Sunday Minor League Report

Baseball and hockey have a few things in common, despite the vocal protestations of hockey fans. Among these are hope in springtime, the pain of your team losing touch with the pennant race and the importance of procurement.

When baseball used to hold the North American fan in a tight grip each summer (this would have been 1901-1994 or so) most of us waited with great anticipation as pitchers, catchers and players whose arms had fallen off the previous year arrived in Florida and Arizona for spring training.

One very important thing that both baseball and hockey teams do with consistency: elevate the most talented players as soon as they are ready. So for Dave Winfield and Sam Gagner, the minor leagues are a road not taken.

For everyone else, there is the minor leagues. Not making the NHL out of junior or college is the experience most of the players in the NHL went through, forced to learn one or more of the finer points of the trade far away from the bright lights and the big paydays.

Kyle Brodziak is something of a poster boy for the Edmonton Oilers minor league system. While Gagner and Hemsky skipped portions of their junior careers to make the show, and Andrew Cogliano came right from the campus, Brodziak represents hockey’s version of the Greyhound “milk-run” bus that stops in every hamlet and town on the way to the big city.

Brodziak is emerging as a very useful player, an important part of the Oilers 4line now that is quite simply kicking ass every shift. The line is tough, physical and has enough skill to get on the scoresheet. To say Brodziak (and Glencross, Stortini) is an unlikely candidate for the most effective on the Oilers over a 5-game stretch is truly a stretch in every sense of the word.

But here he is, and that line is doing damage on every level.

Brodziak spent 173 games in the AHL before arriving as a regular this season at 23 years old. His path should serve as inspiration to all of the minor leaguers working in Springfield (next game: Monday) no matter their draft number or their current slot in the pecking order. None are Sam Gagner, none are Andrew Cogliano, and an NHL future is not promised to any one of them.

Here are the Springfield Indians, with their minor league (AHL, ECHL) games played totals. It took Kyle Brodziak 173 games to figure it out and then to grab his chance, so some of these kids are just getting started.

  1. Tim Sestito (204)
  2. Danny Syvret (154)
  3. Marc Pouliot (140)
  4. JF Jacques (138)
  5. Jeff Deslauriers (134)
  6. Rob Schremp (121)
  7. Troy Bodie (113)
  8. Liam Reddox (110)
  9. Stephane Goulet (101)
  10. Bryan Young (97)
  11. Tyler Spurgeon (85)
  12. Devan Dubnyk (66)
  13. Ryan O’Marra (55)
  14. Colin McDonald (51)
  15. Jonas Almtorp (49)*
  16. David Rohlfs (46)
  17. Fredrik Johansson (44)*
  18. Slava Trukhno (38)
  19. Jacob Micflikier (37)
  20. Theo Peckham (34)
  21. Sebastien Bisaillon (26)

*Players who have played some SEL games which are not included in the total above. They have been professional and outside the NHL for much longer than their minor league games imply.

If we had to choose one player from that list as the next Kyle Brodziak, who would you choose? And, more importantly, what are the odds you’d be right? Would you bet on two of them having an NHL career over 500 games? What are the odds of one of the 21 having an NHL career of longer than 500 games?

And perhaps most important, what does that tell us about the contracts that Marc Pouliot, JF Jacques and others will be asked to sign this summer?

More later.

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21 Responses to "Sunday Minor League Report"

  1. knighttown says:

    I think the obvious one is Pouliot. Alot of Broziak like skills. Tall, lanky guy. Pretty smooth. Well rounded at the AHL level. One thing he is missing at this point in his career is the chip on his shoulder that comes with being a 7th rounder. First rounders that are projected to be first liners but eventually have to reinvent themselves as third liners, can be expected to take a little time. Or they never figure it out and go away. We’ll know soon.

  2. mike w says:

    Was Syvret always a longshot to make the team?

    He seemed all right the first time they called him up, less so the second.

  3. Black Dog says:

    Nice post, LT.

    Pouliot is a guy who you just figure has to make it but if he has Winchester disease (lack of intensity) then he’s not going to make it as a bottom six guy, which I think is where he is headed now.

    A lot of intriguing guys on that list – wow. If I were to pick to guys to fit into that category (500 games plus), I’m going to say O’Marra, who has the tools and likely will figure out what he needs to do, and Theo Peckham. Like Gilbert last year I just think the guy is a player. Can’t say why, just a feeling.

  4. jon k says:

    Syvret is a pretty likely candidate for lifelong AHL’er, if he sticks to it. I’d say he should be most worried about getting re-signed at all at this point.

    Pouliot has to be the next callup. Skill, size, and some grit. The team is full up of small, skilled forwards and actually doing quite well in the physical 4th liners department as well.

    Pouliot is a logical choice as a nice utility forward in the Reasoner mold.

    Speaking of which, I’ve noticed as of late that Stoll and Reasoner’s physical games have REALLY dropped off as of late. Reasoner pulls up every chance he gets. He’s also looking a step slower than usual, even for him. Hampering injury maybe?

    Anyway, the topic of random thoughts I think right now Gagner is projecting to be perhaps a more skilled Marc Savard. Dynamo on the PP, so-so at ES, and a bit of a temper. It will remain to be determined if he can develop Savard’s agitating qualities.

    Alternatively, Schremp is still looking good for a Ray Whitney type career. It will be interesting to see where this model lands. Likely in the East where his type of player can hide more easily.

  5. PunjabiOil says:

    On a completely unrelated note, can the media pick a worse picture of Kevin Lowe than this?

    http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/2008/02/17/gm_meetings/

    Almost seems as if it’s intentional

  6. HBomb says:

    Pouliot short-term and O’Marra long-term are the guys I’m really keeping my eyes on, in terms of being successful in this organization.

    Schremp, I think, is trade bait, and is 50/50 to be somewhere else by the start of next season.

    JF Jacques is a gigantic wild-card, still, in my books….

  7. Bruce says:

    Food for thought as always, LT. Certainly the most obvious candidates are bunched at 3-4-5-6, all between 120-140 GP. Which needs to be getting pretty close to “enough”.

    First rounders that are projected to be first liners but eventually have to reinvent themselves as third liners, can be expected to take a little time.

    Right on, KT. Poster boy in the Oilers organization is Marty Reasoner, a mid-first-rounder who put in some 124 GP in the AHL and eventually required a move to another organization — a common theme — before achieving moderate success as a third-liner. (A bad injury really derailed him, unfortunately; Marty was a hell of a player from 2002 to November ’03.)

    Other examples with a local flavour include three guys that came through from that one Chicago trade: Ethan Moreau, Dan Cleary, and Chad Kilger; all of whom were Top 15 overall drafts who needed 100 games or so of AHL seasoning and much more at the NHL level before eventualy developing into useful role players.

    I still hold out hopes for MP; I’d give him better than a 50% chance of being a long-term NHLer but a less than 50% chance of doing so as an Oiler. You’re right about him needing a chip on his shoulder though. He’s got to want it.

  8. jon k says:

    Out of curiosity I decided to look at the rookie scoring race, and put together their scoring rates to date.

    scoring
    total,es,sh,pp

    backstrom
    49,30,0,19
    mueller
    40,25,0,15
    toews
    37,19,2,16
    enstrom
    35,11,0,24
    gagner
    29,20,0,9
    cogliano
    27,19,2,6

    —————————–

    time on ice
    total,es,sh,pp

    kane
    1055.5,821.38,6.08,228.04
    backstrom
    1106.26,863.04,16.08,227.45
    mueller
    992.14,757.02,6.16,228.56
    toews
    729.44,527.00,59.37,143.07
    enstrom
    1469.20,934.06,178.55,356.19
    gagner
    819.57,677.56,4.36,137.25
    cogliano
    778.15,617.54,46.48,113.33

    —————————–

    rates
    P/60,ESP/60,SHP/60,PPP/60

    kane
    2.785, 2.191, 0, 4.999
    backstrom
    2.657, 2.086, 0, 5.012
    mueller
    2.419, 1.981, 0, 3.938
    toews
    3.043, 2.163, 2.021, 6.710
    enstrom
    1.429, 0.707, 0, 4.043
    gagner
    2.123, 1.771, 0, 3.934
    cogliano
    2.081, 1.846, 2.582, 3.177

    The most interesting idea that I came up with at the end of this was doing the same calculations at the end of year, as well as taking note of each player’s age in months. It’d be interesting to track these players and look at how their rates change. The point would largely be to see how Gagner as a young 18 year old compares at Toews’ age (19) and then Backstrom’s age (20).

    Obviously there’s going to be differences between team scoring rates, so that would have to be noted as well.

  9. Ozzieoiler says:

    Maybe i read the question wrong but i would think the most likely candidate to have a Brodziak career would be Reddox.

    Seems it has taken a while for Reddox to get the idea of being a pro hockey player. Won’t project further than a 3rd or 4th line agitator with some scoring ability and sandpaper.

    Brodziak was a longshot to make it but has slowly progressed up the depthchart. Reddox decided to take a vacation via Stockton for a season but has gone from ECHL to 1st/2nd line in the AHL and seems to make the Falcons hum when he’s in the lineup.

    Do you remember on HF when he was signed out of junior. His play had almost disappeared but they still inked him. There were some unhappy posters that day!

  10. Dennis says:

    I’m not overly surprised that 51′s goal totals are increasing because the guy’s had a tonne of scoring chances all season. That’s what’s really been the most heartening from my end of things; even when he wasn’t scoring he was still getting chances. Him and 46 have also had some chem and I’d imagine it’s because both subscribe to the KISS theory. Throw in some more speedy grit in 20 and now you’ve got a line worthy of the leads that Alec Baldwin had once promised;)

    Looking at who’s the next guy to establish himself, and it seems funny to say about a team that’s been bad for two years, but there’s not really a whole lot of room. 46′s doing a job for this team and there goes any chance of Jacques making the club, 13 and 89 are etched in stone and in the meantime they’re giving Nilsson a shot as well.

    Now I think we know what kind of player Pouliot’s gonna have to be to stick around and that’s a guy that’s low event and can kill penalties. I know he was a low event guy for the Oilers last year and I believe he killed penalties as well but I’m not sure. He’s a righthander so he could be our go-to guy from the side if Stoll’s out the door.

    You’d imagine Pouliot shows up this year if we deal Reasoner for a pick but there’s a part of me that’s scared he’ll get dealt for a Ryder rental.

    Looking ahead to next year, maybe he gets Nilsson’s spot or maybe the Oilers will think they find a scorer for Gagner.

    Take last night’s four lines plus 10-14 and though we know everyone won’t be back I still don’t think thinks look promising for Pouliot come next year.

  11. Bruce says:

    Dennis, of his 600 minutes TOI last year, MP had 34:45 on the PK, ranking 8th among Oiler forwards; his 0:45 per game ranked 10th. So he did a little PK work but hardly enough to knock the Toby Petersens of the world down the hierarchy. I’ll have trouble finding any fainter praise than that.

  12. doritogrande says:

    Call it a gut feeling, but I’m going to hang my hat on the Colin Macdonald rack. He seems to be handling himself quite well in his rookie season and has Brodziak’s size.

  13. Schitzo says:

    I never understood the Syvret love. He always struck me as MAB without the slapshot. And man, MAB without the slapshot is not much of a hockey player :-\

    I’d put Peckham as my “works hard and makes it” selection.

    Knighttown – the thing I’ve never understood regarding Pouliot is how, on a team with Moreau and Reasoner, there isn’t a role model available to teach him about first rounders reinventing themselves as checking third liners.
    Either Moreau and Reasoner let the kid down, or he’s just not listening.

  14. Lowetide says:

    I think Syvret was a guy the Oilers thought could offer them immediate help. He had passed through previous drafts unselected and in fact turned 20 the same month he was drafted.

    The Oilers have had some success in drafting players who are a year on (Brodziak, Mathieu Roy) but Syvret’s junior stats were skewed by the “lively ball” known as playing for the London Knights.

    I refuse to give up on three of these guys: Pouliot, Jacques and Dubnyk.

  15. Bruce says:

    The Oilers have had some success in drafting players who are a year on (Brodziak, Mathieu Roy) but Syvret’s junior stats were skewed by the “lively ball” known as playing for the London Knights.

    Yeah, but what a year he had. Captain of what many have called the greatest junior team ever, 89 points and +89 in 80 games. He also played on what many have called the greatest World Junior team of all time, beating the odds to make Team Canada after not even being invited to summer camp (the equivalent of being undrafted), getting invited to main camp based on his early season play and making the most of it. As I recall he scored the winning goal in the gold medal game. That was Danny in 2004-05; everything he touched turned to gold. He appeared like the classic late bloomer.

    When the Oilers drafted Syvret 81st overall I remember saying I bet he’d play more NHL games than 40 of the 80 guys picked ahead of him, and with 26 games already under his belt that may still be true. But he’s no longer looking like a surefire prospect, wasn’t at all impressive at the Spengler Cup and seems to be spinning his wheels in Springfield. With the depth of defence prospects in this organization it seems likely he’ll move on to another organization.

  16. Jamie says:

    call me picky… but I suspect it was a typo, and that you called the farm team the Indians instead of the Falcons.

    What is interesting is that you were half correct since the Springfield franchise used to be called the Indians. They have since moved a couple times and the franchise is now the Peoria Rivermen. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Springfield_Indians

    A fun bit of a history lesson thanks to Wikipedia, nevertheless.
    Springfield featured HOFers like George “Punch” Imlach, Brian Kilrea, Eddie Shore, Billy Smith, and Lorne “Gump” Worsley, et. al.

  17. Lowetide says:

    jamie: I’m old, so they’ll always be the Springfield Indians to me. They had some good AHL teams when I was growing up reading the Hockey News.

  18. David says:

    I think Jacques will, at some point, figure out that it’s better to be in the NHL as a fourth line grinder than in the AHL as a top six scorer, and adjust his game accordingly. Besides, a guy like Craig MacTavish eventually rewards hard-working players with some semblance of skill with top six ice time (see Reasoner, who can pass, if not shoot or skate). So I’ll take him in the “next Kyle Brodziak” category.

    Pouliot is going to get buried, on this team anyway, if for no other reason than how far down the depth chart at center he is. Could he break in on the wing? Maybe. But I don’t think he’s in the Oilers plans as anything other than an okay short term replacement. Maybe he makes it with another team, but I just don’t see him having much of a future in the NHL, short of an extremely impressive training camp next year.

    Schremp, who I still believe is in the Oilers plans, if a little tenatively. That they bothered to move him to the wing says they want him on their team at some point. He will get an opportunity, and with a full, healthy summer (hopefully) to take his conditioning to the next step, worst case scenario is a bubble spot on an NHL roster. Most likely scenario? A season eerily similar to the one Robert Nilsson is having now, IMO. He might be trade bait, but I don’t think he’ll be actively shopped.

    Deslauriers is going to be an NHL back-up, too soon to say if he’ll be anything more. I’ll pick Spurgeon as a fourth line energy guy. Reddox should be a good, utility bottom six forward. I see some other guys with a shot, but nobody else I’d proclaim as likely.

  19. Bank Shot says:

    Looking at who’s the next guy to establish himself, and it seems funny to say about a team that’s been bad for two years, but there’s not really a whole lot of room.

    Too true. It seems like the auditions are pretty much over and any young guy that has shown a little bit of anything at the NHL level is on the team, and most of the rest are likely going to freeze in the dark.

    There does seem to be a legitimate dearth of future NHLers on the farm at the moment though. You’ve got O’Marra, and Schremp as legitimate shots at 500 guys. Pouliot, and Jacques fall into the long shot category and the rest seem like faint hope/ lost causers.

    Looking at the young 21 and under guys (Reddox, Young, Spurgeon, Trukhno, Peckham, Bisallion) none of them look like future regular NHLers to me. Spurgeon was looking nice at one point, but he’s a train wreck in terms of injuries.

  20. Dennis says:

    We saw Lowe today talk about how he wasn’t going to pick up some picks just to give his scouting staff something to do but maybe he should do it for real reasons.

    Truk’s a longshot now to be any kind of a scorer and kids like JFJ and Pouliot had more promise in April of ’06 then they likely will in April of ’08.

    Outside of young Nash, and perhaps Vandeveld, the Oilers don’t look to have any young offensive guys in the pipe.

    Reddox probably wins and maybe another couple of guys place but other than that it’s starting to get thin.

  21. Master Lok says:

    Next Brodziak? IMO – it’s Reddox or O’Marra.

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