Among the comments from this morning’s blog came an interesting item from Younger Oil:
- Younger Oil: When was the last time an Oilers prospect playing in the AHL came up and hit their NHLE? I’m guessing it doesn’t happen very often due to the fact that a player getting Top 6 time in the AHL usually gets Bottom 6 time in the NHL, but even so, most of the time the NHLE is noticeably different from the actual results.
Quite true. With the exception of Jesse Puljujarvi, who is going to spend a lot of time on a skill line in Edmonton barring a major plot twist, prospects playing in the top 6F AHL are likely headed for support jobs in the NHL—if they get there. The real answer to the question is contained in the Farm Workers post I pass along on April fool’s each year. The pertinent item is No. 9:
- Daniel Cleary, Fernando Pisani and Jason Chimera became productive players in the toughest league on the planet. THEY are the stars in this study.
Future NHL skill forwards don’t spend much time in the AHL, unless they have some specific malady (Edward Purcell: foot speed) to overcome in the eyes of the high foreheads. Example: Daniel Cleary. He scored 115 points for the Belleville Bulls at age 16 (1995-96) but he was unable to establish himself as an NHL player with his first team (Chicago Blackhawks). By the time Cleary became a productive NHLer, he was a hard-working winger, a man who accepted a role, worked hard to play in a tight-checking system, and used his God given talent to score 20 goals a season in aid of his team. That is a very useful player, but he had to adjust and become something other than the kid who ran circles around other teenagers at age 16.
The NHL is populated by men who were dominant at 16 in their various junior leagues, owning the puck for shifts at a time. But at 22 or 25, in the NHL, the player database (save a precious few) is filled with men who pressure and cut off lanes and force opposition from puck—without ever having the puck and controlling it as they did long ago. Learning that trade, and then learning to post some offense while being so disciplined, is the key to NHL success for AHL players. Let’s look at the last several AHL seasons for Oilers forwards. I am identifying prospects who posted .500 points-per-game or more, and looking for men who have played substantial time inside the Top 6F in Edmonton:
- Linus Omark 28gp, 14-17-31 1.11
- Liam Reddox 37gp, 18-15-33 .892
- Mark Arcobello 26gp, 11-11-22 .846
- Colin McDonald 80gp, 42-16-58 .725
- Teemu Hartikainen 66gp, 17-25-42 .636
All of these men got at least a shot in the NHL, none of them spent extended time in a feature role. Omark is the one player in this group who really did display exceptional offensive talent, in my opinion.
- Linus Omark 18gp, 6-10-16 .889
- Magnus Paajarvi 34gp, 7-18-25 .735
- Teemu Hartikainen 51gp, 14-18-32 .627
- Mark Arcobello 73gp, 17-26-43 .589
- Phil Cornet 67gp, 24-13-37 .552
Paajarvi had a fast start to his NHL career, and is still trying to get back there (encouraging game last night). None of these men spent extended time on an NHL scoring line.
- Toni Rajala 46gp, 17-28-45 .978
- Mark Arcobello 74gp, 22-46-68 .919
- Teemu Hartikainen 47gp, 14-23-37 .787
- Phil Cornet 46gp, 15-18-33 .717
- Magnus Paajarvi 36gp, 4-16-20 .526
This is the lockout year, so the numbers are spiked a little. Marcobello was a nice success story, that was Bill Scott if I recall, good job on finding a player in the hinterlands. No top NHL 6F here.
- Mark Arcobello 15gp, 10-18-28 1.87
- Anton Lander 46gp, 18-34-52 1.13
- Linus Omark 29gp, 14-15-29 1.00
- Roman Horak 53gp, 21-27-48 .906
- Andrew Miller 52gp, 8-26-34 .654
- Tyler Pitlick 39gp, 8-14-22 .564
Arcobello was too good for the AHL by this time, Lander and Omark showed well and Horak probably could have helped had he stayed. Pitlick showed signs of life. None of these men has spent a lot of time on an NHL scoring line.
- Anton Lander 29gp, 9-22-31 1.07
- Andrew Miller 63gp, 27-33-60 .952
- Iiro Pakarinen 39gp, 17-11-28 .718
- Curtis Hamilton 63gp, 12-20-32 .508
Lots of track to go for Lander and Pakarinen in their respective careers, but I don’t think we can project them as likely to spend a bunch of time on a skill line.
- Tyler Pitlick 37gp, 7-13-21 .568
- Jujhar Khaira 49gp, 10-17-27 .551
Both men have a chance at a career with the Oilers (or elsewhere), but we can agree that they will be role players, third and fourth liners, as NHL forwards.
- Anton Slepyshev 9gp, 3-7-10 1.11
- Jujhar Khaira 24gp, 8-10-18 .750
- Jesse Puljujarv 9gp, 3-6-8 .750
This is an interesting group, and it will be disappointing if JP doesn’t spend many years on a scoring line—that is the expectation. I think Slepyshev has a slight chance too, and Khaira’s offense has been such a difficult target, but I think he will have a career as an NHL checker. Puljujarvi is 18, that’s really young to be here, and we have to factor that into this conversation. It is also true that he was coming off knee surgery this past summer—he looks fast as lightning now, as displayed by that breakaway last night. I don’t see a top 6F from 2010-16, but the 2016-17 Condors have Puljujarvi, and maybe Slepyshev. I wonder what the future holds.
TONIGHT’S PROJECTED LINEUP
- Iiro Pakarinen—Anton Lander—Jesse Puljujarvi
- Joey Laleggia—Josh Currie—Taylor Becl
- Ryan Hamilton—Jere Sallinen—Patrick Russell
- Scott Allen—Kyle Platzer—Joel Reichlicz
- Jordan Oesterle—Mark Fayne
- Dillon Simpson—David Musil
- Mark Fraser—Bryce Aneloski
- Jonas Gustavsson (Nick Ellis)