This is Fernando Pisani. Every once in awhile a player like Fernando comes along to surprise and delight us with his play. As a fan of drafts and prospects going back 35 years I can say that NHL teams are incredibly good at picking all the good ones early and for the most part if you’re drafted after the TV lights have been taken down the show may not be in the cards.
The new kid in town on the Pisani train is Liam Reddox. Drafted 87 slots after Rob Schremp was taken, Reddox had a nice junior career but didn’t show much as a first year pro. It wasn’t until his second year in pro hockey that the light turned on and Reddox began to climb the depth chart.
At the same time Rob Schremp was becoming very famous, playing for the USC of junior hockey in London, Ontario and when he turned pro he was already a pretty famous hockey player.
At what point then did Liam Reddox become a legit NHL prospect and Rob Schremp become a legit NHL suspect?
- The Edmonton Oilers signed Rob Schremp to his pro deal on May 12, 2006. Reddox got his contract June 1, 2006 and that wasn’t terribly long before he could have re-entered the draft. It’s fairly certain that the Oilers signed the 2004 kids in the exact order of importance (for the record, it was Dubnyk signing 2 weeks after Schremp followed by Michel Goulet and Bryan Young on May 31 and Reddox on the 1st of June) with Reddox bringing up the rear. At the draft June 24, 2006 the Oilers were without a 1st rd pick but did have Dubnyk, Schremp and Cogliano as headliners from the two previous drafts. I don’t think too many were talking about Reddox.
- In the fall of 2006 the Oilers sent out Patrick Murphy to the AHL and the junior kids on September 18th. About a week later (September 23) the first real pro cuts took place and of course Liam Reddox was on the list. Also sent to AAA that day were Zack Stortini, Kyle Brodziak and Tim Sestito (among others). Schremp hung around until September 30th when the Oilers cut their roster to 26 (Schremp & Tom Gilbert were cut that day).
We get a pretty clear idea about pecking order here, right? The Oilers wanted to get a good long look at the phenom and he was sent out right at the end (Edmonton cut Pouliot, Dubnyk & Roy a few days later). The callups that season are very interesting (this is 06-07):
- October 27: Callup Toby Petersen to replace injured Ethan Moreau
- November 20: Oilers callup Zack Stortini and send down JF Jacques & Alexei Mikhnov.
- November 27: Callup Jeff Deslauriers and Danny Syvret.
- November 29: Callup Marc Pouliot to replace Ales Hemsky.
- December 3: Callup Alexei Mikhnov (who had been sent out) to replace Ryan Smyth.
So we can see that although Schremp is certainly the rising star among the new pro’s, he’s also not a realistic callup option. When Hemsky & Smyth go down the Oilers choose Pouliot and Mikhnov, and are also trying to find some sandpaper with Stortini and Jacques fighting it our for that role.
This was during a period of time in which Schremp was getting adjusted to the AHL and frankly doing pretty well. On December 1, 2006 Rob Schremp’s AHL numbers (19gp, 4-12-16 +3 with 34 shots) weren’t far off Vic Ferrari’s 1/1 AHL rule (the rule stats that a player who can manage a point-per-game or thereabouts as a 20-year old in the AHL stands a very good chance of being a top 2 line player in the NHL someday). My guess is most of us felt Schremp could be an offensive player in a narrow view in the NHL and we’d see about him being an outscorer. We might have discussed him belonging to the Mike Comrie family of NHL players.
On April 4, 2007 the Edmonton Oilers recalled Rob Schremp to the NHL. He played in 1 game and they sent him back on the 7th. By this time he’d had some ups and downs in the minor leagues and in the period December 1-April 4 his numbers were 48gp, 12-22-34 -1 with 117 shots. After his first NHL game, Schremp played 2 AHL games going 1-2-3 -2 with 9 shots. He missed the playoffs in SWB due to knee surgery. His rookie AHL season:
- 69gp, 17-36-53 .768ppg (shy of Vic’s 1/1 guideline)
Reddox was not in the AHL picture in 06-07, spending his time in the ECHL and not doing much (70gp, 8-18-26) to get noticed in the crowd. On January 11, 2007 Guy Flaming wrote this about Reddox and his season in Stockton:
No one in the Oilers system needed a rebound year in quite the same degree as Liam Reddox but so far that just hasn’t happened for the former Peterborough standout. After two consecutive 30-goal years with the Petes, the forward only notched 18 in his final year after losing a lot of ice time. Stockton was supposed to be a destination where he could rediscover his scoring touch, but 28 games into the campaign Reddox has only found the back of the net once and has added just five assists for a disappointing six points.
So as we entered the summer of 2007 Schremp is still on the rise as a prospect and Reddox is not even in the picture.
What happened? Well he apparently decided to man up in the training department and kept his ears open and his mouth shut. Prendergast: “Nose to the grindstone. He bought into what he was told. Kelly (Buchberger) spent a lot of time with him down in Stockton. He’s a bit of a funny kid in that, if you start to show confidence in him, he’ll respond to you and at the beginning of last year he had trouble getting into the line-up. He went home this summer and worked really had and came back with an unbelievable amount of confidence in his game. “
Schremp’s offseason was not as productive due to a late training start coming off knee surgery.
So we enter fall 2007 with Schremp having some issues and Reddox ready to roll. At TC Reddox drew rave reviews and Schremp expressed frustration with being unable to play as well as he could because of the injury. Both were sent out this time on the same day (September 26) as the Oilers reduced their roster to 35 players. Among the players who were voted off the island afterwards this time were Patrick Thoresen and Zack Stortini.
The 07-08 early-season callups:
- October 12: Oilers recall Rob Schremp & Zack Stortini, while sending down Robert Nilsson & JF Jacques.
- October 19: recall JF Jacques and send down Rob Schremp.
- October 31: recall Robert Nilsson and send down JF Jacques.
- November 1: Oilers demote Marc Pouliot.
- November 15: Oilers recall Liam Reddox.
What in hell happened here? Well it looks like a bunch of kids shuffled back and forth and it took awhile for the winners (Nilsson and Stortini) to find their way. Also interesting is that by mid-November Reddox had impressed enough to get a call. Here were their numbers in the AHL November 15, 2007:
- Schremp 13gp, 3-8-11 +1
- Reddox 15gp, 4-6-10 +3
The numbers are pretty much the same but the tone of the coaching staff and management is completely different.
Kelly Buchberger on Reddox: “Night in and night out, he’s been our Ryan Smyth. He goes to the net all the time. He’s used in every situation. Last year in Stockton (ECHL) he didn’t play a lot. He’s a surprise. Now it looks like he has a chance to make it. He’s our Ryan Smyth the way he works in practices and the games. I’ve been at the rink early and who walks in the door before eight, for a 10 o’clock practice? Liam– so he can start working out. He competes, plus he’s got skill, lots of skill. You know how Smytty drives to the net, burying that shoulder? Well, Liam does a lot of those little things, too. He’s made big strides in one year. I use him on the point on the power play and when we’re down five-on-three, he’s the forward I send out.”
Craig MacTavish on Schremp: “The things he needs to do to stay here long-term are not quick fixes. He needs the strength base and quickness. He’s got to be strong enough to battle at a standstill because he’s not going to outskate many guys.”
I think that’s where it happened, guys. Schremp came off that injury and wasn’t 100% in TC and Reddox worked like a bugger, formed a bond with Buchberger and then gained some confidence when he had success.
This is basically how I track prospects. The things we talk about on this blog (NHL equivalencies, etc) and items like Jonathan’s terrific post the other day about who’s zooming who in the AHL are factors, and as you can see even though there’s a ton of hypberbole the organization does reveal information about prospects and their progress.
All of these things, along with transactions and how MacT is using the kids when they’re called up are indicators. Time on Ice totals are important, and so is who gets called up and how soon after the start of the season it happens. It’s also vital a player impact the game when given a chance. Potulny’s game last night is a textbook example. These things may seem obvious, but if they are why are people so surprised about Rob Schremp not getting recalled?
Many are surprised by coach MacT’s reaction to the Schremp question the other day. I’m surprised the question was asked at all.