The Bakersfield Condors are in action tonight, playing just Game No. 6 on a slow, slow minor league schedule. It is difficult to track prospects who play once or twice a week, but we should get a good look at the crew this week—as they play three games between now and Monday.
At this blog, we don’t concern ourselves so much with wins, more about development. Among Condors who have played five or more games in the minors and are productive NHL players for Edmonton:
- C Leon Draisaitl 10gp, 2-4-6 (spent six games in Bakersfield at the beginning of 2015-16)
- R Tyler Pitlick 10gp, 3-1-4 (AHL regular since 2011 fall, may finally make it)
- LD Darnell Nurse 10gp, 2-2-4 (spent nine games in Bakersfield at the beginning of 2015-16)
- W Anton Slepyshev 3gp, 1-0-1 (spent 49 games in Bakersfield in 2015-16)
It is anyone’s guess how much Gerry Fleming impacted these men, but the job of Condors coaching is to help develop NHL players—and these four men have been productive by any measure. In the summer, I asked a series of questions about Fleming, and want to revisit them today.
- What is the best thing you can say about Fleming? Many of the players sent to the minors for real seasoning since 2015 fall—Jujhar Khaira, Laurent Brossoit, Dillon Simpson, Jordan Oesterle—seem to be making progress.
- Which prospect improved most in Fleming’s first season? I would list Jujhar Khaira, who emerged as a legit NHL prospect this past season. The young man is adding offense early in 2016-17, and should become a bona fide NHL player later this season.
- Which prospect disappointed most in Fleming’s first season? Anton Slepyshev. He looked good in TC fall 2015 and won an NHL job. During his AHL time, the goals and success did not come. This fall? Same thing. I do not have an answer, and maybe this is an example of a player with limited offense who fits in a specific area, but the 13 goals in 49 games one year ago was a disappointment.
- How many legit NHL prospects are in Bakersfield this fall? I will list Jujhar Khaira, Matt Benning, Griffin Reinhart, Laurent Brossoit, Nick Ellis, Jordan Oesterle, David Musil, Dillon Simpson, Kyle Platzer and Jere Sallinen. That is 10.
- How many of those will make it? That number is always less than hoped for, bet the under. Fleming was an assistant coach for the 2008-09 Springfield Falcons. That team featured prospects Devan Dubnyk, Rob Schremp, Ryan Potulny, Ryan Stone, Slava Trukhno, J-F Jacques, Gilbert Brule, Colin McDonald, Taylor Chorney, Theo Peckham, Ryan O’Marra, Liam Reddox. That is 12, only Devan Dubnyk is an NHL regular.
- How many of those men played 100 NHL games? Nine. Only Dubnyk had a significant career, though.
- Are there any of the current 10 who are locks for 100 games? Griffin Reinhart I bet, I will also say Khaira and Benning. Goalies are tough to project, 100 games is a lot.
- Is there anything about the Condors’ deployment that is good or bad? I suspect but cannot prove that the Oilers minor league teams do not play their 20-year olds enough. We have discussed this at length. I also think this year’s college invasion (Ellis, Benning, Benik, Russell, Caggiula) is both a Godsend and a giant condemnation of some of the drafted kids out of the CHL. Peter Chiarelli is moving on from the past, this fall has shown that, even in the first five games.
- Does Fleming have a preference in terms of player? Seems to like the rugged types, fond of David Musil. Then again, he said Dillon Simpson was the team’s best overall defender last year, so we should probably not read too much into these things.
- Is there anything you would change? I think Bob Green is uncovering some reasonable talent here on AHL-only types, might be an idea to invest an NHL contract on one or two. As fans, we probably get too excited about Joey Benik scoring two early goals, but at some point one of these AHL-only deals is going to make an NHL dent ala Mark Arcobello. I hope the Oilers sign that guy.
- Are you generally satisfied with the progress of Edmonton’s prospects? Yes. Gerry Fleming shouldn’t be judged by wins and losses, but rather on how many Jujhar Khaira’s develop under his watch. Fleming was head coach for a portion of Brandon Davidson’s development, and that is exactly the kind of player we should be seeing rising from the crowd. I think Khaira might be this year’s model, and without projecting this point too far, a successful NHL Khaira means Fleming is doing his job. Full stop.
- What about Reinhart? General managers rarely give up on players they have acquired, so I think we will see Reinhart in an Oilers uniform again—but it may not be this season. The comments from the end of training camp were very specific and improvement in those areas is going to take more than five games—and Reinhart is currently injured (and not in tonight’s lineup).
TONIGHT’S LINEUP (PROJECTED)
Shots for and against this season are 158-170, GF-GA is 13-15. Bakersfield has been on the power play 23 times, scoring twice, and shorthanded 25 times, allowing five goals against. The scoring isn’t there for this group to contend in the Pacific, I think the defense is probably a little above average and the goalies should give the team a slight advantage over the long term (I like Ellis quite a bit, and do think Brossoit will have a career). Updates in the comments section as they happen. All photos by Mark Williams.
CONDORS ROOKIES 2016-17
- R Patrick Russell 5gp, 0-3-3 and eight shots
- L Joey Benik 4gp, 2-0-2 and six shots
- RD Matt Benning 2gp, 1-1-2 and eight shots*
- R Jaeden Descheneau 4gp, 0-1-1 one shot
- G Nick Ellis 3gp, 2.62 and .928
*Made NHL debut Nov. 1, 2016.