The group of players in the Oilers system that we’ll discuss today are one of the main reasons I’m a fan. The absolute fascination with the group we’ll call the hopefuls, stragglers and also-rans is compelling because it’s such a thin line. The line between becoming an NHL role player and playing in the AHL or Europe is often razor thin.
Some of the men listed below will have long NHL careers, and others will be in Minsk by Christmas. Back in the olden days, it was easy to know the fringe players because the hockey preview magazines told you (Larry Mavety was mentioned every year of my childhood; I cheered like mad for him).
Nowadays with 30 NHL teams it’s more difficult and the truth is that some of the world’s best hockey players won’t be in the NHL this fall by choice. Going home, KHL dollars and the promise of the first really big payday have siphoned some of the good players from the North American scene.
Jason Chimera took three full minor league seasons and 230+ AHL games before establishing himself as an NHL player. He had believers (Kevin Lowe said every summer Chimera would make the team) and detractors (Craig MacTavish sent him back every time) but eventually honed his skills into something MacT could use. Same thing for Kyle Brodziak; he took some time but became a useful player and is still enjoying a productive career.
Who is this year’s Chimera or Brodziak? Is there one?
Here are the men who will fill out the Oklahoma City Barons roster this fall and serve as organizational depth for the big club. I’m listing a few Stockton players and a Euro or two because they could be part of the conversation.
- G Yann Danis: If they had an “agent places player in ideal scenario” award this might be the winner next spring. The Oilers plan to enter the season with the NK-DD duo and that could fold like a cheap suit, leaving Danis as the only real option for callup. Amazing opportunity.
- G Olivier Roy: With the signing by OKC of David LeNeveu it seems natural for Roy to start his pro career in Stockton. He’s an interesting prospect and someone to keep your eye on this season, but his chances of playing in the NHL season are very low.
- D Jeff Petry: A fine young prospect from the Prendergast draft era, he showed very well in the NHL last season. I keep trying to find a way to put him on the opening night roster and would bet he forces his way. Manna from heaven if he is as good as he looks early.
- D Corey Potter: We’ve talked about this at length, but Potter has a huge opportunity with the Oilers. Even if he gets sent down after pre-season, he should be one of the early callup options. From the Larry Mavety prospect family, and his opportunity is somewhat similar to the one enjoyed by Yann Danis.
- D Colten Teubert: There is an element of the Oiler fanbase that will seek to bury him because of the way he go to Edmonton, but I’d encourage you to make up your own mind. Effective defensive defensemen aren’t sexy, but you sure as hell know when your team doesn’t have any. We don’t know if Teubert will ever be an effective DD or even if has an NHL career ahead of him, but the window of opportunity opens starting now.
- D Alex Plante: Played well in OKC but probably lost ground on the depth chart because of Teubert’s acquisition and Petry’s move up the depth chart. Plante’s ability to play the game and be a physical force seem established, but his mobility is going to hurt him. You never know, but it’s my guess that Plante won’t be in the mix next fall.
- D Johan Motin: He’s going to have a tough time staying in OKC if everyone stays healthy and plays well. OKC’s coach is the same guy as last year and coach Nelson used Motin as an extra often–and the organization sent him to Stockton for a time. Needs a strong season in 11-12 to keep ahead of all these other kids.
- D Taylor Fedun: Listed at the bottom of the OKC depth chart (Barons have signed AHL veteran Bryan Helmer and he will play) but it could be a quick jump up the list. Fedun has a nice range of skills and is an older new pro. I’d give him a 50/50 chance to play in the NHL this season, well behind Petry, Potter and about even with Teubert and Plante.
- D Martin Marincin: Although signed to a pro contract and despite being AHL eligible, there’s a very good chance Marincin returns to junior for his 19-year old season. Last season’s first half was lights out, but things caught up to him in the WHL’s second half. It’s probably wise to send him back for another season in junior.
- D Brandon Davidson: The opposite of Marincin, he doesn’t have a contract but is 20 and might be a better pro candidate for the fall. He got a late start in hockey–making him an absolute favorite for us Larry Mavety followers–and the Oilers may decide he could benefit from another season in the WHL.
- C Anton Lander: Of all the forwards on this list, Lander is probably the best bet for a useful NHL career. The day he was drafted Lander had a reputation as a leader and refined defensive player, and since then his offense has matured and footspeed improved. There’s something happening here.
- C Ryan O’Marra: A year ago I suggested O’Marra was in the mix for a big league job, inspiring snickering in the pressbox among the msm. It’s hard but not impossible to create a scenario for him to play in the NHL this season (RNH sent down, Lander not quite ready, O’Marra bringing a more physical game).
- C Chris VandeVelde: Believe it or not his window of opportunity with the Oilers is likely now. Although Edmonton has been poor for years at center the jobs are going to get eaten up in the next 12 months and the time is right for VV to establish himself. He has to hit above the Mendoza line, though.
- C Tanner House: House has 2-way talent but faces an uphill battle similar to VandeVelde. He might be a better actual player, we’ll see this season.
- C Milan Kytnar: Not sure what to do with this player. His numbers suggest the Oilers have at the least an AHL calibre center, but they rarely use him in a feature role.
- L Teemu Hartikainen: We can debate the wisdom of bringing in three left wingers over the summer in order to block the Finn, but the truth is he will very likely push his way onto the roster soon. It may involve Paajarvi moving over to RW after Hemsky’s dealt but the day is coming for Hartikainen.
- L Lennert Petrell: Power winger with speed, and he’s had a lot of pro experience. Petrell could impact the NHL team and will certainly be a major item on the OKC roster. His window is short (as in right away)
- L Curtis Hamilton: The great thing about OKC this season is that there should be some roadblocks for kids like Hamilton, meaning playing time isn’t given away. One thing worth noting: Hamilton’s timeline is more likely to resemble Chimera’s as opposed to someone like Eberle. I think we should be thrilled if he can post a 20-goal season in OKC.
- L Josh Green: Big forward back for another turn, he’d qualify under the also-ran category but should help the Barons more than Gregory Stewart did a year ago.
- L Phil Cornett: Along with Motin, I think he’s a candidate to get lost in the flood this season. A big offensive push would help a lot.
- L Hunter Tremblay: CIS players are always going to be underrated when turning pro because there are so few examples in NHL history (Dave Dunn did NOT begin a trend). Still, he’s a scorer in a world where they are rare and the early signs have been positive. If he can play RW things might go easier for him.
- R Ryan Keller: AHL scorer is a good hire for the Barons and could help out the Oilers should they need a winger during the season.
- R Mark Arcobello: Had a quick trip up the depth chart and was rewarded (perhaps too quickly) with an expensive two year contract (complete with bonuses). Should be a big part of the offense.
- R Antti Tyrvainen: His resume is a delight: A Finn with grit and the ability to agitate. If he can talk like Tikkanen even better! Seriously, I have no idea what they’ve got but the scouting report sounds fun.
- R Tyler Pitlick: There’s a chance he ends up in the WHL, but the Oilers are extremely high on this player and I expect he’ll be a Baron this year. Some concerns about his offense and it’ll be interesting to see if the organization plays him at center.
- R Cameron Abney: Enforcer likely to start his pro career in Stockton.
- R Toni Rajala: I’ve included him because Rajala is on the rookie roster but it’s likely he’ll return to Finland for another season. As a junior he had wicked skill and some game, seems to me he’ll be a story next fall.