This is Curtis Hamilton. He’s one of several draft picks who have underperformed at the minor league level since 2010. This can’t happen, not if the Oilers are to contend for a Stanley Cup. The Barons haven’t enjoyed many 1st round picks as prospects (only Magnus Paajarvi has spent any time in Oklahoma City during active NHL play) and have not graduated much talent to the NHL team since the Barons arrived in OKC in 2010.
It was a short season for the Oilers (48 games), but the Barons didn’t really give a lot of useful at-bats to the big team when the opportunities came.
- Teemu Hartikainen 23, 1-2-3
- Anton Lander 11, 0-1-1
- Chris VandeVelde 11, 0-0-0
- Yann Danis 3, 3.82 .881
- Mark Arcobello 1, 0-0-0
Let’s compare that to the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks and how their minor league system helped them during the Stanley run:
- Brandon Saad 46, 10-17-27
- Jimmy Hayes 10, 1-3-4
- Jeremy Morin 3, 1-1-2
- Ben Smith 1, 1-0-1
- Brandon Bollig 25, 0-0-0
- Brandon Pirri 1, 0-0-0
- Ryan Stanton 1, 0-0-0
- Shawn Lalonde 1, 0-0-0
The ‘failure to launch’ for Oiler draft picks goes back a long while, and really with some notable exceptions (Jeff Petry, 49 AHL games before NHL) the entire century has been a disaster. Here are the prospects drafted by the Oilers since 2000 who have played more than 40 AHL games before establishing themselves as NHL players:
- Brad Winchester, 2nd round 2000 and had a 390 game NHL career
- Jarret Stoll, 2nd round 2002 and has played in 641 NHL games
- Zack Stortini, 3rd round 2003 and has played in 257 NHL games
- Kyle Brodziak, 7th round 2003 and has played in 467 NHL games
- Devan Dubnyk, 1st round 2004 and has played in 139 NHL games
- Jeff Petry, 2nd round 2006 and has played in 156 NHL games
That’s not a very long list, and nothing since 2006. The Barons haven’t seen any 1st round picks in their first year pro since 2010, but they’ve had some nice 2nd rounders who haven’t progressed. This season, there are 1st rounders headed south and a lot of expectations are going with them.
BARONS ESTIMATED OPENING NIGHT LINEUP (26-ish)
- Goal (2): Richard Bachman (starter), Olivier Roy
- Defense (8): Martin Marincin-Taylor Fedun; Brandon Davidson-Oscar Klefbom; Brad Hunt-Martin Gernat; David Musil-Joey Leach
- Center (5): Mark Arcobello; Andrew Miller; Will Acton; Travis Ewanyk; CJ Stretch
- Left Wing (6): Toni Rajala; Ryan Hamilton; Ben Eager; Ryan Martindale; Curtis Hamilton; Kale Kessy
- Right Wing(5): Derek Nesbitt; Matthew Ford; Tyler Pitlick; Erick Lizon; Cameron Abney
Todd Nelson has an enormous amount of pressure on him now to oversee positive development. Marincin progressed nicely this past season, but this year he’ll need to find a way to continue that progress AND find good spots for Oscar Klefbom, Martin Gernat and David Musil. Up front, the organization has every right to expect some return on their investments iin Travis Ewanyk, Ryan Martindale, Curtis Hamilton and Tyler Pitlick. If just one of those players turns into a useful NHL player, well that would be considered a victory based on the performance photo we’re looking at this morning.
The “Brandon Saad” in the Oilers group this season is Oscar Klefbom. I don’t think he spends the entire season in OKC, and I don’t think Marincin is far from knocking on the door. The real value in minor league teams is finding someone in the crowd who can fill a vital role for reasonable dollars. Remember when the Oilers hit the ground running in 2005-06 with all those value contracts?
2005-06 VALUE CONTRACTS
- Marc Andre Bergeron ($931k). Bergeron played 1600 minutes in the 05-06 season, 350 of that on the powerplay. He delivered 2.74/60 with the man advantage but was pretty solid at EVs (1/60) and his 15-20-35 for the season was exceptional for the price. Bergeron played over 100 AHL games before establishing himself.
- Ales Hemsky ($901,740). Hemsky played 1375 minutes in the 05-06 season, slightly over 400 of them on the powerplay. His PP/60 number (6.17) was very nice, his EV number 2.25 was a little better than he managed this past season (2.09) but that PP number helped him lead the team in scoring (19-58-77) and he delivered 6-11-17 in the playoffs too. A wonderful payoff for less than a million, a season to remember. Hemsky never played a game in the minors.
- Shawn Horcoff ($1M). Horcoff played almost 1600 minutes, almost 300 on the PP and 225 on the PK. In 05-06 he went 3-3-6 on the PK (about 1.6/60), went 4.82/60 on the PP and then 2.44 at EVs and this was against the other team’s good players. Played 24 AHL games before graduating to the NHL.
- Fernando Pisani ($611,800). In 05-06 he was excellent in the regular year and ridiculous in the postseason. Pisani played 1100 minutes in 05-06, 150 on the PP. He did a lot of heavy lifting at EVs and still managed to score 1.84/60 (he was 1.39 this past season) and 3.59 on the PP. Pisani was Guy Lafleur in the post season, 14-4-18 in a run I will never forget. At $611,800 he was ridiculous value. Played over 170 AHL games before graduating to the NHL.
- Jarret Stoll ($501,600). Stoll played 1500 minutes in 05-06, 410 on the PP and 200 on the PK. He was a pretty valuable hockey player. On the PP he was 4.53 (4.2 this season) and at EVs he was 2.35 (2.2 this season) on the way to 82gp, 22-46-68 totals. At the price, he was extremely valuable. Played 76 AHL games before graduating to the NHL.
- Raffi Torres ($875,000). Raffi played 1100 minutes in 05-06, 224 of them on the PP. He’s pretty famous for wandering out there but his results have always been solid. His EV number in 05-06 (2.07) was pretty close to this past season (1.94) and his PP number (2.95) was better than this year (0.40). At this price, he was a bargain. Played over 100 AHL games before establishing himself in the NHL, only 11 in the Oiler organization.
The Oilers need to find these kinds of contracts, starting now. Pisani is the gold standard here, he worked his way up and cost very little while delivering outstanding performance. The time is at hand–the Oilers AHL kids need to develop, and if they don’t then it’s time to give someone else a try. The Jacks and Kings are in place, where on earth are the 6’s and 7’s and 9’s?
(Hamilton photo by Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved).