The Oklahoma City Barons have done what they’re supposed to do: spend the winter allowing the cream to rise to the top. The best prospects in OKC? A 2nd rounder from 2009, another from 2010, and a bunch of guys taken after round 3 (or undrafted).
Here’s a look at the best players in OKC, with their ranking in my winter top 20 in brackets.
- (#4) D Martin Marincin (33, 3-9-12). Got off to a crazy start playing alongside Justin Schultz (18, 3-8-11 +12) but fell to earth in December (10, 0-2-2 -4) before settling in as a solid second-third pairing option (33, 3-9-12 +10) since the new year. Overall, I think it’s been a very good year for the 2-way defender; more work to do–have to iron out the chaos–but he’s on track.
- (#5) L Teemu Hartikainen (10, 3-8-11). I believe the Oilers should have traded Ryan Jones and inserted this guy. He’s spending his final games in the minors, Harski won’t clear waivers in the fall and he’s too valuable to lose for nothing. There’s not a hockey fan alive who can name 14 better forwards in this organization. He’s at 48 NHL games, ready to graduate from my list and get a full NHL season in 2013-14.
- (#11) C Anton Lander (18, 6-7-13). I find the Oilers behavior excruciating when it comes to handling Lander. Leave. him. alone. Lander may or may not be an NHL player at some point, but he lost a season in 11-12 to being overwhelmed by the NHL and quite a bit of this year to NHLers being in OKC. For crying out loud, let him play!
- (#18) D Taylor Fedun (32, 4-12-16). This is a guy who really did lost an entire year (to an injury) but has shown well during his debut AHL season. Fedun’s undersized but not terribly so (6.0, 190) and has some nice things on his resume. Edmonton has invested plenty in him and it looks like there could be a player here. Certainly his performance this season warrants a return to the OKC blueline.
- (#25) C Mark Arcobello (35, 11-18-29). He’s convinced me that he can play, and I do believe an NHL career is possible. Arcobello impressed a great deal when thrust into the 1line C rule in OKC, centering NHL wingers. He flourished, and could gain some traction with the NHL team if the Oilers move out a center over the summer.
- (#26) L Toni Rajala (31, 10-22-32). Small winger has done more to help his career than anyone in OKC this season. Started in Stockton because of all the NHLers in OKC, and just kept working. Now? He’s facing an uphill climb, but man is he on the radar.
- (#29) L Phil Cornet (28, 11-14-25). Similar to Rajala in that he’s a long shot, but if an AHL winger keeps scoring 20+ goals a season someone is going to take a long look sooner or later. Cornet’s story is unlikely to be written with the Oilers, but one suspects we’ll hear about him down the line.
There are a large number of young players who have fallen away this season, or continued their slide (Pitlick, Hamilton, Teubert) during the 2012-13 year. Among the players who I haven’t listed above who could still have NHL careers (Pelss, Davidson, Martindale, Roy) I don’t think any improved their ranking during the year. Some of that is due to injury (Pelss, Davidson) but for the rest it’s been hard nose the highway. Finally, the arrows:
- UP ARROWS: Marincin, Hartikainen, Lander, Fedun, Arcobello, Rajala, Cornet
- ARROWS IN BETWEEN: Pelss, Davidson, Martindale, Roy, VandeVelde, House
- DOWN ARROWS: Pitlick, Hamilton, Teubert, Tyrvainen, Plante, Abney
And from last season:
- UP ARROWS: Arcobello, Cornet, Hartikainen, Paajarvi, Tremblay, Omark, Plante
- ARROWS IN BETWEEN: Pitlick, VandeVelde, House, Tyrvainen, Hamilton, Teubert
- DOWN ARROWS: Tulupov, Martindale, Motin, Abney
First rounders Teubert and Plante, second rounders Pitlick and Hamilton and third rounder Abney are going the wrong way.
The famous phrase “don’t look back, someone might be gaining on you” applies to the Barons. Keep on truckin’, gents.
In the three seasons OKC has been sending players to the NHL, they have graduated:
- 2010: Jeff Petry, Linus Omark, Colin McDonald
- 2011: Magnus Paajarvi
- 2012: (my guess) Teemu Hartikainen, Anton Lander
I think Todd Nelson and the Barons are producing useful players at a good clip. Do you agree?