One of the themes this blog has undertaken is tracking and projecting young players. The “first year pro” is often the most interesting, since most of the new pro’s play in leagues we have lots of history to draw information from to compare performance. I always like to do a “reasonable expectations” post on the AHL team because it’s important to take all of the bias out of things and agree on the line in the sand.
- Tyler Pitlick RE: Rugged winger with some skill, I think he’ll resemble Hamilton in starting slow and then moving up the depth chart. Pitlick may be tougher to track, as I’m not certain he’ll get a lot of PP time. With McDonald gone, Pitlick might have a shot at being that 2-way forward with the big shot who eventually rises to the top line. Unlikely for this season, though. RE would be 12-15 goals, most at even strength. UPDATE: 35, 4-6-10 with two of his goals coming on the PP. Offensive output is off from expectations and he’s missed 9 games. As I mentioned yesterday it’s difficult to compare his rookie season to the past because the Oilers appear to be handling these new hires differently. The team overall is more reliant on AHL veterans and older prospects (than in the past) and I’m not quite sure how to handicap the loss of playing time. Having said all of that, I don’t think you can describe his first half as anything but disappointing. Coach Nelson is strong on him, saying his play away from the puck has improved and his physical style is evident every game. When you’re talking about tougher wingers who could possibly play with the really skilled guys, Pitlick may be a candidate. The question of course is will he hit enough to be in the heart of the order.
- Curtis Hamilton RE: It might take some time for him to adjust to the AHL, but I think Hamilton will be somewhat similar Hartikainen as an AHL rookie (although he may not get the PP time). Should he spend the entire season in the minors, I think 20 goals is a reasonable number. UPDATE: 34, 4-5-9 +1 and marching in lock step with Pitlick offensively. Coach Nelson has used him quite a bit on the PK and it would appear he’ll play this season (and possibly beyond) as a role player in OKC.
- Teemu Hartikainen RE: This is a prospect ready for graduation but pushed back by guaranteed contracts. Not the worst problem in the world and I think he could force his way back to the NHL will a strong showing. If he stays all year in the minors, 25 goals is a reasonable expectation. UPDATE: 30, 10-10-20 -2 and on track for that 25 goal season if he’d played all 80 games. Coach Nelson suggested (without naming names) that there are times when a young player has a tough time of it when getting sent down and that appears to have had an impact on the big Finn. Having said that he’s right on track, save for a flagging performance in his most recent callup.
Oilers have changed their development timeline for these three players and others. I guess Hartikainen is probably the first player to go through this way, where his entry level deal will end up being a long audition for the NHL spent (for the most part) in the AHL. It might be an idea to do the same thing with Magnus Paajarvi for the rest of this season and next.
NationRadio hits the airwaves today at Noon Edmonton time on Team 1260. You can email comments and questions for our guests to firstname.lastname@example.org or post them in the comments section on the blog. I’m also @lowetide_ on twitter. Scheduled to appear:
- Terry Jones, HOF writer for the Edmonton Sun. He’s following the Barons this week and I’ll ask him about the prospects, the suspects and the fact that this OKC team might be among the best minor league clubs (in terms of wins and losses) in the Oilers history.
- Jason Gregor, host of the popular Jason Gregor Show on Team 1260. We’ll talk trade deadline, prospect progress and what he expects from the Oilers in the season’s final 30 games.
- Dennis King of Dennis King scoring chances and mc79 hockey. Dennis will talk about Paajarvi’s lack of progress (Dennis worried from the start about his offense), the trade of Ales Hemsky and touch base on what this team needs for next season.
- Jim Byers from OKC Barons. Jim is the play-by-play announcer and an astute resource for all of these Oiler prospects. I’ll ask him about Phil Cornet and his season, plus some of the “under the radar” types like Hunter Tremblay and Tanner House.
- Dennis Murphy, co-founder of the WHA and therefore a major reason for big league hockey in Edmonton. We’ll talk about the rebel league, the importance of Bobby Hull and the larger than life figure that was Bill Hunter.