Just about a year ago,
I set out on the road.
Seekin my fame and fortune,
lookin for a pot of gold.
Things got bad,
and things got worse,
I guess you will know the tune.
Oh ! lord, stuck in lodi again.
This is Alexei Mikhnov, in the uniform of the Scranton Penguins. I have no idea what a 6-5 Russian does in Scranton but it can’t be easy fitting in.
Mikhnov’s experience in North America was not good. He played in only two NHL games after making the big club last fall:
- October 23: He played 6 shifts and 4:23 against Phoenix.
- December 14: He played 9 shifts and 9:22 against Minnesota.
He spent quite a bit of time in the AHL, 27gp and was 6-12-18. Finally he headed back to the Motherland (well not really, he’s from Kiev) to play in the RSL where he went 11gp, 5-2-7 to round out his year. Mikhnov’s 07-08 regular season in the RSL is already underway (2gp, 1-1-2) with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv, and Tractor Boy is unlikely to return to Edmonton and the Oilers anytime soon. He remains Oiler property, but only on paper.
Alexei Mikhnov and Jean-Francois Jacques serve as warning for those who make the big league roster but are unable to make it into the lineup. Mikhnov played in October once and when not in game action he practiced and then watched from the pressbox. Jacques had a similar (if less pronounced) experience.
When the players all got together last season, the list of forwards trying to land one of the final four or so spots looked impressive. Here, let’s list them off: Jonas Almtorp, Kyle Brodziak, Marc Pouliot, Rob Schremp, Zack Stortini, Patrick Thoresen, Jean Francois Jacques, Alexei Mikhnov, Brad Winchester. I think that’s pretty much all of them. Here’s what happened to each:
- Sept 23: Zack Stortini assigned to Hamilton (AHL).
- Sept 23: Kyle Brodziak assigned to SWB (AHL).
- Sept 27: Jonas Altmorp assigned to Brynas IF Gavle of the SEL.
- Sept 30: Rob Schremp assigned to SWB (AHL).
- Oct 3: Marc Pouliot assigned to SWB.
That meant that Patrick Thoresen, Jean Francois Jacques, Alexei Mikhnov and Brad Winchester all made the roster. However, the race wasn’t really over. The only player who managed to stay completely out of the minor leagues was Brad Winchester, and Mikhnov may actually hold a record for fewest minutes on the ice for a schmuck who made the damn team out of camp:
- Patrick Thoresen 776:33
- Marc Pouliot 600:12
- Brad Winchester 476:18
- JF Jacques 292:44
- Zack Stortini 207:27
- Kyle Brodziak 102:48
- Rob Schremp 13:50
- Alexei Mikhnov 13:43
The leader in terms of TOI per game was Kyle Brodzak (he averaged 17:08 per game after being called up in March, spent 20 minutes on the ice against Minnesota on March 15. He was out for 26 shifts that night, several of them against the Demitra line), although it was in just 6 games.
In any cluster there are survivors and those thrown overboard. Gone from 2005′s training camp forward prospects list are Dan Baum, Yan Stastny, Jani Rita, Brad Winchester, JJ Hunter. Gone from last fall’s list are Winchester, Hunter, Mikhnov, Fredrik Pettersson, Brock Radunske.
The 05-06 rookie forwards were a small group, just Winchester (115 minutes), Brodziak (110 minutes), Pouliot (68 minutes), JF Jacques (47 minutes). The 06-07 rookies and their minutes are listed above. One thing I think we can agree on is that making the big club and staying are two completely different things.