NHL teams are like that giant damned plant in Little Shop of Horrors: They have to be fed. Young talent must arrive in a timely fashion. Oscar Klefbom was an AHL rookie with Martin Gernat, David Musil and a cup of coffee from Jordan Oesterle. That trio was one year behind Martin Marincin and Brandon Davidson. Klefbom emerged from the group and that makes sense—being the only first-round selection. Marincin and Davidson have a good chance to enjoy NHL careers, Musil and Gernat are not trending in the same fashion.
I’ve long believed there is a pool of players who qualify as depth NHL players and can be counted on to fill minutes while the difference makers get some rest. I would include one fourth-line forward and the two extra forwards, plus probably No. 6 and No. 7 defensemen, as well as the top 3F and top 2D on all or most AHL teams. Let’s say that’s 300 skaters, with half in the NHL and the other half in the AHL. We can argue the line in the sand but the overall point remains. There are useful players in the AHL and expendable players in the NHL every year.
The website Prospect-Stats gives us some information that may be valuable when looking for specifics in that useful pool. An organization with a need (but no desire to give up a lot in trade for it) might find that needed piece via waivers. Here are the top 10 prospect AHL defenders and their estimated 5×5 time on ice per game. I used that because I think it’s the purest way to measure these men. Your mileage may vary.
Photo by Rob Ferguson
AHL DEFENSE, ESTIMATED 5X5 TOI
- Anthony DeAngelo, NY Rangers 17.86
- Vincent LoVerde, Toronto 17.84
- Gustav Olofsson, Minnesota 17.68
- Chris Bigras, Colorado 17.60
- Franko Corrado, Pittsbugth 17.58
- David Warsofsky, Pittsburgh 17.51
- Jordan Oesterle, Chicago 17.28
- Steven Kampfer, NY Rangers 17.19
- MacKenzie Weegar, Florida 16.99
- Tyler Wotherspoon, Calgary 16.90
DeAngelo just got traded so it’s unlikely he will be available, LoVerde was just signed by Toronto in what is a continuing thread of astute moves. Olofsson is 22 and looks to be a quality prospect, don’t know if he would be available. Bigras plays for a team with so few defensemen it’s unlikely you’d see him dealt. Pittsburgh is the current champion in inexpensive depth, but you might be able to pluck one of these men via waivers. Jordan Oesterle is in Chicago now and we’ll see if he can build a career. Kampfer has been around an NHL job forever, Weegar is a RHD who scored 14 goals a year ago, he would be a player of interest for me.
Wotherspoon has always struck me as a player the Oilers might have an interest in. On his draft day,, I wrote the following:
- D Tyler Wotherspoon: Size and mobility, plus he’s improved a great deal in the last two seasons. Oilers love big men with good speed again–they went away from it for awhile, drafting defenders like Taylor Chorney–but I think guys like Wotherspoon are the future of the Oilers blueline. Source
It took a few general managers and coaches, but the Oilers still like big defenders who have good speed. Wotherspoon is waiver eligible and he plays on a deep team at his position. There might be an opportunity via waivers. Weegar is possibly even more attractive, as he is a righty and has puck-moving ability.
FISH WHERE THE FISH ARE!
Somewhere, in another organization, lies the answer to a roster problem. A righty defender with a fine shot from the point, a righty center who can penalty kill and skate well. Where does one look? The Houston Astros of 45 years ago have the answer.
They happened to procure a generation of first basemen who could hit homers, get on base a lot via base-on-balls, hit for a little lower batting average than was socially acceptable and tended to spend about 5 years longer in the minor leagues then they would have today. Among the men on that list were John Mayberry, Cliff Johnson, Mike Easler, Nate Colbert, Keith Lampard; Bob Watson was similar but didn’t walk as much, there were a ton of these guys who signed with Houston in the late 60′s. There are other examples in sports history, but what’s important for us to learn about this is that when this happens.
Johnson spent years in the Astros system trying to earn a major league chance. Houston drafted him in 1966, but didn’t become a regular in the majors for a decade. Why? He was drafted as a catcher but I never read one word about his ability at the position. With the bat? Giddyup. One year he hit 20 homer runs in fewer than 400 ab’s in the Astrodome (Grand Canyon). Houston had an incredible procurement department in those years, grabbing talent from every available stream. Couldn’t use them all, didn’t optimize the return, teams just plucked them away as the need arose.
I’m not saying Tyler Wotherspoon is Cliff Johnson, but he might be a useful NHL talent available for only a waiver claim.
HE SHOOTS, HE SCORES
— Spokesman Sports (@SpokesmanSports) September 2, 2017
Kailer Yamamoto will be here in a week, it’s going to be a lot of fun watching his skill set and imagine him alongside all the other ridiculous skill on Oilers future. I’ve mentioned it before, but there’s a chance he gets nine games with the big club at the beginning of the year. Yamamoto’s biggest sin is that he is not a proven NHL scorer, but you can say that about Jesse Puljujarvi, Anton Slepyshev and Drake Caggiula, too. A player to watch beginning Day One at rookie camp.