Before Hockey’s Future and Guy Flaming and before we thought of ways to apply Bill James’ math to hockey, there wasn’t much going except wishing and hoping. Today, we have NHLE and save percentage and a reasonable model that indicates forward progress during entry-level deals. It isn’t perfect, but there is some logic and reason applied to these things.
That said, it is still extremely difficult to predict the actual players who will emerge from a minor league system. The AHL is the melting pot. Some make it, some do not. Every few seasons, I like to break down a specific minor league team (Oilers) and compare it to the past. Today, we look at the first Bakersfield team and compare it to the past.
Most Promising Players at the time
- 99-00 Hamilton Bulldogs: Daniel Cleary, Michel Riesen, Dan Lacouture, Chris Hajt, Alex Henry
- 03-04 Toronto Roadrunners: Jani Rita, Tony Salmelainen, Joe Cullen, Doug Lynch, Jeff Woywitka.
- 07-08 Springfield Falcons: Rob Schremp, Liam Reddox, Marc Pouliot, Theo Peckham, Devan Dubnyk.
- 14-15 Bakersfield Condors: Griffin Reinhart, Laurent Brossoit, Anton Slepyshev, Jujhar Khaira, Jordan Oesterle.
Your mileage may vary on the current crop, but the old timey group represents the style at the time. Entry-level players are very important to a minor league team, with 20-year olds the key group (and their performance a major indicator). That’s why Edmonton’s galling tendency to slow-play the kids is so mysterious.
The 20-Year Old Regulars
- 99-00: 4 regulars: LW Michel Riesen (29-31-60), C Peter Sarno (10-36-46), LW Jason Chimera (15-13-28) and D Alex Henry (1-0-1).
- 03-04: 2 regulars: D Doug Lynch (11-25-36), D Jeff Woywitka (4-22-26), and part-time forward C Dan Baum (4-6-10), D Mathieu Roy (0-2-2).
- 07-08: 2 regulars: LW Slava Trukhno (13-20-33), D Theo Peckham (6-5-11) and part-time forward F Ryan O’Marra (2-7-9).
- 15-16: 2 regulars: C Kyle Platzer (6-11-17), C Bogdan Yakimov (5-10-15) and early callups Leon Draisaitl (1-1-2) and Darnell Nurse (0-2-2)—along with part-time forward Greg Chase (1-6-7).
The guys who post good numbers at 20 (Michel Riesen, Doug Lynch) in the AHL should become capable NHL players, but the best NHL player from this group (Chimera) had a fairly pedestrian AHL debut—but he played in 78 games. Among the 2015-16 regulars, Platzer has the best chance to make it in my opinion, and his point-per-game ratio (.354) is in the same range as Chimera (.359) at the same age. What does it mean? Well, Chimera spiked to 78gp, 29-25-54 in year two at the AHL level so maybe we should be looking for a substantial increase in boxcars.
The Regulars 21-25
- 99-00: D Chris Hajt(21) (0-8-8), RW Dan Cleary(21) (22-52-74), C Brian Swanson(23) (19-40-59), LW Dan Lacouture(22) (23-17-40), D Brad Norton(24) (5-12-17), D Sergei Yerkovich(25) (2-28-30), D Alex Zhurik(24) (2-16-18), D Ryan Risidore(23) (3-13-16), D Matthieu Descoteaux(22) (5-7-12), D Elias Abrahamsson(22) (1-3-4), D Kevin Bolibruck(22) (1-4-5), G Eric Heffler(23) 3.13 .910, D Alain Nasreddine (24) 1-6-7.
- 03-04: RW Tony Salmelainen(22) (19-25-44), LW Jani Rita(22) (17-24-41), C Joe Cullen(22) (14-16-30), C Mike Bishai(24) (11-22-33), D Bobby Allen(25) (5-10-15), LW Nate DiCasmirro(25) (17-18-35), C Chad Hinz(24) (11-23-34), C JJ Hunter(23) (12-16-28), RW Sean McAslan(23) (12-15-27), RW Michael Henrich(23) (14-10-24), RW Brad Winchester(22) (13-6-19), G Mike Morrison (24) 2.52 .913.
- 07-08: C Rob Schremp (21) 20-50-70, C Marc Pouliot (22) 20-22-42, LW Liam Reddox (21) 16-25-41, LW Jean-Francois Jacques (22) 11-14-25, RW Colin McDonald (23) 12-11-23, F Tim Sestito (23) 6-9-15, Stephane Goulet (21) 9-5-14, LW Troy Bodie (22) 7-6-13, D Mathieu Roy (24) 2-8-10, Sebastien Bisaillon (21) 3-7-10, Tyler Spurgeon (21) 1-7-8, D Danny Syvret (22) 2-15-17, C Fredik Johansson (23) 4-1-5, C Jonas Almtorp (24) 2-2-4, D Bryan Young (21) 0-4-4, Jeff Deslauriers (23) 2.91 .911, Devan Dubnyk (21) 2.99, .908.
- 15-16: C Jujhar Khaira (21) 10-17-27, Anton Slepyshev (21) 13-8-21, Mitch Moroz (21) 5-5-10, Griffin Reinhart (21) 2-8-10, Braden Christoffer (21) 1-4-5, Dillon Simpson (22) 4-16-20, David Musil (22), 3-11-14, Laurent Brossoit (22) 2.66, .920, Joey Laleggia (23) 8-19-27, Jordan Oesterle (23) 4-21-25, Tyler Pitlick (23) 7-14-21.
Some players from the first three teams made the NHL as actual players: Dan Cleary (Bulldogs), Brad Winchester (Roadrunners) and Devan Dubnyk (Falcons) with a few others who could qualify depending on your line in the sand. Is there a Cleary on the Condors team from a year ago? I think it is more likely that Brossoit and or one of the defenders make the grade and play north of 300 NHL games in the future. Who would you pick from that list as most likely to play 300 NHL games in the future?
- 99-00 featured RW Alexandre Volchkov(22) (2-6-8) and there was a big whoop about him once upon a time (He was a top 5 pick in 1996). RW Vlad Vorobiev(27) (9-9-18) and RW Max Spiridonov(21) (5-2-7) were on that team. So was Paul Comrie(22) (3-3-6) and who knows what he might have done and what his being an Oiler would have meant to his brother. LW Sean Selmser(25) (14-12-26) played 1 game.
- 03-04 featured LW Jamie Wright(27) (23-27-50), D Mikko Luoma(27) (3-16-19), G Steve Valiquette(27) (2.59).
- 07-08 featured a few older players, including D T. J. Kemp (26) (6-36-42), C Ben Simon (29) 12-10-22, D Allan Rourke (28) 3-11-14, D Rick Berry (29) (2-8-10).
- 15-16 featured Andrew Miller (25) (15-24-39) and Brad Hunt (27) (13-28-41).
We talk about this in the Farm Workers post every spring, but modern NHL teams rarely find future NHLers in this age group—making the minutes devoted to men like Matt Ford even more curious.
Hamilton Bulldogs since 1999
- Jason Chimera 951
- Daniel Cleary 938
- Dan Lacouture 337
- Alex Henry 177
- Brad Norton 124
- Alain Nasreddine 74
- Brian Swanson 70
- Michel Riesen 12
- Peter Sarno 7
- Chris Hajt 6
- Matthieu Descoteaux 5
- Sean Selmser 1
I did not include Alexei Semenov on this list (he was a late signing) but he got into 211 NHL games. The 1999 Bulldogs would deliver two players with careers that passed 900 games. Did the Condors have that kind of future torque on the roster a year ago? If you have to pick one name to last over 900 games, who would it be? Pick a fast train, folks.
Toronto Roadrunners since 2003
- Brad Winchester 390
- Jeff Woywikta 278
- Tony Salmelainen 70
- Jani Rita 66
- Mathieu Roy 66
- Bobby Allen 51
- Steve Valiquette 46
- Mike Morrison 29
- Dan Smith 22
- Mike Bishai 14
- Peter Sarno 7
- Mikko Luoma 3
- Doug Lynch 2
This was not a strong group in terms of future NHL success, Winchester was a fourth-liner and Woywitka never did get untracked. I will battle to the end on Lynch, though. That guy would have had a career if not for injury.
- Devan Dubnyk 298
- Zack Stortini 257
- Marc Pouliot 192
- J-F Jacques 166
- Theo Peckham 160
- Troy Bodie 159
- Colin McDonald 145
- Rob Schremp 114
- Patrick Thoresen 106
- Tim Sestito 101
- Liam Reddox 100
- Mathieu Roy 66
- Jeff Deslauriers 62
- Danny Syvret 59
- Ryan O’Marra 33
- Bryan Young 17
- Sebastien Bisaillon 2
This group is mostly about failure but Devan Dubnyk turned out very well and is the best Oilers draft pick (goalie division) since Grant Fuhr. Among the kids who came to the Oilers via draft since the turn of the century, I really thought Marc Pouliot would make it. It make come as a surprise to you.
- Leon Draisaitl 109
- Darnell Nurse 81
- Griffin Reinhart 37
- Jordan Oesterle 23
- Jujhar Khaira 15
- Anton Slepyshev 11
- Laurent Brossoit 6
I included Leon and Darnell here, you may choose to exclude them (both men began the year in the AHL). If you had to pick just one man here to reach Jason Chimera’s GP total, who would it be? I would pick the German. I also think this Condors team may produce a few 300-game guys. However, I have said the exact same thing before.