Tis a momentous occasion in Oklahoma City these days. In terms of high hockey octane, this city is about to be blessed with the mightiest of teams. The highest number of first round draft picks to play in a season in Oklahoma is enough to sell me on the spine tingly feats we might be privy to over the next couple of months. It likely gets amped up even greater if Taylor Hall can be cleared for active duty. There are not strong enough wheels to hold such a wild ride. And so we wait for the season to begin, on pins and needles, our minds focused on the what could be’s and what should be’s of a pretty radical AHL season.
With both preseason games in the books, and another handful of players re-assigned to the ECHL, today’s practice solidified a typical lineup for game one this weekend. On the weekly Barons radio show, Todd Nelson confirmed what several saw in practice this morning— 5 full-featured forward lines in Oklahoma City.
Here’s a preview of what might be guaranteed opening weekend in Ohio:
Jordan Eberle – Ryan Nugent Hopkins – Magnus Paajarvi
Teemu Hartikainen – Anton Lander – Mark Arcobello
Tyler Pitlick – Ryan Martindale – Josh Green
Dane Byers – Chris Vande Velde – Curtis Hamilton
Cameron Abney – Tanner House – Kristians Pelss
Indeed that’s five lines of really good hockey players. A couple of things that leap off the page. First, Mark Arcobello and Josh Green both move away from the center position. Green, more often a winger in his career, spent last season as the best center on the Barons. Likewise, Mark Arcobello flip-flopped at times from wing to center and back again at various points a year ago.
Magnus will play alongside the right of Nugent-Hopkins, but don’t think for a minute that Hartikainen doesn’t squeeze into that equation from time to time. But on the left side with Lander in the center, that’s a solid second scoring line. Lots of faith put in Ryan Martindale, who had a decent rookie season in Stockton, as the third line center. But he’ll have Green to his right and Pitlick to his left. The squeeky wheel just might be Josh Green, who seems a step slower than he has in the recent past.
The depth players are who you’d expect. Byers and Abney are “the nastys”, House and Vande Velde are the shut downers, Pelss and Hamilton are along for the ride. Those might be good checking lines with a bit of tenacity attached. Interesting.
Not listed is Antti Tyrvainen, who is temporarily out with an injury. Perhaps he stays and a guy like Tanner House or Kristians Pelss gets sent to Cali. That’s 16 forwards with some spunk and determination. It’s also a very well-rounded group.