The Edmonton Oilers have loaned defenceman Markus Niemelainen to the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors.
The 6’6″ rearguard has appeared in 23 games this season for the Oilers with his last game coming January 7th. The move signals the club will keep Vincent Desharnais on the active roster for the time being, but that too could change in the coming days with Evander Kane soon returning from injury.
Niemelainen’s biggest asset is his size and physicality is his biggest strength, but his puck skills are still weak. And despite leading Oilers defencemen in hits/60 with 15.85, he also leads in giveways/60 with 4.16. It’s a sign of the struggles he faces, and the things he needs to continue to work on.
He’s been up and down this season, but it’s clear he doesn’t quite have the mix of skills to stick right now. According to hockeyviz.com, he contributes offence at a five percent rate below league average and defence at a three percent rate below league average.
While the physicality is good, the fact of the matter is that he’s far from being an NHL’er in the way the Oilers need him to be.
It’s also worth noting that on Sunday, the Oilers loaned Calvin Pickard to the Condors, as well.
Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at [email protected]