A belated Merry Christmas to you, readers of Tend the Farm. December was a brutal month for the Oilers farm club, but we learned a lot about where they could go in the near future. We watched young defenders mumble and stumble, and forwards look maliciously like a bunch of AHL players rather than promising NHLers. We entertained tons of goaltenders with more likely on the way. As December closes we turn back to the things at the top of the to-do list. This includes seeing Martin Marincin play defense in Oil country, and Roman Horak square off against his former team.
Marincin, the 21 year old from Slovakia with two NHL games already under his belt, still has question marks looming high above his stat sheet. Without Justin Schultz accompanying him in the minors he’s been a “hit or miss” prospect on the farm. Good, but not good enough. Stronger, but not strong enough. He’s a player who defended alongside Steve MacIntyre (yes, as a defender), Martin Gernat, and David Musil in recent games. Do you see a pattern developing here? Todd Nelson inserts him into pairings that force him to stand out. Defensively, he continues to be rough around the edges – thin on the boards, saggy in front of goaltenders – but his value seems to be on the offensive side. When he inserts himself into the offense, he plays well. It is in this one thing that MacTavish seems to be keen on, and it is difficult to not find the Slovakian Stringbean highly capable. Maybe not now or next season, but soon.
Horak will square off against the team that turned him lose recently, the Calgary Flames. Had he not have been recalled, he would have played against the Abbotsford Heat as a Baron. The skinny on Roman is that he is probably a better NHL center than Anton Lander. That’s good news. Good face off winner, defensively intelligent, and surprisingly strong on the puck as a forward, he will be a godsend to Eakins in the “swarm” and beyond. Better than Acton, better than Lander, and earned “on the cheap”, keep your eye on this kid. Not only does he want redemption against Calgary, but he wants to increase his value. Top line minutes on the farm has earned him eleven points in eighteen games as a Baron. He’s one to watch indeed.
Oklahoma City plays Abbotsford tonight at 9pm Central. The game is huge for the Barons as they hope to win more post-Christmas, but more than anything find offense in Linus Omark’s absence, and better defensive play from the youngsters. Do they have all the necessary pieces to make the playoffs? No. But never ever discount a Nelson coached team – they always surprise.
Abbotsford has five twenty point getters this season. Oklahoma City has none. That’s bothersome for me. The Heat have scored 105 goals as of Christmas which is third most in the entire league. Guys like Ben Street and Chad Billins are difficult to defend. Likewise, it’s hard to beat a good goaltender like Joni Ortio, who will get the start tonight.
Oklahoma City is only as good as their defense, and when Richard Bachman plays goaltending well, the Barons can win. Yet that’s a tough task. Especially when your team rarely out scores opponents or defeats them by more than one goal.
I’m nervous. I don’t see how the Barons can move up in the standings with such heated competition in division, and nearby. They need a scorer. They need a defensive mentor. When those things occur I will finally become un-nervous. For now I will enjoy prospects being prospects. That’s enough for me (for now).