All photos by Steven Christy. All rights reserved.
Wednesday’s Oklahoma City Barons training camp looked absolutely identical to the one the day before. 10:00am drills followed by an 11:00 am, two period scrimmage. The compete level was still high, especially for this only being day number three of camp, but with the Oilers nearing a fully realized NHL roster (or something close to it), the number of warm bodies in minor league camp continues to grow. As the number grows, it becomes even more pertinent for players to begin separating themselves from the rest of the pack.
Today, the scrimmage in particular, was very much an orchestrated dance of defensive pairs and offensive lines. There are, however, a few constants worth noting.
The only legit line, one that we have now seen three straight days play together, is Austin Fyten, C.J. Stretch, and Derek Nesbitt. All AHL contracted, all looking like the only scoring threat the Barons have — for now. They are quick. They are strong. They are unafraid to be confident with the puck. In summation, they are the best offensive weapons with the most consistent talent that the Barons currently have in the confines of the Cox Center.
In spurts, players like Ryan Martindale look good. Martindale struggled a bit in camp today, including a pretty bad whiff on a puck that could have scored a goal. Yet following the scrimmage he stayed put, took nearly 30 shots on net from the same spot on the ice where his bad whiff took place. Practice makes perfect.
The separation of players offensively is not all that great, but remember, this team is a sum of few goal-scoring parts. Instead, the pack is broken down into two groups on the defensive side of the puck where the clear stand-outs are those most familiar to Oil Country.
Oscar Klefbom, Martin Marincin, Martin Gernat, David Musil, Brandon Davidson, and in a much more minor way, Joey Leach – all feel like the All-Star’s of camp, and deservedly so. The Oilers have been super rotten in previous years when it came to farming solid defensemen. We have finally hit a spot in the draft cycle where some really good prospects are now developing professionaly, and right before our eyes.
Oscar Klefbom, the shiniest piece of defending in three days of camp, has been asked to shoulder the load in the split squad scrimmages. Team Navy only features one other Oilers defensive prospect, and that is Brandon Davidson. The others are a mishmash of CHL, ECHL, and collegiate players – who when paired next to Klefbom seem a smidge smurfy. Good, but smurfy.
For obvious reasons, Davidson and Klefbom look solid playing alongside each other. However, we often got Klefbom and Davidson playing away from each other, and it was interesting to watch the gap in talent between themselves and their odd partner.
On the other side, Team White had the other Oilers prospects. Marincin is your top guy with a “floating” pairing with either Martin Gernat or David Musil. Gernat-Marincin is probably one we will see quite a bit during the regular AHL season. The same build, same style of play, consistently strong – they are going to be fun to watch. Brad Hunt, who had a healthy stay in the Oilers preseason, was paired with an oft-forgotten defensive prospect in Joey Leach. Both drive the puck well, but Leach has separated himself as more of a physical defender. Perhaps by accident, but certainly worth noting.
For the first time we see the four-headed goaltending monster of Richard Bachman, Olivier Roy, Tyler Bunz, and Ty Rimmer. After working out with a net specialist for much of the drill portion of practice, Bachman and Roy duked it out in the first 25 minutes of the scrimmage. Both were sharp, but Bachman is clearly the more predestined to be great goaltender. He moves better. Sees the puck better. Even handles the puck better. Roy was efficient, but continues to need a full head of steam to really feel confident. The players in front of him certainly didn’t help despite being a good group of defenders. We then got Bunz and Rimmer, the contest really worth watching. Both were prepared, and both again showed they have promise. The fact that both seem neck and neck should bother some, especially if you are a fan of Bunz. With no visible difference between the two in terms of betterment, you have to think that a coin toss will be made IF no one separates from the pack. Not good for Mr. Bunz, but really good for Mr. Rimmer. Number three goaltender is going to be a hotly contested battle.
In all, the team looked poised in practice, and highly energetic in the scrimmage. They’ll pack up, ship out, and head towards Texas for a weekend preseason sked all while the Edmonton Oilers arrive in OKC for their own preseason tilt against the Dallas Stars.
More camp feedback to come as well as announcements concerning re-assignments and cuts. Stay tuned.