The last time an Oilers’ AHL affiliate played a playoff game, Darnell Nurse, Brandon Davidson, Jordan Oesterle, Brad Hunt, Dillon Simpson and David Musil formed the defense. Richard Bachman and Laurent Brossoit were the goalie tandem (in Oklahoma City), and the big guns up front were mostly AHL veterans (Andrew Miller, Matt Ford, Ryan Hamilton). Prospect forwards of note included Jujhar Khaira and Mitch Moroz. It seems like decades. The Condors under Jay Woodcroft represent an enormous change in the weather.
NHL GAMES PLAYED BY 2015 CONDORS 2015-2019
- Darnell Nurse 277
- Jujhar Khaira 154
- Brandon Davidson 150
- Jordan Oesterle 145
- Martin Marincin 126
- Iiro Pakarinen 117
- Brad Hunt 106
- Laurent Brossoit 48
- Richard Bachman 7
- Andrew Miller 6
- Dillon Simpson 3
The only OKC playoff forwards who played over 100 NHL games in the four seasons that would follow were Khaira and Pakarinen. That was partly due to the arrival of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Anton Slepyshev that fall, but the 2014-15 OKC Barons had a weakness at forward and that’s a fact. Tyler Pitlick would finally start matriculating toward an NHL job as well, and of course Anton Lander (who didn’t play in the 2014-15 postseason) was hanging around.
The original Kid Line was Cooper Marody between Tyler Benson and Cameron Hebig back in the fall. Hebig scored six goals and 12 points in the first 12 games, Benson 2-8-10 and Marody (in six games) 3-6-9.
Tonight, the Kid Line will include Benson [68, 15-51-66], who posted the most assists by an AHL rookie since Teddy Purcell; Marody [58, 19-45-64] who can be credibly called a wizard at this level; Josh Currie [53, 27-14-41] who represents the heart and soul of this team going back to 2015 Bakersfield.
The second line, and it’ll be a key trio tonight, has Joe Gambardella [50, 29-19-48] on left wing with Brad Malone [43, 8-17-25] at pivot and Patrick Russell [51, 18-22-40] on the right side. These three are very effective, winning battles and playing a skilled game. If you’re watching tonight, check out Gambardella on the forecheck. He’s good at it in the NHL, but in the AHL he’s a constant concern.
The third and fourth lines will be known around game time. I can tell you it has been fluid lately, with Jakob Stukel showing some offense. Luke Esposito stepped up as the season rolled along, Evan Polei is a favourite and Mitch Callahan is full effective after a long period of ineffective play going back to last season. Dave Gust might be the best Condors forward no one talks about.
PROJECTED PAIRINGS AND GOALIE
Caleb Jones [50, 6-23-29] and William Lagesson [67, 8-19-27] have been together for a time, not certain what Woodcroft will do with Ethan Bear coming back.
A good guess would have the second pair as Ryan Stanton [65, 5-15-20] wit Bear [52, 6-25-31], they played together quite a bit as the season rolled along (Bear has been injured on and off).
The third pairing might be Keegan Lowe [67, 0-20-20] with Logan Day [64, 7-27-34], although Brandon Manning [8, 0-0-0] could draw in or play as an extra as Bear insurance.
Also on the team are Jake Kulevich [29, 2-6-8] who has emerged as a solid AHL defenseman, and Evan Bouchard [0-0-0] who just joined the team and is unlikely to play this weekend.
Goaltender Shane Starrett [42, 2.33 .918] had a fantastic season and should get most or all of the action.
CONDORS V. EAGLES
The Condors won the season series 4-3-1, outscoring Colorado 31-24. Look for Starrett to start and Gust to score.
- Game 1: 5-2 Condors win, Puljujarvi, Benson and Jones two points.
- Game 2: 4-3 Eagles, Starrett struggled, two goals for Gambardella.
- Game 3: 5-3 Condors, Yamamoto scores twice, Wells stops 35 of 38.
- Game 4: 3-2 Eagles in a SO, goals by Yamamoto and Callahan.
- Game 5: 5-4 Eagles, Wells struggled, Dave Gust 7 shots.
- Game 6: 6-3 Eagles, 7 shots again (and two goals) from Gust.
- Game 7: 2-0 Condors, Starrett shutout, Gust and Callahan scored.
- Game 8: 7-2 Condors, 3 pts for Benson, 1-1-2 for Bear.