Perhaps it has been so long we’ve forgotten, but it is worth remembering this: a good minor league organization is very valuable to an NHL team’s future.
The 2001-02 Hamilton Bulldogs are long forgotten, but they shouldn’t be; that team graduated a ton of talent to the big leagues and much of the talent produced came well below the first round picks.
- Coach Claude Julien guided the team to a 37-30-13 record and a deep playoff run. He would get his NHL chance and has delivered.
- Leading scorer Jason Chimera (5th rd pick) has cleared 650 NHL games and 100 goals.
- Fernando Pisani (8th rd pick) scored 102 NHL goals–regular season and playoffs combined–and one of them is an all-time goal deep in the heart of the Stanley cup finals.
- Marc-Andre Bergeron (undrafted) was a minor league free agent signing who made all the experts look foolish by enjoying a solid NHL career.
- Ty Conklin (undrafted) was a much sought after free agent and has had an NHL career of note.
- Jussi Markkanen (5th rd pick) was a Finn Oiler, the absolute top drawer. He also played in net for the most important game since 1990.
That’s a pretty nice haul for one minor league club. The fun part is looking at the failures. I’ve always stopped short of saying “if your first round pick has to play in the AHL for a year that probably means he’s not good enough” but logic and common sense suggest otherwise. It might be a rule that works for the Oilers, however. Consider the failures–1st rounders Michael Henrich (1998) and Jani Rita (1999), along with Chris Hajt (2nd rd pick, 1996), Alex Henry (3rd rd pick, 1998), and Alexei Semenov (2nd rd pick, 1999).
The 11-12 OKC Barons are a different group. I don’t really see (from here, any maybe that’ll change just like it did in 2002) many from the current depth of the draft or minor league free agency who will be the next Chimera, Pisani or Bergeron.
Teemu Hartikainen fits that description but I don’t see any other. If forced to guess about which players would pass 200 NHL games, I’d go Magnus Paajarvi (1st rder), Colten Teubert (1st rder), Anton Lander (2nd rder), Tyler Pitlick (2nd rder) and then the depth guy we can identify in Teemu Hartikainen (6th rder).
That team from 10 years ago saw the 5th and 8th rders along with two undrafted guys make the grade. Interesting. I guess that’s why they play the games.
I count the Oilers best all-time farm team as the 81-82 Wichita WInd. They didn’t win the Calder Cup (by 92-93 the Cape Breton Oilers would win the coveted Calder) but it was a fine team and delivered a bounty to the NHL team. Here’s a list of NHLers the Wichita Wind 81-82 team graduted to the world’s best hockey league:
- Andy Moog, who had a couple of cups of coffee before and during 81-82 but established himself as a quality NHL prospect during this season. The Oilers would eventually deal Moog, but he was certainly one of the finest goaltenders of his era.
- Charlie Huddy, who would be a strong contributor to the best Oiler teams in history and play in over 1,000 NHL games. Huddy was not drafted, rather he was signed by the Oilers and spent parts of three seasons in the minors before graduating to the show. His development should serve as a strong reminder that good defensemen often take some time to develop. A splendid player.
- Walt Poddubny, who would flourish in the NHL. He played 468 games and scored 184 goals, 116 of those in a stunning three season run from 86-89.
- John Blum, who would play 250 NHL games (most with Boston) was signed by the organization from Michigan (NCAA) after his graduation from college.
- Don Jackson, who rescued his career in Wichita and performed well for the Oilers during the first portion of the Stanley runs (dealt Oct 86). He was a solid role player for the Oilers during those years.
- Tom Roulston, who played 195 NHL games (and 47 goals) for the Oilers just before they started bagging Stanley’s every spring.
And there were a few cups of coffee, including Ray Cote who old timers like me will remember.
The last lockout team was exceptional too, with Jarret Stoll, Raffi Torres and Kyle Brodziak. The OKC Barons 12-13 lockout team? The Oilers have enough young talent to morph the past, if Hall, Eberle and the band want to play the smaller stadiums.
- Derek Zona, who will defend Magnus Paajarvi against the slings and arrows of non-believers; tell us about an enormous 30-team project underway at NHL Numbers and walk us through the Copper and Blue’s Top 25 under 25.
- Corey Pronman, who is quicky becoming a prospect guru through the power of his brain and the internet.
- Guy Flaming is the co-host of the best prospects show on the planet. We’ll talk Hlinka, Oil Kings and 2013 draft.
- Jonathan Willis will drop by and we’ll talk Oilers and how they might solve their blue and goalie woes; the lockout and how the stats guys and girls are going to tackle next season.
- Corey Graham, pbp man for the Edmonton Oil Kings on Team 1260. No matter what happens with the CBA, the Oil Kings roll and very soon. We’ll set the stage with Corey today.
Love to have you tune in, Team 1260 at noon today. Your questions and comments are the best, so please email firstname.lastname@example.org or leave the message below in the comments thread. I always check twitter as well–tweet to @ItsNationRadio and Lowetide_ to get in touch.