This is Joey Johnston as a Cleveland Baron (AHL). He’s a great example of why NHL teams employ a lesser (but high quality) league like the AHL. Johnston was chosen 8th overall in the 1966 Entry Draft (the draft wasn’t as deep in those days due to the sponsorship era. Bobby Orr would have been eligible for the 1966 draft by today’s standards but his rights had long since been gobbled up by the Bruins) and graduated to the Central League and eventually the AHL as a pro.
The Rangers included him in a trade for NHL veteran Dave Balon in 1968, but Johnston didn’t find an NHL home until 1971. The gritty and talented winger took flight as an NHL player in Oakland, and holds many Seals career records based on his impressive 4 seasons with the team. He was traded to Chicago, but the same summer (1975) saw him suffer serious injuries in a car accident and his NHL career soon ended. He was done with hockey at 27.
Joey Johnston, like many talented young hockey players, needed some time to find his way to the National Hockey League. The minor leagues helped him get that experience.
We’re a long way from fall, but here’s a quick first glance at the players Oklahoma City Barons fans might be cheering for in 2010-11. This isn’t an all-inclusive list, but many of the players not listed are either quality prospects who are waiver eligible–making them unlikely to play for the Barons–or they’re unsigned free agents. Examples of the former would be Devan Dubnyk, Jeff Deslauriers and Theo Peckham, and examples of the latter are people like Dean Arsene, Chris Minard and Charles Linglet. Some of those veteran AHL players will be signed, but we won’t know until later this summer.
- G Bryan Pitton: Oilers have him signed for one more season. The Barons may need to add a goaler (they used to use that word back in Johnston’s day) since last year’s starter (Devan Dubnyk) may make the big club this season.
- D Alex Plante: Size and toughness are his calling card. Plante’s mobility is a question mark but from all reports he had a nice transition to the AHL last season. He should be a crowd favorite.
- D Johan Motin: Tough Swede plays a simple, stay-at-home style with a dash of mean-spirited aggression. Another fan favorite.
- D Jeff Petry: The college man turned pro late last season and began the period of transition that Taylor Chorney is still experiencing. He is highly touted.
- D Jordan Bendfield: Showed well in his 10 AHL games. He’s taking the Rocky Thompson career path and should be useful to the Barons.
- R Jordan Eberle: The kid is pretty famous in Canada, but might start this coming season in the minors. If he does, fans will see that most rare of items: a quality scoring prospect in the minors. Better see him while he’s there.
- L Liam Reddox: The most likely of the rfa’s to come back imo. A nice range of skills, plenty of desire and some history as a tough minutes player at the AHL level.
- C Chris Vande Velde: A big center with grit and skill, he’s a rare item for any franchise and Oilers and Barons fans should watch his progress closely. The most interesting AHL prospect this season.
- L Linus Omark: Small skilled winger could make the big club but a better bet to spend time in the AHL honing his skills. He’s played in Europe’s two best leagues so should impact the AHL.
- L Teemu Hartikainen: Big Finn with grit and skill should mean big fun in Oklahoma. I have no idea how long he’ll spend in the minors.
- C Ryan O’Marra: Former first rounder has been burning daylight on his pro career faster than anyone in the system. There’s a chance he doesn’t return, but NHL teams give many, many chances to high draft picks.
- L Phil Cornet: He could spend time in the ECHL but should get a long look for the Barons. Undersized skill winger who won’t back down, that’s usually a recipe for IR visits.
- L Matt Marquart: Tough veteran winger with size and experience.
- C Milan Kytnar: Graduating to pro’s with a mixed resume, fans will be interested to see what kind of offense he can bring to pro hockey. If there’s enough, he might carve out a checking role at the highest levels.
- C Geoff Paukovich: May not get another contract; my guess is he does because of size and position, but his offensive output is putrid.
The Oilers have a few UFA’s who may return (Colin McDonald is a big winger with some nice things but can’t hit the ocean with an impressive shot; Chris Minard, a real talent who can dominate AHL pitching but coming off an injury-filled season; Charles Linglet, who played so well he might get a better offer from another NHL team).
The Oilers have a few guys like Blair Riley, Magnus Paarjavi-Svensson and Anton Lander who may also sign and play in the AHL next season. If you’re not familiar with these names, I’d suggest scrolling down the right-hand side of this blog and clicking on their names.
The Oilers have a few other guys like Jean-Francois Jacques, Robert Nilsson and Ryan Potulny who have NHL jobs currently but will need to bring max effort in the fall. A poor training camp may mean these men see Okla City in 2010-11. I’ve posted on each of them and you can check them out on the scroll list to the right (and below).
Did I miss anyone?