This is Nick Ellis. He enters training camp this fall with two consecutive seasons of quality play at two levels of hockey. He was outstanding for Providence College (.936) in 2015-16, and delivered quality this past season (.918) for the Bakersfield Condors. This blog talks about the draft and minor league team a lot because it’s important. I think we’re seeing now, with the big contracts signed, just how important strong development in California is going to be for the parent team. I used to do a ‘reasonable expectations’ preview for the minor league teams (example here) and have decided to bring it back beginning this year.
- G Nick Ellis (23). He played a lot (his 34 games for Bakersfield led the team) and that .918SP was better than Laurent Brossoit’s (.908) on the year. RE: A 35-game season with a save percentage around .920 is reasonable. If he delivers at that level, we may be talking about Ellis as a bona fide backup option for 2018-19. He may even get a cup of coffee in the NHL.
- Edward Pasquale (26). Pasquale is the latest in a long line of minor league free agents brought in as cover for the youngers. He has been generally effective over six AHL seasons, with a big injury thrown in that cost him a season. I don’t see him as an NHL option. RE: A solid AHL backup, 25-30 games.
- Shane Starrett (23). His resume looks so much like that of Ellis one year ago. Starrett posted two quality seasons with the Air Force Academy (.924 and .925), I think there’s a good chance he spends some time in the ECHL this coming year. The Oilers are sending prospects to Wichita this winter, giving some of us deja vu for the days when the CHL Wind were the de facto minor league team for Edmonton. Remember: People train runs through Stubbville. RE: 10 games or less of effective play in the AHL, solid performances in the ECHL.
- Yohann Auvitu (28). As you may know, I’m very strong on this player. He brings skill and puck-moving ability to a team that will be without Andrej Sekera for a time, so could be on the NHL team for some time. RE: 20-30 NHL games. If he spends a big portion of the season in Bakersfield, reasonable to expect some strong boxcars. There’s real skill with Auvitu, he’s a fun player to watch.
- Ryan Stanton (28). Signed as an NHL-AHL option, his penalty-killing ability may get him more NHL time than some believe. That said, it’s likely Stanton will also play in the minors in 2016-17 in a mentor role. Stanton has a two-year deal so the organization sees him as being able to help. RE: I think we’ll see 10-20 games in the NHL and solid play the rest of the time in Bakersfield.
- Keegan Lowe (24). One of the interesting battles we’ll see this winter is ‘early recall’ option among Oilers AHL blue. I think Lowe is going to push higher than people expect, playing a rugged game and providing effective play. RE: He’ll see 5-15 NHL games and play a prominent role in Bakersfield the rest of the time.
- Ziyat Paigin (22). The big Russian is going to see a lot of action in Bakersfield, my guess is he enters this fall as one of the ‘players to watch’ along with Ellis and a couple of others. His coverage ability and footwork will be the big areas to monitor, that booming shot may get some power-play time. RE: 50 AHL games and an NHL cup of coffee.
- Caleb Jones (20). One of the more promising names arriving from junior this fall, he’ll get plenty of opportunities to move up the depth chart with the names ahead of him spending time in the NHL. Expect him to impress with his speed and skill during a learning season. RE: 50 AHL games and an NHL cup of coffee by the end of the year.
- Ben Betker (22). Gigantic human (6.06, 228) turns 23 in the fall, so his time is now. He has good mobility for a player his size, and has a head start on the newcomers. A fun race on the way: RE: I think he’ll play in the AHL this season and avoid the ECHL for the first time in his pro career. 20-30 AHL games is my guess.
- Mark Fayne (30). Veteran defender could play an important mentor role for the youngsters just getting into pro hockey. I think he’ll play some in the NHL, too. RE: 40-45 games in the minors playing a dependable defensive style.
- Dillon Simpson (24). Simpson remains after a fairly complete flush of the AHL defensive group and would have to be one of the early recalls under consideration. A steady player, his games a year ago in the NHL may mean the team has more confidence in him. RE: 10-15 NHL games and 35 or so in the minors playing top 4D minutes.
- Ethan Bear (20). He enters pro hockey as one of the feature graduates from junior hockey. Bear has a nice range of skills but I think the team may want him to focus on the 5×5 before serving up power-play time. Expectations are high, can’t wait to see how he adjusts to pro hockey. RE: 50 effective AHL games, with increasing responsibility as the season wears along. He, like Jones and Paigin, might see the NHL for a brief time. I can’t guess his boxcars, but if he gets power-play time we might see real excitement about his possible NHL future. Important to remember this is year one.
- Ryan Mantha (21). He is something of a wild card. Mantha is one year older than Bear, so may be more able at the AHL level in year one. If he is, that could mean a larger role for Mantha and a lesser one for Bear. RE: 40-50 AHL games and possibly some ECHL time.
- Grayson Downing (25). Downing had a down offensive season in 2016-17, but scored 40 points in 56 AHL games the previous year. I think he’ll receive every chance to win a feature role on a skill line. RE: 60 AHL games and 40-45 points is a reasonable expectation for Bakersfield’s true skill center.
- Joe Gambardella (23). He’s going to play a feature role in the AHL based on the current depth chart. Gambardella has a pleasing style that features aggressive forechecking and opportunities from turnovers. He’s one of my players to watch this winter. RE: Aside from an NHL cup of coffee, I expect he’ll be one of the top offensive performers in Bakersfield. He could be a solid NHL option for 2018-19 if he can post 40 points in 65 AHL games (I think it’s reasonable).
- Brad Malone (28). Malone is a fine checking center and a solid PK man and faceoff performer. I think he’ll get time in the NHL, while spending the rest of his year on a checking line in the minors. RE: 35 AHL games playing a prominent role, with another 20 as an extra forward in the NHL.
- Kyle Platzer (22). Even at this late date, entering the final season of his entry-level deal, Platzer has a chance to push up the depth chart and grab playing time. It’s there for him, the Oilers have not given him many barriers to playing time. RE: 50 AHL games and a better shot to establish himself as a real offensive option.
- Josh Currie (24). Listed here because he is an AHL contract, Currie in fact will be a major player in Bakersfield and is likely to outperform at least one of the names above him. Currie probably should have an NHL contract. RE: He scored 22 goals in 67 games a year ago, another season like that one seems likely.
- Iiro Pakarinen (26). Finnish winger is likely to spend time in both the NHL and AHL, playing a more offensive role in the minors. I think we know what he can bring and we also know Todd McLellan values him. RE: I’m guessing 10 NHL games and a strong AHL performance in 50 games for Pakarinen.
- Joey Laleggia (25). His impressive scoring ability after moving to forward should make Laleggia a feature player in Bakersfield. RE: He may get some NHL time, and I think Laleggia can be expected to score 25+ goals if he gets close to a full AHL season. He won’t have Lander, but he can score.
- Mitch Callahan (26). Rugged winger with skill, he’s kind of a modern Matt Hendricks and may push for that role in the NHL if things break right. RE: One of two stints in Edmonton. At the AHL level, plenty of power-play time and good offensive results. Listed at LW because he can play either side and I like balance. Dammit.
- Braden Christoffer (23). The rambunctious winger enters his third AHL season looking for some kind of offensive touch. I think we have him surrounded as a player and don’t expect a big spike in offense. RE: Christoffer may be vulnerable to others on the roster and may end up spending some time in Wichita.
- Evan Polei (21). An AHL deal so I’m listing him here, Polei is a fascinating prospect. Speed is an issue but he has very good hands. RE: I think he’ll play 30-40 AHL games and surprise with his offensive production.
- Jesse Puljujarvi (19). I’m convinced Puljujarvi will get a major opportunity to play in the NHL this season and score well enough to establish himself as an Oilers winger. RE: 65 NHL games, 12-15 goals and 10 games or less in Bakersfield.
- Ty Rattie (24). He is in such a good spot, signing with the Oilers was a fantastic move for this player. He arrives as a legit scorer in the AHL and could push onto the big club. RE: I think he’ll drive a lot of the offense in Bakersfield, scoring 25+ goals and earning brief NHL time.
- Brian Ferlin (25). He’s coming off some injury issues (that’s putting it mildly) so is a very difficult player to project this coming year. RE: I think he’ll score at one goal per four games clip if healthy and back to previous levels. No idea how many games he’ll play.
- Patrick Russell (24). He had some bad shooting luck a year ago but played a lot and helped out in areas like the penalty kill. RE: I’ll guess he plays 55+ games and posts 12-15 goals for Bakersfield.
- Greg Chase (22). I swear he has enough talent to play and perform well at this level, and expect him to have his best minor league season. RE: 50 games and some more encouraging offene.
- Dave Gust (23). AHL contract and an NCAA grad from Ohio State. I’m only running a few AHL deals in this RE, but Gust scored 41 points in 39 games and that’s impressive. RE: He’ll push into the lineup and score well enough to at least be a candidate for an NHL deal.
- Chad Butcher (21). Medicine Hat Tigers forward on an AHL deal, he is small and skilled. RE: I think he’ll play a lot in the ECHL and show promise in Bakersfield.