Craig MacTavish has the Barons prospects on slow boil currently. The team has called up a lot of farm workers this season, and it’s reasonable to assume Anton Lander, Taylor Fedun and Tyler Pitlick are less than 2 weeks away from the call.
I always like to take it out of the hands of the GM, and ask history. As a complete nerd cheerleader for the underdog pretty much all my life, following Martin Gernat’s progress comes naturally. It’s probably the single biggest reason Mark Messier is my favorite Oiler—he came from a long way back and no one knew he’d become the Moose. Each year I look at the ‘farm workers’ and see if the words of the brilliant Brian Conacher remain true. It’s close to 50 years later, but so far the reading is still true north.
WHAT DO SUCCESSFUL FARM WORKERS LOOK LIKE?
- Men who are over 30 and come out of the minors to establish (0r re-establish) themselves are pretty much a thing of the past. You’ll find the odd goalie or defenseman but unlike the orginal 6 era very few teams have enough depth and free agency makes it impossible to keep them on the farm. Which is a good thing. Barons 13-14: None really. Ilya Bryzgalov went to the minors on a conditioning stint and Jason LaBarbera went to OKC in order to feel shame. It was Yann Danis getting the call in 12-13, so we might want to write a line about “goalies excepted” into the Conacher script.
- Pretty much everyone who is in the AHL past (say) 21 has some issues and is going to do some meandering (this is universal from 1965 through 2014). This season, there is a candidate to challenge the trend. Martin Marincin’s orderly matriculation to the NHL is so rare for an Oiler prospect it’s frankly off-putting. However, just because a good swing and a drive into the gap is a rare item doesn’t make the aim any less true. We’ll need to confirm with the future, but the trip from dirt road to blacktop looks perfect from here. Hurry Klefbom!
- We shouldn’t expect Rob Schremp to play more career games than Sam Gagner or Andrew Cogliano. Whatever that line in the sand is, that line sticks. This is the reason I looked back in history. I wanted to know how much a high-skill player pays in future days when he spends a long period in the minors. The answer: he pays it all, or so much that he’s never going to catch up to the phenoms who make the transition. Whatever told Craig MacTavish to knit one and pearl two, it had sustain. Rob Schremp’s junior points came on the power play. Wicked cruel business those feet of clay.
- No minor league regular is likely to do anything incredible like play in 1,000 NHL games. It is a rare thing for a player to spend a couple of seasons in the minors and then go on to a 1,000 NHL game calibre career. The example last year was Paajarvi, buddy is up to 200 games now as we reach five years past his draft day. I think he’ll have a career. 1000 games? I’d put money on it, but less than a year ago. I’d put less on Anton Lander. Marincin is the new star in all of these questions, perhaps Klefbom will be too.
- If you haven’t established yourself as a prospect of interest by 22 you are in trouble. The players who have graduated to useful NHL careers have at least played some NHL games by the end of their entry level deals. Last year I said the following: “I think Paajarvi, Hartikainen, Marincin, Lander and now Rajala have done enough to be considered NHL prospects. Pitlick, Hamilton, Davidson, Roy, Bunz etc are not yet there but have at least a little time.” I think we can move Pitlick up a 15-2, 15-4 but the song remains the same.
- Exceptions are college men. Playing 4 NCAA seasons means turning pro at 22, meaning a “late start” for some quality prospects. Barons 12-13: The obvious recent examples are Jeff Petry and this past season Justin Schultz, I think Taylor Fedun is probably on the outside looking in but that’s not established. Young C Andrew Miller wil be a player to follow from this category next season. This is an area Edmonton should be extremely aggressive in moving forward, it’s a great way to increase the depth of that 20-22 year old organizational cluster. Baron 13-14: Fedun’s turned things up a notch, and made his NHL debut. This point, true in Conacher’s era but rather new, is absolutely a stone tablet of truth today. This spring, we should be very curious about the college signing season. Oilers should be the most aggressive team in the NHL at this discipline. Mark Arcobello is living proof of this. His upward tracking after turning pro was exceptional, hell he was playing with crazy skill in the AHL fall 2012.
- A large group of AHL players are ‘tweeners’ and they will not get better. Mark Arcobello is the best tweener Edmonton’s hired in a decade, and that’s a compliment. He joins Liam Reddox, Patrick Thoresen and a few others. Arcobello doesn’t have to get better to play in the NHL for years, but I don’t know if a winning team would employ him in a position of importance for more than a week. Is that fair? Maybe not.
- If we make a list of the minor league RFA’s each summerwe can probably as a group pick the cuts and be fairly close. That 50 man list gets a haircut every summer. Barons 12-13: Obvious flushes would appear to be Antti Tyrvainen, Alex Plante, Niko Hovinen, Colten Teubert. They haven’t completely cut ties with Linus Omark, but that’s likely to happen this summer too. Barons 13-14: MacTavish already did it. Jesus, I’m going to love MacT as GM. If he were a country dentist he’d pull teeth in the waiting room. I imagine Curtis Hamilton and Phil Larsen are candidates this summer, but the real work (Martindale, Abney, etc) has been done during the season. With vengeance!
- Daniel Cleary, Fernando Pisani and Jason Chimera became productive players in the toughest league on the planet. THEY are the stars in this study. Barons 12-13: Hartikainen, Lander and maybe down the line guys like Marincin are the ones with the best chance to find their way. The AHL is a lot about grinding the flaws out of the players and making them into useful role players for NHL coaching staffs. Play the role, keep the job. Oilers have passed on skilled men like Schremp and Omark over their recent history, mostly because the really talented offensive forwards don’t spend any time in the AHL. Barons 13-14: The role players looking for future employment: Anton Lander, Roman Horak, Oscar Klefbom, Taylor Fedun, Tyler Pitlick, Martin Gernat, David Musil, Laurent Brossoit. MacT has the farm team developing talent through at-bats, even though the win total is off. I’m pleased with that trade.
- For Rob Schremp fans, there’s exactly ONE pure offensive player who made it: Mike Walton. Barons 12-13: Omark didn’t make it, we’ll see about Rajala. The odds are stacked against him in all kinds of ways, not the least of which is the ridiculous NHL depth chart on the wings. Barons 13-14: Arcobello is the only truly small guy on the team, Schremp couldn’t hold his Stars n’ Stripes gonch. Oilers are employing more players who may actually play in the NHL, although they’re still hiring too many perimeter guys.
- The future NHLERS are……..If I’m a betting man, these are the winners from the current group to be the new Cleary and Chimera. Barons 12-13: I choose Paajarvi, Lander, Hartikainen and Marincin. I know that’s a lot (four), but Paajarvi is a 10th overall selection, Lander and Marincin are second rounders and Hartikainen is one of those guys who beat his draft number. He’s 52 games into an NHL career that should never have happened based on where he was selected (6th round). Barons 13-14: I’m stubborn on Lander and pleased with Marincin. Still think Paajarvi makes the grade and pleased Hartikainen will get another chance in the fall (I hope). From the Barons this season: Martin Marincin, Oscar Klefbom, Anton Lander and Tyler Pitlick.
The minor leagues are for developing 6′s and 7′s and 9′s. Anton Lander, Tyler Pitlick, Roman Horak, Martin Marincin, Oscar Klefbom. The Schremps make it 18-20 or they’re Guyle Fielder. This still remains true. Tip your waitress, try the ham.