Top 10 Minor League Performances

by Lowetide
Tyler Benson photo by Mark Williams

In the long history of the Edmonton Oilers, their minor league teams have delivered many quality prospects. From the 1979-80 Houston Apollos through the 2019-20 Bakersfield Condors, Edmonton has been sending kids south for an education.

Miles and miles from the Gretzky’s, Messier’s, Hall’s and RNH’s are the youngsters who must start their pro careers by working hard, honing their skills, abandoning the urge to bolt for offense while also learning how to be effective in 15 minutes a night.

There have been 41 minor-league seasons since Edmonton entered the NHL. In those seasons, more than 1,000 players have been sliding up or down the depth chart based on quality of play.

Here are the 10 best seasons by Edmonton minor league prospects. I didn’t include minor league veterans and excluded young players who were past entry deals.


I’m proud to be writing for The Athletic, and pleased to be part of a great team with Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis. Here is our recent work.


No. 1 LD Charlie Huddy, 80-81 Witchita Wind (47, 8-36-44). Coached by Ace Bailey, the Wind would go all the way to the CHL finals in 1981 spring, with Huddy playing a huge part in their success. Although never drafted, it’s somewhat misleading to say Huddy was an unknown quality. The 1979 draft (for which he was eligible) was the first draft without the WHA, and because of it teams drastically cut back on the number of rounds and players selected. In 1978, the NHL draft lasted 234 selections, but a year later it was just 126 deep. Huddy probably benefited from not being selected, as a signing bonus for a free agent would have dwarfed the return for a 6th round selection that season. Huddy used his minor league time as a springboard to NHL success, and he played over 1,000 NHL games. 

No. 2 LC Todd Marchant, 94-95 Cape Breton Oilers (38, 22-25-47). Marchant was an exciting player due to his tremendous speed, and in the AHL he scored a bunch of goals in forcing an NHL recall. Technically not a full season but absolutely worthy of this list.

No. 3 LW Dan Currie, 90-91 Cape Breton Oilers (71, 47-45-92). Currie was a pure scorer at the AHL level, scoring 29, 36, 47, 50 and 57 goals for the Oilers farm teams 1988-93. All we ever heard about him was he was in need of prodding and he didn’t do much in three auditions but it would have been a good idea to give him 40 games in a row with a good center. Currie was a big part of the Cape Breton team that won the Calder Cup as AHL champion in 92-93.

No. 4 G Devan Dubnyk, 09-10 Springfield Falcons (33, 3.02, .915). In the final year of his entry contract, Dubnyk blossomed and won the long battle with Jeff Deslauriers for the title of Edmonton’s goalie of the future. He remains in the NHL, many years after the Oilers dealt him.

No. 5 LC Ralph Intranuovo, 94-95 Cape Breton Oilers (70, 46-47-93). An undersized skill forward, Intranuovo was a top flight player in the AHL. I think he probably gets more of an NHL chance a decade or two later. His speed and passing ability were truly outstanding, if the NHL had decided to expand in about 1997 I think he gets a shot.

No. 6 RD Evan Bouchard 19-20 Bakersfield Condors (54, 7-29-36). He adjusted well in his first pro season defensively, and overcome the lack of dynamic teammates offensively. An underrated debut.

No. 7 RW Daniel Cleary, 99-00 Hamilton Bulldogs (58, 22-52-74). Cleary had terrific skill and a rugged edge to him and he could skate well. He was drafted No. 13 overall by Chicago but took a little time to find his way. Walt Kyle and Morey Gare were the coaches when he turned it around in Hamilton, MacT when Cleary arrived in Edmonton. He had a few tough moments but also delivered a fine career.

No. 8 LW Tyler Benson, 18-19 Bakersfield Condors (68, 15-51-66). Benson is a fantastic passer, and found chemistry with Cooper Marody as an AHL rookie. I think the Oilers see him as a middle- or bottom-six option but if he lands with Kyle Turris (a righty like Marody) he could shine offensively. He can win battles along the wall and pass with great skill. That’s on the way to half a goal on many plays.

No. 9 RW Steven Rice, Cape Breton Oilers, 91-92 Cape Breton Oilers (45, 32-20-52). He was drafted by the New York Rangers in the first round in 1989, and traded to Edmonton just before the 1991 season (Messier deal). He tore up the AHL as a rookie pro, and scored 34 the following season for Cape Breton (AHL champions). Rice was a rugged throwback winger who could score, and finally established himself with Edmonton (63 games 17-15-32) in 1993-94. Sather dealt him for Bryan Marchment in August of that season.

No. 10 LC Rob Schremp, 07-08 Springfield Falcons (78, 23-53-76). A strong rookie season by Schremp in 2006-07 was exceeded by a close to point-per-game effort in year two. He had a knee injury late in the year that would impact his third year pro. He never made the NHL, there were skating issues, but the man had skill.

Highly recommend you click on this piece from Scott Wheeler this morning. I’ll have him on the Lowdown Monday morning to talk about it (plus WJ’s and the 2021 draft), if you are a Ryan McLeod or Raphael Lavoie enthusiast this is a fabulous update.


At 10 this morning, we kickstart the weekend in style on TSN1260. Steve Lansky from Inside the Truck podcast will pop in at 10:20 to talk about NHL-NHLPA negotiations and when we’ll see the league playing, plus his all-time favourite NHL team. Matt Iwanyk from TSN1260 will discuss the same subjects and you’ll be surprised by his choice of favourite football team. Plus we’ll keep you updated on any breaking news. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. It’s FRIDAY!!


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Pasquale with the start this morning for Yaroslav.


If you were to put money on one team winning the Stanley Cup in the next five years, who would it be? Then who would be your “surprise” pick (an unsung team primed to make the leap forward)? Alexander D

If you’re asking for one mortal lock to win the Stanley Cup in the next five years, I will go with a safe and easy prediction: Tampa. On paper, and even when they get cap compliant, the Lightning have the best team. Now the best team on paper doesn’t always win on the ice, but Tampa’s window to compete for a championship remains wide open and if the Lightning get five tries in the next five years, I suspect they’ll win at least one more. Does Edmonton constitute a surprise? The Oilers haven’t been good for a long time, but with McDavid and Draisaitl entering their primes, if they can solve the goaltending issue, they have the pieces to win it all in the time frame you outline.


Coming to an NHL arena near you in 21/22 the Edmonton Oilers D, Nurse, Samorukov and the Killer B’s Berglund, Bouchard, Barrie and Bear. I just love thinking how impressive the D can be moving forward. In all likelihood the best Oiler team D since the team came into the league.


With another killer B coming in behind – Broberg likely in the AHL to start that season.


Button against advises that he believes Holloway is a lock to make the team.

One man’s opinion but, then again, one of only a handful in the rink in Red Deer during the camp….

Harpers Hair

Of course Holloway isn’t actually at camp since he’s merely skating with a couple of other players.

Having said that, he’s likely going to make the team.


I’m quite aware of the Holloway’s situation, as you know.

I anticipate, being one of the very few in and around the team, Button has a better read on this than most.

As an aside, I talked to Button at the gym this morning – the man is driving back and forth between Red Deer and Calgary daily.


Please keep us informed of any, or all, celebrities you cross paths with.

Harpers Hair

I drove by the late Howie Meeker’s house of the way to the grocery store today.

What do I win?


My complete admiration and respect for getting that close to a legend. Lol.


Will do.

Harpers Hair



You really like to follow me around and provide passive aggressive personal anecdotes, don’t ya?

The comment was responded to in kind….

Harpers Hair

Nothing passive about it.

He was mocking you and it went right over your head.


I am (and was) well aware of his intent – thank you.

Response was in kind – thank you.

Last edited 11 months ago by OriginalPouzar

One last piece of prospect new to note today, it was indeed Pasquale that got the yank in yesterday’s game – Konovalov came in to the game in relief.

Here is hoping he gets an actual start new.


Are you sure?

I posted this yesterday:

The game summary shows “begin of 1 period” Goalkeeper: Konovalov. Then “Goalkeeper changed” Lokomotiv: Pasquale after 20 minutes.


Nope, I’m not sure but I read a tweet yesterday about Konovalov coming in in relief and then, on Oilers Now today, Escott mentioned the same.

Reading through that play by play, it seems I was posting incorrect info.

I apologize.

Harpers Hair

Is it still Konovalovs net?

Harpers Hair

Interesting note, after that game, Mika Lehtonen terminated his contact with Jokerit and headed to North America to join the Leafs.


Bouchard’s goal.

Little wrist/snap shot snipe from the top of the circles on the PP – lots of room out there for him to walk in….



Victoria Oil

I find it interesting that the NHL draft went from 234 players deep in the last year of the WHA (I’m assuming 18 teams x 13 rounds) to 126 (21 x 6) afterwards. I assume that the NHL was trying to hoard as many players as possible but this would depend on the NHL teams signing as many of these draftees as they could. I’m also guessing there was no roster limit back then. Wonder how many of those 13th rounders made the NHL as they must have been scraping the bottom of the barrel back then, although there would have been more total jobs available in the two leagues combined. Maybe someone (LT or Mr. McCurdy?) has some insights.


Bouchard has himself a PP goal as Sodertalje is up 3-1 in the second.

Rodrigue moves to, I believe, 5-0, backstopping the Graz99ers to a 5-3 win.

Niemelainen not in the lineup for Assat for, I believe, the 3rd straight game. He must be hurt….

Bouch adds a PP assist on the insurance marker early in the third – up 4-2.


He’s too good for that league. Is that 16 points in 19 games now. Something like that.

Darth Tu

I heard something, somewhere, from someone, about good D announcing themselves early. This could be that happening.

Harpers Hair

Bouchard is already 21 and has only 7 NHL games to his credit.
The arrive early train is pulling out of the station.

Jusso Valimaki, who’s is age 22 but missed an entire season due to an ACL injury, is playing in a stronger league in Finland and is scoring at a PPG pace….15 points in 15 games.



Since drafted:

Draft plus 1 – OHL d-man of the year

Draft plus 2 – First year pro – massive improvement in 2nd half – ended up AHL all-star at 20 year’s old in a great league

Draft plus 3 – All-but NHL ready, playing in one of the top leagues in the world that allow for “out clause” contracts – proving to be too good for the league.

No matter how much opposition trolls want to discount his development, his development is right on track and the NHL is on the horizon!


Byron Bader

There are only 8 dmen in the model (spanning 40 years) that looked as good as Bouchard did the moment they were drafted – Bourque, Slaney, Berard, Hedman, Ellis, Murphy, DeAngelo and Dahlin. No matter the league, Bouchard continues to thrive. Get a stall ready at Rogers Place.

Harpers Hair

Quinn Hughes and Cale Makar among many others must be crushed.


Pointless post – anyone surprised?


Hughes has to be careful not to get crushed walking down a side walk. Can you imagine how good he could be if he was average size for an NHL D.

Harpers Hair

Valimaki since drafted.

Draft +1 More than a PPG in the WHL.

Draft +2 20 GP AHL 14P 24 GP NHL

Draft +3 Entire season lost to injury.

Draft +4 Tied for 3rd in Liga scoring at a PPG pace.

Absent his ACL injury he would likely have 106 NHL games to his credit. (Covid adjusted)

Both Valimaki and Bouchard project as offensive minded second pairing D.

Despite suffering a bad injury and being picked much lower in the draft, Valimaki is tracking much better.


Harpers Hair


Valimaki now has 17 points in 16 games in Liga.


Not that I have any idea what Valimaki’s development has to do with Evan Bouchard and why I am responding to this but, why not:

1) Its nice that Valimaki had 14 goals and 45 points in 43 games. Not sure that’s quite the same as 25 goals and 85 points in 67 games and named d-man of the year in the best junior league.

2) Very good first pro season for Valimaki in the AHL, 14 points in 20 games. Who knows how he would have handled the the rigours of a full AHL season – we know how Bouchard did ending up an AHL all-star

3) Yup, as a now 22 year old, Valimaki is having a hell of a start to the Liiga season – similar to Bouchard as 21 in Alsvenskan. Of note, a 21 year old Puljujarvi was arguably the best player in that league last year – that was discounted by you. Interesting that Valimaki’s 22 year old season is given so much more weight.

4) Picked “much lower” in the draft – 6 spots.

Harpers Hair

You keep pumping Bouchard’s performance without any context.

Yes, Bouchard is doing well in an inferior league…who wouldn’t?

1) Bouchard played the entire season in the AHL Valimaki played in the NHL.

2) Bouchard is playing in an inferior league but Valimaki is doing better in a superior league.

3) Of note, Puljujarvi is currently 41st in Liga scoring 7 points behind Valimaki. One of these is a defenseman.

4) Bouchard was picked only 3 spots behind Quinn Hughes. Hughes is a superstar and Bouchard is meandering his way to the NHL.


Valimaki is doing well in an inferior league – something you consider Liiga when it suits your narrative (i.e. Puljujarvi last year)

Valimaki got close to a Noah Dobson level of sheltering in the NHL and got absoluted shredded – check out his relative numbers against all levels of camp (and all but 19% was against non-elites)

Bouchard is the one of the best players in his league at 21 years old – arguable how much better Liiga is – in any event, all the guy can do is perform and he is doing that in spades

Who gives a shit about Quinn Hughes – nothing to do with this conversation.

In fact Valimaki has nothing to do with Bouchard either.

Bouchard if far from meandering, he is on the expected time line – he is in his second year pro and all he has done is dominate the OHL, be among the best in the AHL, at 20 years old, and dominate the European league he is in. He’ll be in the NHL this year for game almost undoubtably.

Darth Tu

Quinn Hughes is a heck of a defender, I don’t think anyone is disputing that. Hats off to the Canucks for being the ones who drafted him.

At the same time I don’t see how him being picked 3 spots ahead of Bouchard is meant to be a knock on Evan’s development? Look at the top 20 picks taken in the draft that year, how many are in the NHL already? How many are dominating? How many are floundering? A lot of this is down to scouting by teams.

With Valimaki, that’s a shame about his injury but he’s still a year older. I’m not sure the comparison works the same way. Going with the same draft, look at Vaakanainen, taken a mere 2 spots behind Valimaki, and he’s only played in 7 NHL games since the draft, guess he’s a plug and the Bruins were wrong to take him when they did.

Side bar – it’s a different position, but seeing as we’re comparing apples and oranges anyway… Yamamoto was taken a whole 6 spots behind Valimaki and wouldn’t you know it, he was part of the best line in the NHL last year!


Not to mention, just looking at some of the best d-men in the leauge:

Roman Josi – no NHL games until draft plus 4
John Carlsson – no NHL games until draft plus 3
Alex Pieterangelo – no more than 9 NHL games until draft plus 3
Erik Karlsson – no NHL games until draft plus 3
Kris Letang – no more than 7 NHL games until draft plus 4
Mark Giordano – 7 NHL games at 22 years old
Ryan Ellis (picked b/c a major comparable to Bouch in the OHL) – no NHL games until draft plus 3
Shea Weber – no NHL games until draft plus 3


Drunken Canuck glasses perspective . . . . holds little value.
Holds Brogan Rafferty type value . . . . . .


Trolls perspective from under a bridge, okay got it!


Bouchard has himself a PP goal as Sodertalje is up 3-1 in the second.

Rodrigue moves to, I believe, 5-0, backstopping the Graz99ers to a 5-3 win.

Niemelainen not in the lineup for Assat for, I believe, the 3rd straight game. He must be hurt….

Elgin R

Thank you again OP for all the updates. This way I get all the information but do not have to upset my wife by spending hours looking for it.

Can’t wait for Drew Remenda to talk about ‘Bouch Bombs’ during an NHL telecast.


No probs – Bouchard is 10th in league scoring….


Can Stuart Skinner pop and match Dubnyk’s season in the last year of his ELC? That would be nice.

I would like to put a vote in for Jesse Puljujarvi’s rookie season in the AHL – 12 goals and 28 points in 39 games as the youngest player in the league – an 18 year old in a league that only allows those under 20 via exception (essentially) – his rookie season in the AHL doesn’t get enough talk in my opinion.


Also just wanted to say The Athletic has been uniformly excellent from NHL to NBA to soccer coverage. Very satisfied.


On a non-hockey note, not sure if LT or anyone else listens to War on Drugs, thought it would be in the Mitchell Wheelhouse. “Red Eyes” was a top 5 track of the last decade for me.

Their live album “Live Drugs” dropped today. Such a great listen.

For fans of Springsteen, Knopfler, Young Turks Rod Stewart, Tom Petty.


No love for Cooper Marody?


Justin Schultz had one of the greatest AHL seasons in history for a defenseman.

Not sure if he meets the criteria for this particular list however.


I was surprised not to see him. He would have topped my list.

Cape Breton Oilers 4EVR

Honourable mention to Shaun Van Allen. 113 points in 77 games for 91-92 Cape Breton Oilers. Van Allen, Currie and Rice were dubbed the “VCR Line”, and absolutely tore up the AHL that year. First game I ever attended was Rice’s first game after the trade. He had been captain for Team Canada at the world juniors, and my dad (also an Oilers fan) took me to see him. It was awesome being an Oilers fan with their farm team in our back yard. Lots of good players came through during that time. Kirk Maltby, Greg Hawgood, Norm MacIvor, Shjon Podein….. Dennis Bonvie must have fought a million times when I was there for games.

Shaun VanAllen's mom

Thank you.


I always thought eventually teams would have a hybrid reserve forward. Like norm maciver. Could slot in bottom 6 forwards or bottom pair D. I’ve never understood why this doesn’t happen yet. It would be ideal for roster management.


I grew up near Sydney and this was pretty much the peak time for all of the sports teams I rooted for: Oilers, Blue Jays, Bulls, and Cape Breton Oilers. Ahhh, nostalgia.

I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self to attend more of those AHL games. I only recall attending 2 or 3 and they were before the good years in 91-92 and obviously 92-93.


honorable mention: Linus Omark?


Anton Lander too for that matter.


I didn’t have time to post this in the last thread, and Armchair did a nice job showing much of what I was also thinking. (seems we were doing the same homework!).

But I wanted to add a little more in response to this stuff.


 Reply to  ArmchairGM

 November 19, 2020 10:33 pm

I think what earns Nurse big minutes on this team is he plays a LOT of those minutes with CMD.


Nurse has played a lot of minutes with CMD over those 3 years. Away from CMD, I think Nurse scores at a .68 P60 rate, and is a negative GF% Rel. Sure, no fair taking away the best results and then judging the guy, but I’m not sure that any of the other guys you listed have one teammate who impacts their results as much. (I haven’t checked though.) Russell has scored .64 P60 away from CMD over that same time frame for comparison. Kris. Russell.

Basically, I strongly disagree with the idea that Nurse is a product of minutes with McDavid (at least any more than the Oilers other D).

Flushing out some of what Armchair showed in the last thread, here are all of the Oilers main D over the past 3 seasons (1000+ min) and their 5v5 results. Overall, with McDavid and without McDavid. (also % TOI spent with McDavid).

5v5 points/60                                        
Player ———— %TOI — Overall With Without
Darnell Nurse —- 38.1     1.03     1.65     0.65
Caleb Jones —— 21.7     0.89     0.95     0.87
Matthew Benning 27.2     0.87     1.72     0.55
Ethan Bear ——- 42.4     0.79     1.15     0.52
Kris Russell —— 29.8     0.70     0.84     0.64
Oscar Klefbom — 34.2     0.68     1.20     0.41
Adam Larsson — 33.6     0.57     0.70     0.50
Andrej Sekera — 27.4     0.43     0.79     0.30

5v5 SF%                                     
Player ———— Overall With Without
Matthew Benning 49.9     53.3     48.4     
Oscar Klefbom — 49.7     51.3     48.8     
Adam Larsson — 49.1     50.6     48.2     
Darnell Nurse —- 49.0     48.9     49.1     
Ethan Bear ——- 47.6     47.6     47.7     
Kris Russell —— 47.2     47.5     47.0     

5v5 GF%                                     
Player ———— Overall With Without
Matthew Benning 54.5     61.5     48.7     
Darnell Nurse —- 49.5     55.7     44.1     
Kris Russell —— 47.7     52.6     44.5     
Ethan Bear ——- 44.9     50.0     39.7     
Oscar Klefbom — 43.1     50.4     36.9     
Adam Larsson — 43.0     48.0     39.1     

In most cases both the “with” and “without” McDavid numbers show Nurse in a good light. I don’t see an argument that Nurse is any more dependent on McDavid than the Oilers other main D.


All this gnashing of teeth & number crunching over Darrell. Just trade the bum. Benning is gone & nobody cares yet he tops all your lists…🤣


Some people care. The difference is Benning did it playing 3rd pair, Nurse did it playing 1st pair.

But sure, trade the bum. Trade all the bums.


What do you make of the Sportlogiq stats that Gregor dove into a little ways back that show the zone entires and the scoring chances creates off the zone entires?


Yeah LT quoting it definitely drew some extra attention. But you said “I think what earns Nurse big minutes on this team is he plays a LOT of those minutes with CMD.“. The ‘this team’ and ‘LOT’ parts pretty clearly suggest Nurse has benefited from McDavid more than his Oilers teammates.

Immediately following that up with (basically) ‘Nurse’s offense without McDavid is the same as Russell’s without McDavid’ seemes also to be saying more than “all our defensemen are a product of minutes with McDavid”.

Yes, Nurse and Russell scored at comparable rates without McDavid. Yet Nurse scored at literally twice the rate as Russell WITH McDavid. But Nurse had nothing to do with that apparently..

More generally on the Oilers D have benefiting from McDavid. Well it’s surely true, but the larger context is they’ve played on a team that was 23rd in the league in 5v5 GF/60 over the past 3 seasons despite having McDavid. Sure McDavid helped Nurse score the 7th most 5v5 points over the past 3 seasons, but Nurse also had to play behind one of the lowest scoring bottom 6s in the league.

I’ve not claimed that Nurse belongs in Armchair’s group of 6 D. I do think Armchair makes a nice point though, that by many statistical measures Nurse is not distinguishable from other players widely considered #1D. I wonder if we actually watch Nurse too much, so that we get overly focused on his flaws.

Are there other players in the league with similar TOI, points, on ice results to Nurse who aren’t considered top Dmen? I’m not sure.

And you said earlier that the numbers don’t stick to D very well. One of the numbers that does stick relatively well, I think, is points. Nurse does that part very well at 5v5, however he gets there. And to whether Nurse earned or deserved those points, his IPP was a hair under 40%, which turns out that’s 33rd in the NHL over the past 3 years (also far and away more than the other Oilers D).

It’s interesting that Barrie was just 1 point ahead of Nurse in 5v5 points over the past 3 years, given how dynamic he is (I can’t wait to see what happens either, btw).


There’s a few NHL misses on that top 10 list but a pretty good conversion rate overall. Solid company for Benson and Bouchard.


Thanks for the heads up on the Scott wheeler article it was excellent.

so polar

Great article by Wheeler at the Athletic about prospects’ challenges adapting to Euro leagues because of covid. McLeod and Lavoie are two of the five profiled.

so polar

Which I now notice is embedded in an LT tweet that hadn’t loaded for me, but it’s worth the attention.


Not hockey related, but does anyone else here find themselves using Lowetidisms in professional settings? I used ‘your mileage may vary’ in a meeting yesterday, and almost (but very fortunately didn’t) say ‘calm your tits’. I’ve certainly used ‘music!’ in meetings on hearing good news and ‘vanilla average’ has come up more than once. Is this just me?


We have a rescue cat who is still skittish after these many years. Every time he gets freaked out by the fan on our fume hood and starts meowing like mad, I advise him to “calm his tits”.

The success rate is not high.

I suspect it’s because he does not read this blog.

Last edited 11 months ago by Tarkus

It has also proved non-effective in syndicated corporate lending negotiations that have become heated or adversarial……


Awesome start to the day 🙂

Our Edmonton Operation

Sometimes at work I’ll say “The Coke Machine didn’t give me my can of pop!”

John Chambers

I once likened a proposed work initiative to the Donner Party. It required explanation which I gave with a smirk. Heh.


I use Brogan Rafferty as a verb whenever I hear, read or witness something gaining more attention than it should, or is being overhyped beyond belief.

“Wow, they are really Rafferty-ing this up”

I also explain it in person as well. I am hoping to extend the meme beyond the blog and into real life.

Darth Tu

I met a Canucks fan at work the other day. I asked him how excited he was about Rafferty likely winning the Norris this year.

He had never heard of Brogan Rafferty.


I’ve seen several Oilers blog posts end with an exact quotation or approximate paraphrase of “We wait”

Darth Tu

I have definitely used the phrase “we wait”. I also have repeatedly used “clean disposition” as well, but I think that’s an OP thing rather than an LT thing.


“Let’s not go all Lowe+MacT over this” I use from time to time.