
Bourgault has had the most promising start in Bakersfield with 9 goals and 19 points in 38 games, behind only Seth Griffith. Expectations are highest for Bourgault as he carries the tag of being a first round pick. It is safe to say he has lived up to those challenges so far in his early professional career. With that, his name has been thrown around in trade talks which is a credit to the level he is playing at. Should the Oilers trade him or is he worth holding on to?
Not far behind Bourgault is Tullio. The Oilers drafted Tullio in the 5th round a few years back and exceeded his draft ranking in junior. He finished his junior career with 187 games played scoring 84 goals and 194 points all with the Oshawa Generals.
Our guy Bruce Curlock has watched Tullio’s development closely and this is what he had to say.
“Tyler Tullio is starting to figure out the AHL. When he was drafted, I said this is one of the smartest junior hockey players I have watched. He has an incredible understanding of plays in all zones before they develop, Again, much like Bourgault and Savoie, he started slow, but he is now really coming. What makes this more exciting is that Tullio’s whole game is built off his motor. He’s a smaller player, so beating players to pucks allows him a chance to be effective. Now that he is figuring out how to play in this league, he’s able to use that motor to great effect.”
As Bruce said, his game is starting to around now that he has adjusted to the AHL. In his last six games, Tullio has four goals and three assists tallying seven points to take his total to 15 points.
“You know, it’s a big adjustment,” said Gretzky. “Everybody thinks it’s easy that you come in, you’re starting in the Quebec league or college or Ontario League, it’s a man’s League.”
The local boy, Carter Savoie, is another talent who is now finding his stride in the league. Last week versus the San Diego Gulls, Savoie tucked home his first professional hat trick. Hopefully, this can be a sign of things to come from the former Pioneer who is not unfamiliar with scoring goals. In the last four years between Sherwood Park and Denver, Savoie scored 120 goals. If the Oilers organization allows Savoie to develop then we should not count him out on doing that in the NHL someday.
“We’re about them developing and I think from I think since October, when we came down here to now I see a big improvement on all the kids,” said Gretzky. “They’re gonna have good days and bad days, but as long as we see the improvement on and off the ice, that’s what we’re looking for.”
Overall, the Oilers have a good group of players in Bakersfield that will continue to fill the pipeline to the Oilers. Will we see a couple traded away this deadline? Possibly, however, the options are there for the next man to step up. With that said, I would be lying if I did not want to see them all play in Edmonton one day, especially the three we spoke about today.
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