The Oklahoma City Barons haven’t produced many NHL forwards but there are some solid reasons for it. Since 2010 (when the Barons got rolling) Edmonton has turned pro several forwards who didn’t enter through the AHL. Among them? Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov and on it goes.Hard to crack that lineup, folks.
One of the issues that impacted Barons prospects in a big way (imo) was playing time. The 20-year old forwards were brought along by sundial, biding their time and not getting at-bats during a precious development period. By way of comparison, I’ve included one non-Baron in this look at 20-year old AHL points-per-game. This player was drafted by Edmonton (not in the top three rounds) but developed by another organization:
- Tobias Rieder 64GP, 28-20-48 .750
- Teemu Hartikainen 66GP, 17-25-42 .636
- Bogdan Yakimov 57GP, 12-16-28 .491
- Josh Winquist 46GP, 8-11-19 .413
- Phil Cornet 60GP, 7-16-23 .383
- Tyler Pitlick 62GP, 7-16-23 .371
- Anton Lander 14GP, 1-4-5 .357
- Curtis Hamilton 41GP, 5-6-11 .268
- Jujhar Khaira 51GP, 4-6-10 .196
- Travis Ewanyk 68GP, 7-5-12 .176
- Mitch Moroz 66GP, 5-4-9 .136
- Kale Kessy 54GP, 2-4-6 .111
Hmmm. What are the odds that playing time—out of the box—impacted the prospect’s progress? I’d say a great deal. Let’s look at this issue another way. Eric Rodgers is a fine observer of the game and has passed along some estimated time-on-ice totals to me (more to come!) from this past season. Let’s have a look at Bogdan Yakimov, the most promising recent Baron:
- 57GP, 12-16-28 16:11 TOI (estimate).
- Points-per-60 full season estimate: 1.82.
- Points-per-60 2014 estimate (through end December): 1.22 (27GP, 2-8-10)
- Points-per-60 2015 estimate (January through season’s end) 1.89 (30GP, 10-8-18)
- NOTE: Eric estimates that Yakimov was playing just 12:06 a night before Lander’s recall, and then 19:48 afterward.
Not playing these prospects is a bad idea. Full stop. I’m not arguing that any of the current prospects headed to Bakersfield will have the career trajectory of Tobias Rieder. I’m arguing the Oilers need to give these young men a chance in their rookie AHL seasons to find their way. Wasting a season is costing these young players.
A year ago, I estimated Mitchell Moroz to score 30 points in 70 AHL games. That’s a good total for an AHL rookie of Moroz’ calibre, but he wasn’t going to hit that number on six minutes a night. I think (based on ancedotal evidence) he’s a better player in the AHL than the numbers showed. Eric Rodgers had a look at TOI estimates 14 games into the schedule and had Moroz at 6:44 per game (source). That puts Moroz nine-point season at an estimated points-per-60 of 1.22—not fabulous, but not tragic either based on where he’s sitting on the depth chart. Moroz is a player who may have to make his own luck based on the way things have turned out since his draft day. I’ll tell you why.
MITCH MOROZ BAKERSFIELD RE: 2015-16: 65GP, 12-15-27 .415
MITCH MOROZ RE: 2015-16: 1GP, 0-0-0
- What role will be play in Bakersfield? Moroz should be an AHL regular this season but time on a skill line won’t happen unless he spikes in a big way. I’d estimate the top two LW’s for Bakersfield will be Ryan Hamilton and Anton Slepyshev.
- Did the Oilers make room for him? Yes. Curtis Hamilton’s job is open and Moroz has a chance to fill it. He does have competition, including the more talented (but not on 50-man) Josh Winquist, plus a player with similar skills to Moroz (Kale Kessy).
- What has changed since his draft day? So very, very much. Stu MacGregor and Steve Tambellini drafted him in 2012, and by the next season Craig MacTavish was preaching skill and the draft model had been tweaked.
- Anything else? MacT would have had a connection to Moroz but Chiarelli has none at all. That said, Moroz is part of a thin group of big men who can play a physical game. At the top of the chart is Luke Gazdic and the new star could be Kale Kessy (whose increased speed was the talk of TC one year ago).
- Will Todd McLellan use this player type? I think he will, Gazdic is first up and they’ll need him to be better with the puck and one suspects it won’t work well. My guess is all of Gazdic, Kessy and Moroz see at least one NHL game, as the player McLellan is looking for doesn’t currently exist on the club.
- What player is that? A fast, big man who can crash and bang, stay healthy and score 10 goals a year. An agitator who can stand up for himself—much of this matches Moroz’ role as an Oil King.
- What does Moroz need to work on? His skating, his consistency.
- What do the Oilers need to do in order to develop him? Play the man.
- Is there any player in the organization you haven’t mentioned who could take this job? Yes. Greg Chase. He isn’t as big as Moroz—Chase is 6.0, 205—but he’s a better skater and a first class agitator. I mean he’s good, one of the best in the WHL during his career in junior hockey.
- What one thing will get Moroz to the NHL? His physical play. The man packs a wallop. At 6.02, 214, he can hurt people legally.
- What will keep him out? I think Mitch Moroz has a chance to make it. He needs to work on his skating and will absolutely need to learn to take and make a pass at the pro level, but he could do that in junior so it’s a matter of progression. He’ll need to play in the AHL though, a lot, during the rest of his entry-level deal.