The Oilers Draft Through The Eyes Of The Farmhand

Eight picks in seven rounds including two in the second. That’s what the Edmonton Oilers will be up against at this year’s NHL Draft in New Jersey. As a minor league hockey prognosticator, watching the draft is a delicate situation. Potential trades with other teams often bundle prospects we see on the farm within the confines of “deal sweeteners”. While that’s likely good for the Oilers prospect, it’s rough trails for the fans that have watched them mature on the farm. Watching the draft from a minor league perspective also gives you an overwhelming sense of what the future holds. Perhaps that first rounder taken by the Oilers today doesn’t hit their farm team, but from the second round on back, the majority will in the coming seasons. Some, not all, might finish out any overseas play remaining or perhaps additional junior time, but regardless, you get a tiny peek behind the curtain of what to expect in the coming years.

As you watch the draft unfold keep in mind that predicting both the outcome of these players, and how they’ll fit into your team’s roster (if they every do) is a crapshoot at best. Outside of the top fifteen (or less) picks, the waters get murky. The distance between a second rounder and a fourth rounder, on paper, might seem great, but the quality of the player is really relatively close together. I’m no Mr. Wizard, but a healthy dose of good luck goes a long way.

If the majority of mock drafts are any indication of what’s to come, the Oilers will look to back-fill positionally. They’ll take a center, a few defenders, maybe a goaltender, and they’ll try to find skill buried in the drafting of some very young players. Nurse, Lindholm, Monahan – all three seem to be likely targets (with a few wildcards thrown in as well). Nurse gives you D depth, but Lindholm and Monahan give you the centering you need perhaps sooner rather than later. Either way, it will make for an interesting draft year.

Keep your eyes peeled on those late draft picks. Those are the guys worth cheering for. There’s bound to be a pearl in one of those oysters, just keep shucking.

The draft airs Sunday at 2pm on NBC Sports Network. Tune in.

C.J. Stretch Signs An AHL Contract With The Oklahoma City Barons

AHL Hockey: Feb 26 Barons vs Stars
Mustache. Enough said. Photo by Steven Christy.

The Oklahoma City Barons have found themselves in the sweet spot of the offseason. The time and place where things start to meld together into a roster of young men, and thus a team. The earlier this gets done the more prepared the Oilers/Barons can be post-early-July. Today, the OKC Barons added another minor league piece to help slightly backstop a prospect movement within the Oilers farm system.

Signed to an AHL contract for 2013-2014, center/winger C.J. Stretch becomes the second Baron in the offseason to accept a non-NHL contract. This is good news.

C.J., the Cali-kid who was signed to two PTO’s during the 2012-13 campaign, was an impressive forward with the Ontario Reign when the Barons came calling. He was a scoring juggernaut in that league, and although the numbers didn’t immediately translate to the AHL, five goals and three assists in seventeen regular season games was welcomed. Likewise, he played an increasingly important role with OKC in their postseason campaign. Playing somewhat of a dual role as both a third line bulldog centering Josh Green and Tyler Pitlick, and as a finesse playmaker centering Toni Rajala and Teemu Hartikainen – in all areas he looked really good. Seventeen Calder Cup games almost equalled his seventeen regular season games with five goals and four assists.

Read More

Defenseman Joey Leach Signs One Year, AHL Deal

SCPA0457
Joey! Photo by Steven Christy.

Joey Leach, the four year Kootenay Ice grad, is somewhat of an interesting hockey prospect. Drafted in the same year as Tyler Pitlick, Martin Marincin, Curtis Hamilton, and Ryan Martindale, he was selected at #73 by the Edmonton Oilers bitter rival, the Calgary Flames. Watching him play in the WHL, Flames’ scouts were not willing to offer him a contract. In contrast, Oilers scouts really liked Leach. They liked him enough that he signed an Amateur Tryout contract in 2013 with the Barons, played the final game of the season, and wasn’t heard of in much conversation.

Yesterday the Oklahoma City Barons announced that they have signed Joey Leach to an AHL only contract for the upcoming 2013-2014 year.

AHL contracts are interesting, and Leach’s is no exception. At 21 years of age, he’s obviously still in the prospect stages of his career. Solid WHL numbers, captaincy experience, a lot of post season play, a decent draft card – Leach, on paper, seems to be a prospect that you at least want to take a look at for a season or so. But here, in this particular moment, the Barons convince Leach to sign a one year AHL deal, while not spending cash on a roster spot with the Oilers. The truth of the matter is that he’s still so untested in the pro market. His one game played was in protected minutes paired with Andrew Hotham. He was good, not great, but showed us a little bit of what he can do.

After watching that particular game, Leach easily showed better than another prospect with high hopes in Colten Teubert. But it’s just such a small sample size that there has to be more here than meets the immediate eye.

Read More

Prospect Appraisal: Curtis Hamilton

Hamilton & Pitlick
Photo by Rob Feguson. All rights reserved.

The appraisal process of Curtis Hamilton is akin to that of Tyler Pitlick. Both US kids with huge upside. Drafted pretty high in the same year. Both anticipated to be better than they have proved thus far. Both sidetracked by injuries, circumstance, and just dumb, stupid, terrible luck. Like Pitlick, Hamilton had an up and down sophomore pro season, but unlike Pitlick, Hamilton is in for a brutal 2013-14 campaign.

Curtis Hamilton saw his games played go up significantly in 2012-13. This was mainly because he stayed healthy, but also because Todd Nelson (and likely the Oilers guard) found it necessary to see what he had left in the tank after a pretty rough freshman year. A full twenty games more, in fact, pushed Hamilton to only nine points. To recap, that’s twenty more games played this season compared to last, and a two point decline in offense. Not good.

Hamilton is a team player, sometimes to a fault. When the Oilers drafted him he was a huge wildcard, but with some offensive potential and a keen eye for squeezing in anywhere he was needed. Injury was an immediate concern. Two years into his pro years, and we are still saying the same things. In the games he played he struggled to find his wings deeper in the lineup.

Hamilton played with various centermen this season, and that’s interesting to note because it pulls back the curtain on Todd Nelson’s usage for the young winger. Lander, House, Martindale, VandeVelde – all played the middle of the Hamilton sandwich. Asking Curtis to score points in this role, on this Barons team, coached by Todd Nelson is just asking too much. However, even in a shutdown, closer, grinder role, he struggled mightily. I hated every second of it.

Hamilton is a really good kid. He’s smart. He’s tough. He’s prone to play a good guy role that forces you to love him. He’s got the speed. He’s got a decent skill set. He’s an interesting prospect. The greater issue, like oft-compared Pitlick, is he’s not been good enough, fast enough. Similarly, he just can’t stay healthy for long stretches to hone his craft.

In his final year of entry level contractual obligations, his point total and production will go up. Craig MacTavish will force him into spots where he’ll succeed the most. The Oilers have to give him one last hurrah just in case. Through this due diligence Curtis will have to stay healthy while taking a step forward, something he’s rarely done in his young career. Post-knee surgery in 2013, baby steps will be unacceptable. Moon bounces will be the necessary.

OKC Barons Early “Guaranteed” Home Dates Released

The American Hockey League is a fine hockey league. They also are a great tease. As they do every year at the close of a season, the league has issued guaranteed home dates for each squad in the upcoming calendar year. Below are the Oklahoma City Barons home dates:

October 4th, October 5th, November 12th, November 15th, November 16th, December 20th, December 21st. Also keep in mind that the season not-so-technically kicks off with the Edmonton Oilers vs. Dallas Stars exhibition game on September 27th. 

With 38 home games eventually filling the entire schedule, giving us six or seven has always been a bit weird. Perhaps they work well for marketing purposes within the office doors of each organization. However, I never know what to do with this information. Likely neither do the masses. But here they are, circle those dates, and make plans to attend a Barons game.

Mark Arcobello Earns One Year Extension With Oilers

Mark Arcobello Scoring
Photo by Steven Christy.

After the departure of a few high-profile Barons/Oilers prospects, Craig MacTavish announced today that the Oilers have chosen to extend “the little center that could” for another year of play. Well done, Mark Arcobello.

This is an interesting signing for the organization for several reasons.

First, he’s a 25 year old prospect that has had a bit of a diamond in the rough type of career. The Yale grad, who was un-drafted, started his career in the ECHL where Mark turned his hard work into some huge minutes, and a coming of age story with the Barons. One that smacked the Oilers on the mouth in the half-lockout season when Arco looked magical with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. He produces with great line mates, poor line mates, and on the power play in bunches. He’s a prolific AHL scorer, and three years ago no one even knew who he was.

Read More

Kristians Pelss, The Story You Never Want To Write Or Read

Pelss On Ice
Photo by Candace Riley. All rights reserved. 

In the early hours of Thursday morning, as I hit schedule on a prospect post written entirely about Oilers prospect Kristians Pelss, I got a strange message from a friend pointing me to news articles about this very player. The articles weren’t full of recaps of his play, his thoughts on lower body injuries or even coaching comments. Instead the articles highlighted a bizarre story of a man who jumped from a bridge in Riga, Latvia while in a seemingly unrelated story, Pelss was identified as a missing person in the same area. Both reports were in their infant stages, some connected the dots prematurely. Fearing the worst, the family publicly made statements of hope claiming that he was likely alive, just missing. The Oilers themselves were a bit hesitant to make a grand statement without knowing the exact facts. They said:

The Edmonton Oilers organization, including the Edmonton Oil Kings, Oklahoma City Barons and affiliate Stockton Thunder, is aware of the reports regarding Kristians Pelss going missing while visiting Riga, Latvia, this week. There has been contradictory information reported, at times, and we are trying to confirm the facts. Once we are able to do that, we will be able to offer further comment. At this time, our thoughts and prayers are with the Pelss family. Kristians spent two years with the Oil Kings before beginning his pro career in the Oilers system, splitting last season between the Barons and the Thunder.

As the hours have now turned into days, it is now widely known that Kristians Pelss, age 20, has passed away.

Read More

Oilers Prospect and OKC Barons Winger Kristians Pelss Missing in Latvia (Timeline)

On Thursday, June 13 reports began to make their way from Latvia to North America that Edmonton Oilers prospect and Oklahoma City Barons winger Kristians Pelss had gone missing after Pelss’ family filed a missing persons report that same day. Many rumors began to run rampant in the hours following as people speculated on where Pelss was and what may have happened to him, but none of those have been confirmed up to this point. So until more details are released, confirmed, etc., I wanted to create a timeline of what has been confirmed until now and hopefully to clear up any confusion there may be.

pelss-jersey-nameplate1

We’re still hoping for the best and want to extend our thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of Kristians and hope for a safe return.

UPDATE: The body has been confirmed to be that of Kristians Pelss. Our condolences to his family, friends, and the entire Oilers, Barons, and Oil Kings organizations.

Timeline after the jump:

Read More

Prospect Appraisal: Tyler Pitlick

AHL Hockey: May 29 Barons vs Griffins
What a shot (did it go in?). Photo by Steven Christy.

Our current Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, once said something about toughness. Always good for a memorable quote round-up, Biden said, “Life is a matter of really tough choices”. This isn’t a comment that breaks new ground on what life is all about, but it does point to the ability the Veep has to be openly honest about the state of the country, even if he’s occasionally way off base. (he was actually speaking in reference to going after tax cuts for the wealthy *shoulder shrugs*) . So I’ll steal that mantra for just a bit, and place it upon the shoulders of one Oilers prospect with some tough choices on the horizon.

Tyler Pitlick just completed his second year as a pro hockey player. He’s been relatively interesting to watch for many reasons. When he hit the Barons roster out of training camp in 2011, he would later be known as one of the few Oilers prospects not to be placed in the ECHL for a spell. Martindale, Abney, Hamilton, etc. all earned their stripes in Stockton before getting clobbered in the AHL. For Pitlick, he was a fit in a Barons lineup as a tough board play guy, who had some incredible potential as a scorer.

Read More

Love, Hate, And An Original Baron: Farewell Teemu Hartikainen

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Farewell, Teemu Hartikainen

Teemu Hartikainen has officially signed a two-year deal to leave the Edmonton Oilers organization to play for Ufa in the KHL. Details on how much have not been released, but know that he’s being paid well. Likely moreso than a re-up with the Oilers. However, there’s such a deep well of story telling that is tied to the three year AHL/NHL run of Hartikainen, and for some reason many are willing to discount the journey.

At just barely twenty years old, speaking virtually no English, Hartikainen or Harski for short, was thrown into a torrid relationship with the Oilers. Drafted in round six of the 2008 NHL entry draft, all eyes were laser focused on the Jordan Eberle pick in round one. He was a Finnish player with good hands, good presence on the ice, and a tenacity around the edges of the ice. His feisty nature is likely what sparked the drafting of him to begin with. He was disappointed from the get-go about not making an NHL roster, but those in Edmonton wanted to watch him closely to see how he translated to North American hockey. He eventually took it in stride, and he’ll go down in history as the first Oklahoma City Barons player to score a goal. He did so in the first game ever in OKC, and in the middle of a 6-1 undressing care of the Houston Aeros. 65 AHL games later, he’d have 47 points alongside 12 NHL games with 5 points. However, Hartikainen was a grinder, something the Oilers needed, yet the powers-that-be in Edmonton were unsure how to use.

Read More