This is a fascinating season (for some of us) in Bakersfield, as a condo of Condors are going to reach the conclusion of their entry-level deals. Who is leaving? I think there are ways to tell, including callups, ice time and opportunities within the roster. Here is a quick look at the RFA group for Bakersfield.
THE SURE RETURNS
- LC Jujhar Khaira. He is the best prospect in Bakersfield and might be in the NHL if not for injury. I would think his next contract has been earned already and he could be part of the opening night lineup in Edmonton 2017-18. Currently 4gp, 4-3-7 in Bakersfield. He could be in the spot Lander occupies currently, or the team may look at him as an inexpensive center option.
- LD Griffin Reinhart. A back issue has him on the sidelines and complicates an already frustrating season for the young defender. He is 4gp, 0-0-0 this year. The thing Peter Chiarelli is going to have to figure out: Is there a place for GR on a team that already boasts LD Oscar Klefbom, Andrej Sekera, Darnell Nurse and Brandon Davidson? I haven’t talked to any observer who ranks him ahead of these players.
- LD Dillon Simpson. Currently on recall to the NHL team (and that is a real tell), Simpson got the opportunity due to injury. He is 7gp, 1-0-1 in the AHL and has not yet appeared in an NHL game. He is a reliable defender, may have a future on an NHL third pairing if he continues to develop.
- LD Jordan Oesterle. The primary tell this season was his early demotion from NHL training camp. He is 6gp, 1-1-2 and may have been the recall over Dillon Simpson if healthy. I thought the arrows were good on him but that early checkout from camp has to be a bothersome thing.
- L Mitchell Moroz. He is at 8gp, 1-2-3 so far this year and that represents a high water mark so far in his AHL career. The positive is that he is getting a regular shift and seems to be doing some things offensively. Both represent progress, and he is exactly Peter Chiarelli’s player type. I keep going back to his effective checking as an Oil King, but he needs to impact the pro game more offensively.
- LC Jere Sallinen. Too soon to tell, but not a lot of impact.
AUTUMN COMING EARLY
- LD Joey Laleggia. I thought the skill D would get a push this season on the power play (the Brad Hunt role) and that counted double when Jordan Oesterle was hurt. He is 8gp, 0-2-2 (with one PP assist this season) and has been quiet—aside from his 24 shots on goal. Laleggia is probably too shy offensively to be a legit option as an NHL offensive defender.
- LD David Musil. He is no longer on an entry-level deal and is in a spot that Tyler Pitlick found himself in at the same point in his career. I think Musil has fulfilled his promise as a defenseman, the problem is Edmonton has options they like better. I have mentioned this in the past, but do wonder if he would be better off in another organization.
- G Eetu Laurikainen. Added to the 50-man just as Peter Chiarelli took over, I am uncertain he was ever under consideration as a solution. Currently in Norfolk.
- C Zachary Porchiro.
Each of these AHL games this season are very important for these players, as the club could walk them at the end of this season. I think Peter Chiarelli’s aggressive stance in the last two summers suggests I may be too conservative in my rankings—we could see all but Khaira and say Simpson gone by this time next season. Remember, Caleb Jones, Ethan Bear and Ziyat Paigin could be in Bakersfield next season with Ben Betker. Griffin Reinhart may be in some trouble with this organization if this season goes south. The turnover may continue unabated.