We are at the point of summer where things like minor league splits become the conversation of the day (or, more accurately, do NOT become a conversation at all). Today’s post is a deep cut ladies, you are excused from reading further if this subject holds no interest.
One of the reasons I like to look at splits? To see who closed well, who finally earned the confidence of the coach or adjusted to North America and the style of play in the AHL. Here are the top performers in the final three months of the season (Feb-Apr). (NHL Contracts, Prospects Only)
OILERS FORWARD PROSPECTS (POINTS PER GAME)
- This was Tyler Pitlick’s fifth AHL season, not sure we can give him a lot of credit for 90 good days at the end of Year 5. Still, the Oilers signed him and he did post reasonable offensive numbers on those 22 games. The guy taken right behind him in 2010—Jared Knight—spent some time in the ECHL this past season, so things could be worse. The guy taken after Knight—John McFarland—can’t score much at the AHL level either.
- Jujhar Khaira scored 10 points in his entire first season AHL (51 games), so his finish this spring should be considered news. I don’t know if he will be an NHL regular this season, but he is tracking like a prospect who will be a roster player after his entry-level deal expires (at the end of 2016-17).
- Anton Slepyshev found some consistency late in the year (before February, he was 20, 4-1-5 .250) and that is exactly what Bakersfield coach Gerry Fleming was looking for from him.
- Bogdan Yakimov performed better after coming back from the AHL (19, 3-4-7 .368 before heading out) but it was not a major spike. I fear MacT’s crazy 2013 draft day trade may be down one spetsnaz.
OILERS FORWARD PROSPECTS (SHOTS PER GAME)
- Anton Slepyshev didn’t get many assists, but Feb+ this year he scored at a 21-goal rate (AHL plays 68 games in California). He plays a position that Edmonton’s management has not yet nailed down—Jon Willis had a cool article the other day about Radim Vrbata—and I think part of Edmonton’s answer is Anton Slepyshev. Seriously. Among the auditions we should be watching this fall (along with Yak and Puljujarvi and Kassian) is the young Russian. Todd McLellan likes his size and speed, pretty sure.
- Tyler Pitlick shows well here, and at 24 years and 292 days may he has an NHL career ahead of him. You know, Fernando Pisani made his NHL debut at 26 years, four days! I kid. Still cheering for Pitlick though, hope he makes it.
- I think a prospect should probably be above two shots a game to be considered a legit offensive player. Fair?
MOST SHOTS PER GAME SINCE 2010 (OILERS AHL)
- Anton Lander 3.31 (2014-15)
- Colin McDonald 3.24 (2010-11)
- Toni Rajala 3.24 (2012-13)**
- Iiro Pakarinen 3.21 (2014-15)
- Mark Arcobello 3.19 (2012-13)**
- Magnus Paajarvi 2.94 (2011-12)
- Mark Arcobello 2.81 (2010-11)
- Anton Lander 2.61 (2013-14)
- Linus Omark 2.57 (2010-11)
- Tyler Pitlick 2.56 (2013-14)
- Mark Arcobello 2.53 (2011-12)
- Teemu Haritainen 2.33 (2011-12)
- Anton Slepyshev 2.31 (2015-16)
- Tyler Pitlick 2.24 (2015-16)
- Bogdan Yakimov 2.16 (2014-15)
- Phil Cornet 2.13 (2012-13)**
- Tyler Pitlick 2.10 (2011-12)
- Linus Omark 2.03 (2013-14)
- Phil Cornet 2.01 (2011-12)
- Teemu Hartikainen 2.00 (2012-13)**
- Teemu Hartikainen 2.00 (2010-11)
- Note: The asterisk seasons came with the lockout, a time when Edmonton sent their great young NHL talents down to the minors. We have no real idea about how much of a push these men received, but it is worth noting.
- Another note: Players at the top in italics used these seasons as a stepping off point to NHL careers. Even Colin McDonald, one of Kevin Prendergast’s strangest developers (drafted in 2003, regular by 2013-14), used his final AHL time as a springboard.
As is always the case and we need to constantly remind ourselves, the men who come to the NHL from the AHL are the role players and the support men. I write about it every year, most recently in this summer’s edition of Farm Workers:
- Daniel Cleary, Fernando Pisani and Jason Chimera became productive players in the toughest league on the planet. THEY are the stars in this study. Condors 2015-16: This is the most important thing about looking at the minors. People rip on Anton Lander, but that is they kind of player the minor leagues produces. Among the younger set, I would identify Jujhar Khaira, Bogdan Yakimov and Anton Slepyshev among forwards, and Jordan Oesterle, Dillon Simpson among defenders. It isn’t sexy like the lottery, but these are important pieces. Source
I THINK IT IS SLEPYSHEV
- Todd McLellan: “When I look at his game, and I watched the video again—the video doesn’t lie. He did a lot of the things we worked on today in the game. He’s a young player but he’s played pro hockey before. You can see it, he’s been around pro players for awhile. He has the ability to play a heavy game and use his shot. He’s played with speed guys and with grinders … he’s getting better night after night and he’s really opening the coaches’ eyes.” Source
I am not certain Todd McLellan will give Nail Yakupov a real chance on the McDavid line, I am not sure Jesse Puljujarvi will adjust to all the new that is about to come his way by Christmastime. It is not clear that Zack Kassian will take full advantage of the skill minutes he will no doubt get in times of trouble and Leon is needed at center.
Down below the event horizon, deep below the obvious, reasonable and logical, there lies an opportunity. Is there a spark in Anton Slepyshev? I hear he is working hard.