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.
- New Lowetide: Why Dave Tippett’s training camp with Oilers will be so compelling
- Lowetide: Oilers first-round pick Dylan Holloway’s fast start has fans buzzing
- Jonathan Willis: A brief history of Oilers teams with goalie problems, and how they overcame them
- Lowetide: Some prospects who are remembered as busts deserve a second look
- Lowetide: Ideal style pairings for the 2020-21 Oilers
- Jonathan Willis: The Oilers are better with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl apart at 5-on-5
- Lowetide: The Oilers and the Calder Trophy: 5 rookies, 1 strong contender
- Lowetide: Oilers’ reasonable expectations for 2020-21: The results
- Lowetide: Oilers’ reasonable expectations for 2020-21: Goals against
- Lowetide: Oilers’ reasonable expectations for 2020-21: The Goals
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers defensive prospects are impressive overseas, but what comes next?
- Lowetide: Oilers pick up an intriguing addition in free agent Dominik Kahun
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers’ organizational depth chart: Where does Edmonton stand today?
- Lowetide: Oilers extend Kris Russell, solve expansion issue
- Lowetide: Why is Ilya Konovalov no longer starting in the KHL?
- Lowetide: Oilers Top 20 prospects, post-draft edition.
TOP 10 EVUH
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.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
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!!