Photo courtesy of Steven Christy.
Tonight the Edmonton Oilers head back to the preseason ice in one simulatenous heave rather than split squad formation. Well sort of. With a training camp roster that’s still at 45 warm bodies, the revolving door of lines, pairs, and tenders will continue at least for one more game. The offensive trios tonight will be interesting to say the least. Here is how they appear via the Edmonton Oilers website.
There’s a good chance that entire fourth line packs their bags for OKC as soon as the game ends. There’s also a good chance that Pitlick joins them. With Dallas Eakins and Craig MacTavish attempting to make good on their “we want to see prospects” ongoing commentary, these lines should surprise no one. Begin the candlelight vigils for the MMA line. RIP.
Omark-Gagner-Jones is an interesting threesome. I like it, minus the right side of Ryan Jones. Jones, who has a knack for impressing people and then falling to pieces, gets knee-jerked to the top line by coach Eakins to see what he’s made of. Of course, most of us have seen this experiment tested before, and it just implodes. We’ll see. Omark can be a dominate player on his own, but given the middle man of Sam Gagner, he has an even greater potential for success. Put me on the short list of people who think Omark lands in Oil Country for the beginning of the NHL season, he’s just a good, talented, and now highly motivated player.
Tyler Pitlick is playing with Lander, and this echoes the type of placement he’s received for much of his pro career – third line toughener uppper. His skill set needs to improve quickly, and mainly in the offensive output department, for him to leapfrog his way into the top of the Barons lineup. However, if the going thought of more prospect play continues, Pitlick will be tossed in the fire from day one on the farm. If he struggles after a month of so, he may be in more trouble than originally anticipated.
The defensive pairs are a bit more commonplace, older, but not necessarily wiser. Here they are, again via the Oilers website.
Smid and Petry, good. Grebeshkov and Larsen, suspect. Klefbom and Davidson, potential. That’s a good mix of sturdy and inconsistent, but I like the second and third pairings that place a “better” player with a “weaker” player. Phil Larsen, for me, is a gamble defensively that the Oilers won’t want to take. Oh they might roll the dice, but I think he’s still way too unpredictable to be icing NHL minutes. I think he’s a Baron for most of the season, and fills the callup role on the farm.
Davidson has made huge strides in camp, and it’s noticeable in simple things like his skating strides and puck placement on the quick pass. These are things that he struggled with greatly in the lockout season, and it’s okay to say he doesn’t fit in to the Oilers even though he is a great story. He’s not ready, but we are willing to wait.
Klefbom is probably ahead of Larsen on the depth chart despite not having the NHL time Phil owns. He’s a more naturally gifted player, and even in the most rawest of states, he’s a better than AHL defenseman. It’s obvious.
The game tonight will feature a goaltender, which one, we don’t quite know yet. With Tyler Bunz and Olivier Roy already placed in Oklahoma City, you can almost bank on Richard Bachman getting one more start before heading to Sonic for happy hour (cherry limeade, easy ice or chocolate Dr. Pepper?). As a Stars fan, who watches a ton of Oilers hockey, minor and major variety, I can say that Bachman is still sorta a sketchy tender. He’s not Danis, but maybe a tad better than Gerber. But remember, neither Danis nor Gerber were household names when they were signed to play in OKC, and they’ve extended their careers by having really good seasons with the Oilers farm squad. Bachman, however, is significantly younger than Gerber, and nearly seven years younger than Danis. The goaltending position marinates the longest, and Richard Bachman is still getting the dry rub.
If you’re an Oklahoma City Barons fan here is what you watch in tonight’s game:
Linus Omark – Will he dazzle on the first line? Will he cause that vein in Eakins head to pulsate when he dangles?
Brandon Davidson – Can he keep up with a decent Jets squad, and can he NOT look terrible alongside Klefbom?
Ryan Jones – Will he energize the forwards or drive them into the ground?
Mitch Moroz, Ryan Martindale, Cameron Abney – Can you spot the ECHLer(s)?
Power Play – Omark? Arcobello? Klefbom? Who gets situated where and how often on the Oilers power play?
The game will be broadcast via EdmontonOilers.com and begins at 7:08 Central Time. If the game stream is anything like previous installments, it will also be available via the Edmonton Oilers app (if you have an iPad, it’s super handy). Enjoy the game, share your thoughts, and GO FIGHTING ABNEYS GO!!