The Oklahoma City Barons have skyrocketed up the standings to first place in the entire AHL. They have 58 points in 40 games, with a record of 27-9-2-2.
“I think there’s got to be a lot of credit given to Gerry Fleming and Tony (Borgford) and Kelly Buchberger too as well,” said Oilers GM Craig MacTavish. “It speaks to the tradition and culture here which was really been started through Bill Scott, who now works for us, and Todd Nelson. It’s a very close-knit group of players. We’ve got a really good mix of veterans who help set the bar for the youth. And we’ve got a good mix of youth. Bogdan Yakimov last night was exceptional. JJ Khaira, Mitch Moroz is down here. That’s to really complement a really good, young D-core.”
MacTavish added that he feels the future is in teams having a mobile blueline and the Oilers are very well prepared for that with the young, mobile defence in Oklahoma City.
“Defencemen that can move the puck, move their feet, get the puck up ice. Dillon Simpson, Jordan Oesterle, David Musil, Gernat, Brandon Davidson who we’ve seen and Marty Marincin who everybody knows. There’s a lot of guys on the back-end who have potentially bright futures in the NHL.”
Having better calibre of players at the NHL level has helped improve player development.
“We’ve been talking about adding more competitive people and more size to our lineup. I’m seeing the evolution of a lot of that. It takes time to draft these players, bring them in and develop them, develop them the right way. I feel like our organization up top is strong enough, deep enough and growing up top so we have the time to put these guys and leave them down here at the American League level where development best occurs. We’re seeing that firsthand.”
For the first time, the Oilers held their annual mid-season amateur scout meetings in Oklahoma City. Oilers GM Craig MacTavish talked about the decision to hold the meetings here.
“I think it works out really well with our minor league team down here,” he said. “Obviously, that’s the main impetus behind getting everyone down here. And the amateur scouts very seldom get to see American Hockey League play. It’s another brand of hockey and it’s good information for them and a good meeting place for us all.”
It worked out perfectly that the Barons had three games in three days to help frame the meetings.
Oilers prospect Richard Bachman has been named the AHL's Player of the Week. From the AHL's Press Release:
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. ... The American Hockey League announced today that Oklahoma City Barons goaltender Richard Bachman has been selected as the CCM/AHL Player of the Week for the period ending Jan. 11, 2015.
Bachman made three appearances in net last week and stopped 60 of 61 shots, registering a 2-0-0 record with a 0.40 goals-against average, a .984 save percentage and two shutouts to help the Barons take over the top spot in the overall AHL standings.
Bachman stopped six of seven shots in 29 minutes of relief work on Tuesday vs. Texas, then drew the start on Saturday night and made 28 saves to backstop Oklahoma City to a 2-0 win at Rochester. Bachman followed that up with another shutout, turning aside all 26 Hamilton shots in a 3-0 Barons victory and helping the club set a franchise record with its sixth consecutive road win.
Bachman is 11-3-3 in 18 games for Oklahoma City this season, with a 2.20 goals-against average, a .925 save percentage and three shutouts. The sixth-year pro from Salt Lake City, Utah, has a career record of 81-52-15 in 154 AHL appearances for Oklahoma City and Texas, registering a 2.56 GAA, a .916 save percentage and 14 shutouts. Originally drafted by Dallas in 2006 and signed by Edmonton as a free agent in 2013, Bachman has gone 14-12-2 with one shutout in 35 career outings in the National Hockey League with the Stars and Oilers.
In recognition of his achievement, Bachman will be presented with an etched crystal award prior to an upcoming Barons home game.
Oilers centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was named on Saturday to the NHL All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio. For Nugent-Hopkins, it will be his first NHL All-Star Game and he will be the Oilers lone representative.
“I think it’s an outstanding honour," said Oilers interim head coach Todd Nelson. "This year he’s elevated his game and he’s been playing some very consistent hockey. We’re very happy for him. It’s a great honour for him to go there.”
Nelson also coached Nugent-Hopkins in the American Hockey League with the Oklahoma City Barons during the lockout in 2012-13. He added that he is very happy with Nugent-Hopkins' overall game.
“Right now he’s playing both ends of the ice very well. He’s playing in all situations and he’s very dependable. It doesn’t matter if he has a couple goals or doesn’t, he’s contributing to the hockey team’s success.”
Nugent-Hopkins was excited for the honour.
“It’s definitely pretty exciting. I got the news, cool to hear about it. I think it’ll be a lot of fun,” he said, adding it will be quite the experience to play with the League's best.
“It’ll be a little bit different. I got a chance to play with a lot of great players when I went to the World Championships so I know some of them from that but a lot of these guys have been to the all-star game many times.
“Any time you get a chance to talk to guys like that it’s really cool to see how guys approach it from different teams, especially the top guys around the league. It’ll be cool to talk to them.”
The Oilers centre added that he was looking forward to just having fun and playing in what is normally a high-scoring affair.
“You watch it every year and it’s just a fun game. A lot of guys having fun, moving the puck around and trying to run up the score as much as possible.”
Thankfully, Nugent-Hopkins didn't have any plans made during the all-star break that he would now have to cancel.
“I didn’t have anything completely planned yet. I was thinking of going somewhere close.”
Oilers winger Benoit Pouliot had an excellent return, scoring a goal with three shots after missing 18 games with a broken foot.
“He definitely made an impact tonight,” said Oilers interim head coach Todd Nelson. “He played a simple game for us, capitalized on the goal obviously. It was a tough spot for him coming back. Here it’s hard to breathe a bit but the thing is, he went short shifts. He said he felt good and I thought he was very solid for our hockey team tonight.”
Pouliot talked about how the team had a very positive attitude upon his return to the room.
“The guys, even though we’re struggling right now, they’re still positive. We’re trying to build off that and keep going,” he said. “It’s good to be back. I’m so happy to be back.”
With the thin air in Denver, Pouliot made sure to not over-exert himself.
“I lost my voice in the second and kept it short out there,” he said. “I think I was making 20-second shifts. It was tough to get the breathing and get the legs going. I thought our line had a lot of poise and playmaking in their zone. It brought me a lot of confidence back.”
Rob Klinkhammer will wear the number 12 with the Oilers when he eventually suits up with the team.
Read Chris Wescott's interview with Klinkhammer for some outstanding insight as the centre gets ready to join Edmonton.
Hall - RNH - Eberle
Purcell - Roy - Pouliot
Fraser - Lander - Yakupov
Hendricks - Gordon - Gazdic
Draisaitl - Pinizzotto
Ben Scrivens gets the start in goal.
Hall-RNH-Eberle, Pouliot-Roy-Purcell, Yakupov-Lander-Fraser, Hendricks-Gordon-Gazdic. Ference-Petry, Klefbom-Fayne, Nikitin-Schultz.— Jack Michaels (@EdmontonJack) January 2, 2015
Perron Video | David Perron on being traded
Oilers forward David Perron was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday and shortly afterwards he met with the media to give his thoughts on the team.
“It’s always hard leaving a place when you’re emotionally involved, no matter how tough the situation was here. Once you look past that, there’s not many better opportunities to go to and I’m really excited about that,” Perron began.
The winger was asked what he will remember most from his time in Edmonton.
“Just the class from the organization. From Day 1, when I met MacT in the summer I got traded and all the way through the tough times all the nice people I met: trainers, team staff, players and people of Edmonton, it was great. Now it’s a new chapter for me and hopefully I get a chance to go real deep into the playoffs.”
He added that he's sad to leave despite the team's recent tough times.
“When you’re emotionally involved it’s hard to leave any kind of situation. Because it’s the NHL, the best league in in the world, even if the Oilers are struggling right now they’ll find a way out eventually and they’ll be a top team in the League. Looks like I won’t be a part of it and hopefully I’m a part of something special in Pittsburgh.”
The NHL announced this evening that Oilers defenceman Keith Aulie has been suspended two games for his hit Wednesday night on Calgary's Matt Stajan.
Edmonton's Keith Aulie has been suspended 2 games for an illegal check to the head of Calgary's Matt Stajan.— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) January 2, 2015