The best minor league team in Oilers history came out of Wichita, and delivered some exceptional talent to Edmonton and the NHL.
— Derek Van Diest (@DerekVanDiest) February 12, 2016
The 1981-82 Wind
- Andy Moog (40, 2.99 .895 that season), who had a couple of cups of coffee before and during 81-82 but established himself as a quality NHL prospect during that season. The Oilers would eventually deal Moog, but he was certainly one of the finest goaltenders of his era and one of the best in team history.
- Charlie Huddy (32, 7-19-26), who would be a strong contributor to the best Oiler teams in history and play in over 1,000 NHL games. Huddy was not drafted, rather he was signed by the Oilers and spent parts of three seasons in the minors before graduating to the show. His development should serve as a strong reminder that good defensemen often take some time to develop. A splendid player.
- Walt Poddubny (60, 35-46-81), who would flourish in the NHL. He played 468 games and scored 184 goals, 116 of those in a stunning three season run from 86-89.
- John Blum (79, 8-33-41), who would play 250 NHL games (most with Boston) was signed by the organization from Michigan (NCAA) after his graduation from college.
- Don Jackson (71, 7-37-44), who rescued his career in Wichita and performed well for the Oilers during the first portion of the Stanley runs (dealt Oct 86). He was a solid role player for the Oilers during those years.
- Tom Roulston (30, 22-28-50), who played 195 NHL games (and scored 47 goals) for the Oilers just before they started bagging Stanley’s every spring.
There were other players who played in the NHL (Marc Habscheid played three playoff games, but would eventually make the NHL and play in 345 games; Eddie Mio, he had played 77 games before this year, and would get back to the NHL and play a total of 192 games; Ken Berry, 55 games; Ray Cote, 15 games; Blair Barnes, 1 game).
— Willow Cleaver (@WillowCleaver) December 31, 2015
In this century, during non-lockout seasons, I believe the best team was the 2001-02 Hamilton Bulldogs. Not a shared team (Montreal would soon climb aboard in Hamilton), that crew boasted:
- Coach Claude Julien guided the team to a 37-30-13 record and a deep playoff run. He would get his NHL chance and has delivered.
- Jason Chimera (77, 26-51-77) has cleared 936 NHL games and 160 goals.
- Fernando Pisani (79, 26-34-60) scored 102 NHL goals–regular season and playoffs combined–and one of them is an all-time goal deep in the heart of the Stanley cup finals. He played in 462 games.
- Marc-Andre Bergeron (50, 2-13-15) was a minor league free agent signing who made all the experts look foolish by enjoying a solid NHL career. He is still active (in Europe) and played 490 NHL games between 2002-2013.
- Ty Conklin (37, 2.61 .916) was a much sought after free agent and had an NHL career of note (215 games).
- Alexei Semenov 78, 5-11-16) would go on to a 211-game NHL career as a big, stay-at-home defenseman.
- Alex Henry (69, 4-8-12) was an enforcer/defenseman in the minors who made it all the way to the NHL for 177 games.
There were other teams that delivered quality (Jarret Stoll, Raffi Torres, etc) before Oklahoma City, but they were often shared with other NHL teams or a lockout teams. The best OKC Barons team? I will go with 2013-14, although things could change as the years roll:
- Oscar Klefbom (48, 1-9-10) was a solid AHL rookie and has continued to develop into a quality NHL defender (when healthy). He is at 107 NHL games at this time.
- Anton Lander (46, 18-34-52) is at 190 NHL games, although many of those took place with him in a fourth-line role.
- Mark Arocbello (15, 10-18-28, I am using 10 games as the bar for the most part) worked very hard to forge an NHL career, and is currently at 139 games.
- Brandon Davidson (68, 5-8-13) is a great example of patience—in fact, he pushed beyond the five-year rule, but emerged this season as a legit top 6D option. He is at 63 NHL games.
- Martin Marincin (24, 3-4-7) arrived with Justin Schultz in OKC and formed a solid pairing in his rookie season. He is now in Toronto at 134 games and counting.
There is a tendency for us to discount the Oilers development system, and honestly their ridiculous behavior in the middle part of last decade (lending players out, for crying out loud) earned all the attacks they received. That said, since heading to OKC, the team has had what looks like good coaching and this season—to my eye—the recalls have performed very well.
- Leon Draisaitl (6, 1-1-2) and a stretch to have him on this list (the rule for above work was 10 games), but he was in Bakersfield before his terrific NHL run this year. He is now at 97 NHL games—and will pass the Cullen line next week.
- Darnell Nurse (6, 0-1-1) started in the minors, and perhaps more time in the AHL is still possible (and advisable) this year. He has a fine range of skills, but has a difficult time delivering it consistently in the big leagues. Currently at 61 NHL games.
- Griffin Reinhart (27, 2-7-9) is the latest Oilers prospect to divide the house. His being a former Oil Kings player, and the price paid to get him, has given us another target to verbally abuse on the internet. That vitriol aside, Reinhart’s performance in both the AHL and NHL has been mostly disappointing. Currently at 25 career NHL games.
- Jujhar Khaira (35, 9-14-23) spiked offensively in the AHL and earned an NHL recall, where he performed well in 15 games. He is at least part of the conversation for next year’s team.
- Jordan Oesterle (42, 3-20-23) appears to be a real option as an NHL recall, and I am not sure we knew that before this most recent look. He was chaotic a year ago, much better now. Has 11 NHL games to his credit.
- Anton Slepyshev (34, 8-5-13) started in the AHL after a very strong training camp, before fading and being sent to Bakersfield. No idea what the future holds, I would have a better idea if he was lighting up the AHL (he is not). At 11 NHL games.
- Laurent Brossoit (28, 2.69 .919) had a strong 2014-15 in the minors and followed it up with an even better effort this year. He is just getting started, but has a new contract and may well be the backup in the NHL next season. He has played in three NHL games at this time.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) March 11, 2016
The Oilers have some interesting options now that the Nuge is active. Everyone has an opinion on the best plan of action moving forward, but I would like to see the Hall—Nuge—Draisaitl line reunited at some point, and wouldn’t mind seeing the Nuge get some time with 97 as well. There are one dozen games left, plenty of time for experiments—and if RNH is in trade talks it behooves Peter Chiarelli to see what he has before dealing him.