I’m in an unusually good mood when it comes to the prospects in Bakersfield and how the coaching staff is developing them. Since arriving in California, Jay Woodcroft, Dave Manson, J-F Houle, Sylvain Rodrigue and Sam Kim have helped the organization develop NHL talent.
Identifying the exact moment of graduation is difficult, but this group of coaches have been tearing up the blacktop since fall 2018 no matter the metric. It’s good news for the team, for the fans, and especially for prospects like Ryan McLeod.
The Athletic Edmonton features a fabulous cluster of stories (some linked below, some on the site). Great perspective from a ridiculous group of writers and analysts. Proud to be part of The Athletic, check it out here.
- New Jonathan Willis: Why Carl Soderberg is an intriguing free agent possibility for the Oilers
- Lowetide: Oilers prospect Raphael Lavoie’s possible impact in his first year pro
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: The good, bad and ugly of the Oilers’ last 15 years of free agent signings
- Lowetide: Why you should be worried about William Lagesson’s future in Edmonton
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Remembering the goal that made Fernando Pisani a cult hero in Edmonton
- Lowetide: The Oilers’ 2016 draft remains an enigma, with a glimmer of hope
- Jonathan Willis: The parallels from the fall of Alexander the Great and the 2006 Oilers
- Lowetide: 5 AHL forwards who offer the Oilers a chance to buy low on real talent
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: ‘Agape’: Why Oilers prospect Cooper Marody wrote a song about Colby Cave
- Jonathan Willis: Connor McDavid’s recovery is just one of 2020’s incredible Masterton stories
- Lowetide: Every prospect in the Oilers system and what’s next for each player
- Lowetide: Oilers minor leaguers over 40 years, and Jay Woodcroft’s current role
- Lowetide: Charting Theodor Lennstrom’s future with the Oilers
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Projecting the Oilers’ black aces and how much they’ll play
- Jonathan Willis: Projecting the Oilers’ lineup for their play-in series versus the Blackhawks
- Lowetide: Could the Oilers draft a defenceman in the first round?
- Lowetide: Why the Oilers should extend Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as soon as possible
- Lowetide: Oilers farmhand Josh Currie’s small window of opportunity
- Jonathan Willis: Misguided priorities helped turn the Oilers’ 2010 rebuild into a debacle
- Lowetide: Oilers greatest areas of need for the 2020 draft
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Six bold (and not so bold) predictions as the Oilers prepare for the Blackhawks
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers facing a bonus penalty for 2020-21 but the news isn’t all bad
- Jonathan Willis: Multiple choice: What might an Oilers trade at the 2020 NHL Draft look like?
- Lowetide: Mike Green’s playoff role and possible future with the Oilers
GRADUATIONS AND WHO GETS CREDIT
I keep fairly close track of players who graduate from the AHL to the NHL, kind of a hobby of mine. Primary credit always to a player, but if a prospect spends a good portion of his rookie pro season in the AHL, then graduates, the coaching staff should get some credit for developing him.
- 2019-20 grads: Ethan Bear, Kailer Yamamoto, Caleb Jones, Patrick Russell.
Bear’s first AHL coaching staff (Gerry Fleming, Tony Borgford, J-F Houle) will be forgotten save for Houle, who remains on staff. I expect Woodcroft and notably Manson will be credited with the development of Bear and Jones. I don’t know how much Yamamoto was helped so much as he remained mostly healthy and then got the call, but Woodcroft didn’t favor him from what I saw. He had to work for his opportunity and prove himself. If Edmonton wins a Stanley in the coming years with Bear, Yamamoto and Jones, the Woodcroft coaching crew will be part of the lore.
I believe he was a fine AHL coach and should be an NHL head coach by now. He coached many future NHLers over five seasons in Oklahoma City, and another pile who should have been there. Here are the NHL totals for players who spent time in the AHL with Nelson:
- Jeff Petry 680, 69-184-253
- Oscar Klefbom 378, 4-122-156
- Magnus Paajarvi 467, 62-62-124
- Tyler Pitlick 248, 41-32-73
- Brad Hunt 179, 18-40-58
- Jordan Oesterle 209, 14-40-54
- Mark Arcobello 139, 24-29-53
- Jujhar Khaira 218, 21-31-52
- Chris VandeVelde 278, 18-30-48
- Colin McDonald 148, 20-26-46
- Taylor Fedun 127, 8-27-35
- Anton Lander 215, 10-25-35
- Martin Marincin 227, 5-29-34
- Linus Omark 79, 8-24-32
- Liam Reddox 100, 6-18-24
- Iiro Pakarinen 134, 10-13-23
- Brandon Davidson 174, 9-14-23
- Teemu Hartikainen 52, 6-7-13
- Will Acton 33, 3-2-5
- Laurent Brossoit 28, 2.98 .897
This is exactly the player-types you should expect out of the AHL. Quality two-way defensemen, two-way and checking forwards and a pretty good goalie. It’s my opinion a few of these men (Omark, for sure) didn’t get a fair shake when the NHL called.
- Jesse Puljujarvi 139, 17-20-37
- Kailer Yamamoto 53, 12-19-31
- Ethan Bear 89, 6-19-25
- Anton Slepyshev 102, 10-13-23
- Caleb Jones 60, 5-10-15
- Josh Currie 23, 2-3-5
- Patrick Russell 51, 0-5-5
- Joe Gambardella 15, 0-3-3
More skill on this list, I expect Puljujarvi and Yamamoto will exceed Paajarvi’s career totals by some margin. Then again, Petry and Klefbom are top drawer AHL grads from the Nelson years.
I want to make a point here, try to make it every year but can never make it rhyme. I think Todd Nelson produced a lot of NHL players, but the coach in Edmonton was so slammed every year with lottery picks some of the farm workers ended up being roll ends, damaged goods and discount canned fruit with a dent or two. Hell, Renney admitted to losing Paajarvi after that strong rookie year because he needed room for Nuge.
I use NHL GP as the gospel, but for me, when looking back, there’s no way Linus Omark’s 79 games represent him, or Teemu Hartikainen’s 52 games. You can accuse me of being biased but I don’t think so. The Holland-Tippett-Woodcroft assembly line already appears more orderly, and hopefully they don’t miss the next Omark. It’s damned important.
FARM WORKERS, 2020 EDITION
It’s been a fun ride over many years, choosing ‘farm workers’ to emerge as NHL players and play 100 or more NHL games. Here are my picks by season, and NHL games played (players listed only once, in the first season I named them).
- 2009-10: Devan Dubnyk (520).
- 2010-11: Jeff Petry (680), Linus Omark (79), and Teemu Hartikainen (52).
- 2011-12: Magnus Paajarvi (467) and Tyler Pitlick (248).
- 2012-13: Anton Lander (215) and Martin Marincin (227).
- 2013-14: Oscar Klefbom (378) and Mark Arcobello (139).
- 2014-15: Jordan Oesterle (209), Iiro Pakarinen (134).
- 2015-16: Jujhar Khaira (218) and Anton Slepyshev (102), Griffin Reinhart (37).
- 2016-17: Jesse Puljujarvi (139) and Laurent Brossoit (68).
- 2017-18: Ethan Bear (89).
- 2018-19: Kailer Yamamoto (53); Caleb Jones (60); Cooper Marody (6); Tyler Benson (7).
- 2019-20 (NEW): Evan Bouchard (7)
If a prospect can establish himself as an AHL regular at 20, it bodes well for an NHL career, but does not guarantee it.
A year ago, Tyler Benson became the tenth real prospect since 2010 to play as a regular at 20 (Teemu Hartikainen, Tyler Pitlick, Magnus Paajarvi, Martin Marincin, Martin Gernat, Bogdan Yakimov, Jujhar Khaira, Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones). Paajarvi, Pitlick, Marincin, Khaira and Jones have either played enough in the NHL or on on pace to accomplish it, meaning about 50 percent.
Evan Bouchard, Ryan McLeod, Dmitri Samorukov and Kirill Maksimov were AHL regulars this past season, another reason I like Woodcroft a bunch as a development coach. Kailer Yamamoto was already established as a regular in the AHL by age 20.
Pretty much everyone who is in the AHL past 21 is having some issues and may spend time meandering.
I think we’ve seen great examples of this in the last year. Ethan Bear was in the AHL at 21, spent the entire 2019-20 season (age 22) in the NHL. Caleb Jones spent some time in both leagues. Kailer Yamamoto made it at 20.
Tyler Benson lost Cooper Marody as his center and for me the dip in offense tells us the young winger will be a complementary offensive player in the NHL. No sin, but bet bottom-six instead of top-six, unless he’s lucky enough to find the kind of chem Yamamoto found with Leon Draisaitl. Luck is a thing.
If you haven’t established yourself as a prospect by age 22, you’re in trouble. The players who will be successful have played at least some games in the NHL during entry deals.
This is a weird one, but true. Those seven games played by Benson and eight games by William Lagesson in 2019-20 might not seem like much, but it’s a tell. Ryan McLeod probably gets some games in the NHL in 2020-21, I would have expected Samorukov to get a cup of coffee the following year (not sure now).
Players who were in this spot recently: Jujhar Khaira, Anton Slepyshev, Griffin Reinhart, Jordan Oesterle, Iiro Pakarinen, Laurent Brossoit. Not everyone makes it.
Exceptions are college men, who often turn pro at 22.
Lots of college men: Cooper Marody, Joe Gambardella, Tyler Vesel, Shane Starrett, Ryan Kuffner, Logan Day. Marody was the best player in the group, I believed he was on his way to an NHL career. If he has recovered, expect him to play NHL games in 2020-21. He might even get some playoff games.
No matter what you and I think about a specific AHL player, the largest category of player in the minors is ‘tweener’.
Rob Schremp was a tweener. Anton Lander too. Linus Omark’s career is judged as a tweener despite my misgivings. Kirill Maksimov, Logan Day, Joe Gambardella all qualify. I don’t believe Benson will land here, but this is the point where he’ll need to push through and win NHL work. Window closes quickly.
If we make a list of rfa’s each summer, we can probably pick the cuts and be pretty close.
A year ago, the list included Tyler Vesel, Joe Gambardella, Patrick Russell, Colin Larkin, Robin Norell and Shane Starrett. I (correctly) chose Gambardella, Russell and Starrett as keepers.
This year’s list includes (this is just among minor leaguers, Bear is an NHL player now) Ryan Mantha, Ryan Kuffner, Nolan Vesey, Cam Hebig, Logan Day, William Lagesson and Angus Redmond. I’ll pick Kuffner, Day and Lagesson as the keepers.
Dan Cleary, Fernando Pisani and Jason Chimera are the success stories in this study.
Kamamto aside, AHL grads don’t arrive in the NHL and apply for the scoring role on McDavid’s line (or Nuge, or Leon). AHL grads land on a support line and try to carve out a role. That’s the deal.
This is the job Tyler Benson will be applying for in my opinion. I like his skill, but now believe he’ll slide to the third or fourth line as an NHL player. That’s the single biggest change from a year ago among the farmhands in my opinion. He is no longer applying for the same job as Yamamoto. Interestingly, Raphael Lavoie will be, starting in 2020-21.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A busy morning on TSN1260, beginning at 10. Bruce McCurdy from the Cult of Hockey at the Edmonton Journal will join us to talk prospects, as the Cult’s ranking of the current Oilers group is in the early stages. Joe Osborne from OddsShark will pop in to talk golf and MMA plus your questions and comments. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!