Each year, I look back on the AHL season for Oiler prospects and see if there are any clues in regard to development. This season, the Barons sent some actual talent to the big leagues, two bona fide defenseman, a real center and some other things. Music! The original Farm Workers is here, the post below is just updating.
- Men who are over 30 and come out of the minors to establish (0r re-establish) themselves are pretty much a thing of the past. You’ll find the odd goalie or defenseman but unlike the orginal 6 era very few teams have enough depth and free agency makes it impossible to keep them on the farm. Which is a good thing. BARONS 13-14: None this year, no Yann Danis and no Josh Green’s. Richard Bachman felt like this player type, but is miles from 30.
- Pretty much everyone who is in the AHL past (say) 21 has some issues and is going to do some meandering (this is universal from 1965 through 2009). BARONS 13-14: One of the reasons I love doing this each season is that things become clear. The “issues” players are obvious. Anton Lander, who imo has offense and speed issues; Roman Horak, who has fled the scene; Mark Arcobello, who punched his ticket; Tyler Pitlick, who may or may not be hurting himself as you read this now. A nice group to be sure, and for the Oilers a step up from the recent past. Flawed players just the same, and we should not be surprised if none of them work out. The thing to remember about these players? There’s another cluster just around the corner.
- We shouldn’t expect Rob Schremp to play more career games than Sam Gagner or Andrew Cogliano. Whatever that line in the sand is, that line sticks. BARONS 13-14: Of course it’s true, the years Pitlick lost to injury and struggles mean he’ll never get to Gags or Cogs. Klefbom and Marincin didn’t spend enough time in the minors to be severely harmed, but defensemen have their own issues (injury, crisis of confidence, new coaches, etc).
- No minor league regular is likely to do anything incredible like play in 1,000 NHL games. It is a rare thing for a player to spend a couple of seasons in the minors and then go on to a 1,000 NHL game calibre career. BARONS 13-14: Marincin and Klefbom have a chance, they really do, but let’s get them past 100 games before we get too excited. The two impressive callups arrived at 20, flew their sorties, used their perfectly good brains to figure out the different between calm and chaos, and flew the silver bird to the promised land.
- If you haven’t established yourself as a prospect of interest by 22 you are in trouble. The players who have graduated to useful NHL careers have at least played some NHL games by the end of their entry level deals. BARONS 13-14: I think this is probably the most important point in the group. There’s a difference between Tyler Pitlick and Curtis Hamilton, though it may only be 10 NHL games right now. It’s there. Musil, Gernat, hell even Lander. If you’re not established, then you’re not going to have a career, or at least you’ll have to pursue it elsewhere. I think we can make a statement here, and ask people to argue against it. NHL teams, as a rule, make their decisions on prospects during their entry level deals. If they haven’t played in the NHL for their drafting team by 22, even just a little bit, they are probably not going to in the following seasons.
- Exceptions are college men. Playing 4 NCAA seasons means turning pro at 22, meaning a “late start” for some quality prospects. BARONS 13-14: Yes. Yes all over. The college men for the Barons—Mark Arcobello, Taylor Fedun, Andrew Miller, Brad Hunt—they’re just terrific at delivering value. Sign them for nothing, send them to Black Rock, and they arrive two years later useful. Jesus, if I owned an NHL team college signing season would be bigger than the draft. Why not? Spend your brains out! Mark Arcobello didn’t cost a second round pick, but he’s kicking all their asses (Marincin excepted). There’s a lesson there.
- A large group of players on the current team could be described in the “tweener” division. History tells us we’ll have our answers on men like Schremp, Spurgeon, Roy and Reddox very soon. It also tells us we already have our answer on Colin McDonald. BARONS 13-14: These guys are taking the milk run, and very few ever make it. I would include Curtis Hamilton, Will Acton, Steve Pinizzotto, Ryan Hamilton, but also Travis Ewanyk, Kale Kessy, and we should probably keep Brandon Davidson in mind here—although that’s not fair as a statement yet. And as it turned out, McDonald surprised us, although late in the game.
- If we make a list of the minor league RFA’s each summer, we can probably as a group pick the cuts and be fairly close. That 50 man list gets a haircut every summer. BARONS 13-14: MacT has killed most of them already—Martindale, Roy, Abney—the man is a steamroller, baby. He’ll have to decide on Tyler Pitlick, Curtis Hamilton, Andrew Miller, Richard Bachman. Roman Horak is already gone to Europe. I really like MacT’s handling of all the chaff, suspect he’ll have a harder time when it’s his kids, though. GMs always do.
- Daniel Cleary, Fernando Pisani and Jason Chimera became productive players in the toughest league on the planet. THEY are the stars in this study. BARONS 13-14: Yes. Yes. YES! Marincin, Klefbom and one or two others are very likely to be the stars of this show. The AHL doesn’t give you jacks and kings, but the league does supply those important role players. Klefbom and Marincin may well grow into top 4D (Marincin appears to be there, but let’s allow for some uncertainty), and those AHL sorties flown were important to development.
- For Rob Schremp fans, there’s exactly ONE pure offensive player who made it: Mike Walton. BARONS 13-14: Yes. Yes. Yes. Lordy we’ve seen a parade of scorers who didn’t make the grade. On the other hand, Mark Arcobello, who offers a range of skills, found his way through the minor league jungle with aplomb.
- The future NHLERS are……..If I’m a betting man, these are the winners from the current group to be the new Cleary and Chimera. Here are the names I’ve mentioned over the years (a sample):
- 2008: Theo Peckham and Gilbert Brule. Both were lost along the way.
- 2011: Theo Peckham and Devan Dubnyk. Well, DD was there until this season, Peckham had a great chance but blew it.
- 2012: Linus Omark, Magnus Paajarvi, Anton Lander, Teemu Hartikainen and Tyler Pitlick. Still waiting, would bet a lot on Paajarvi.
- 2013: Magnus Paajarvi, Anton Lander, Teemu Hartikainen and Martin Marincin. Four names, I think a couple of them will make it.
- 2014: This season, I’m choosing three players: Martin Marincin, Oscar Klefbom and Mark Arcobello.
The MacGregor drafting era began sending players to OKC in 2010. Teemu Hartikainen was the first, and the production line continues through this season. The 2010 entry draft has produced its second NHL player, the 2011 draft also has two in the show. We’ve seen some progress via the college signing route, and await a minor league free agent signing to show NHL ability.
When we began this look at the Oilers farm workers in 2008, the club badly needed quality AHL grads and there were very few. Those players who did arrive (like Colin McDonald) did so in another town, and I do think we may see that again with Teemu Hartikainen. The Edmonton Oilers have to draft players who they can grind into useful NHL men, and perhaps this season—more than any other in recent memory—provides us with some evidence things are finally in place.
Todd Nelson, Stu MacGregor and the others involved in procurement and development have to be on the same page. I believe Steve Tambellini pointed this organization in the right direction, it’s up to Craig MacTavish to make it go.
10 this morning, TSN 1260, I love doing this show. Scheduled to appear: Scott Cullen (TSN), Steve Hamilton (Oil Kings), Andrew Berkshire (Habs Eyes on the Prize) and Derek from Fear the Fin! 10-1260 text @Lowetide_ on twitter, questions are welcome, hope you tune in!