FUTURE WATCH | OKC Prospect Update
Oklahoma City Barons Head Coach Todd Nelson provides insight on Edmonton Oilers prospects down on the farm.
|Photo by Steven Christy
Without any prompting, Nelson was quick to bring up forward Tyler Pitlick. The 22-year-old forward has played 38 games for the Barons this season, recording 22 points (8-14-22). He got his first taste at NHL action this season, playing three games and scoring one goal before his call up ended due to a knee injury suffered on October 26.
Nelson says Pitlick, the former 31st overall pick in 2010, won’t be in the AHL next season. He is NHL ready.
“Well, I think Tyler Pitlick has to be talked about,” Nelson said. “He’s taken his game to a whole new level and he’s ready to play up there. I see this guy as not being back in OKC next year, I see him playing in the National Hockey League… He’s really a lot more mature than he has been in previous years. He’s taken a quiet leadership role where he understands his play on the ice is contagious to the rest of the hockey team where he has to play a physical game and move his feet. As a coaching staff, we have confidence in him. Tomorrow night, he’s going to be playing up the middle. We’re going to have him play centre and it’s just another thing that adds to his resume. He’s been very strong and I see him knocking on the door to play in the NHL next year.”
|Photo by Steven Christy
Mark Arcobello has become a fan favourite in Oklahoma City over the past four seasons. The 25-year-old centre and sometimes winger, worked his way from being undrafted, undersized and under appreciated to making the Oilers roster out of camp and playing 41 NHL games this season. Arcobello, a former ECHLer and Yale graduate, has lit the American Hockey League ablaze since returning to his familiar stomping grounds in OKC.
He has 28 points (10-18-28) in 15 games for OKC this season. Nelson says Arcobello is playing as one of the best players in the AHL right now, playing on a mission to showcase his skills to the Oilers and the NHL.
“I think he is,” Nelson said. “I think he’s approached it the right way. Obviously, he was disappointed to get sent down but he does realize that he’s playing for future years and in the future if it’s not with the Edmonton Oilers, maybe it’s for 29 other teams that are out there watching him. He understands that. He’s a smart guy so he wants to light it up and he wants people to take notice and that’s a compliment to him with his character. He came down with a great attitude and he’s very competitive. That’s one thing that I’ve always admired about Arco.
“With being a smaller player, he’s very competitive, he’s never intimidated and he’s just playing unbelievable hockey. He’s averaging two points per game and he probably could have more because there’s been opportunities where we’ve maybe missed and he set them up. He’s just an unbelievable hockey player right now. I think it’s gratifying for our coaching staff to see a player that started with us four years ago, he was in the ECHL and worked his way up and all I can say right now is, with the way he’s playing, he’s too good for this league.”
The Oilers acquired Roman Horak in a trade with the Calgary Flames in November. Since then, the 22-year-old forward has been increasingly gaining responsibility and putting up numbers for the Barons. Horak has played 47 games for the Barons this season and has posted 40 points (18-22-40).
I asked Nelson if Horak has a good NHL future and the coach seems to think that’s the case.
“One thing that is probably his biggest asset is his speed,” Nelson said. “He can definitely skate up in the National Hockey League. When we first got him, we had him playing centre and it’s a position that he hasn’t played a whole lot and so we made the switch for him to go to wing. That’s where he really took off… He’s a player that’s got a good skill set and we’re seeing him play very confident as well. He’s a big part of our power play success. Right now, I have him playing with (Mark) Arcobello and (Steve) Pinizzotto and it’s been a very strong line for us. I think the biggest thing is he’s finding the back of the net and he’s playing confident hockey and I think he has tremendous upside to play in the National Hockey League.”
Horak has played in 83 NHL games and has recorded 18 points (5-13-18) since being drafted in the fifth round of the 2009 NHL Draft.
Oscar Klefbom was one of the bigger names to play on the Barons roster this season. The former 19th overall pick in 2011 was recalled by the Oilers prior to their last road trip. Prior to getting his first taste of NHL action, Klefbom was catching on in the American Hockey League and began playing his best hockey to date.
“I think with Oscar, just like anybody else, there’s an adjustment period and he was injured for the most part of the year, last year,” Nelson said. “I thought he had a pretty rough start. That was normal and that’s what we expected. We expected for him to have a tough go off the bat just because it’s his first year in North America playing hockey over here and he didn’t play a whole lot last year. There were some things he was doing that we had to correct and he’s gotten better with it. After New Year’s, he was playing his best hockey.”
Nelson says he was thoroughly impressed with how hard the team could push the 6-foot-3, 213 pound defenceman. He became the Barons ‘go-to guy’ in situations where the game was on the line.
“The thing that’s the most impressive thing is he’s a horse. He has tremendous stamina, he’s gotten strong in the corners, at least at this level. Any kind of loose pucks, he’s coming out with it, he’s winning those battles on the walls and he’s strong in front of the net. Those are some of the things I’m sure that Edmonton is looking for from him to contribute to the big club up there. If he’s able to translate that up at the National Hockey League, I think that’s really going to help the team up there and it’s going to help boost his confidence as well.”
|Photo by Steven Christy
The Edmonton Oilers have diligently worked on adding to their defensive depth over the last few seasons. Martin Gernat was taken in the fifth round in 2011 while David Musil was taken 31st overall in the same draft.
Todd Nelson commented on both former Edmonton Oil Kings, who have made strides in their first professional seasons.
“I think (Gernat) and Musil are the same,” Nelson said. “Both players, just like we saw from Martin Marincin last year, where there was an adjustment period up until Christmas and they had to learn the hard way and learn through their mistakes. But with that, they’ve gotten better. I think the biggest thing with both of those players and especially (Gernat), they’re playing more confident. They know they can play at this level, they’re contributing and they’re just playing really confident hockey right now. The same thing happened last year with Marincin, (Brandon) Davidson and (Taylor) Fedun. They matured after New Year’s and we’re seeing the same thing from those two defencemen as well as Oscar Klefbom.”
Barons Player Stats | AHL Standings | Barons Schedule | Past Prospect Stats: 2012-13 | 2011-12
Stats Updated as of Wednesday March 19, 2014 at 5:00 p.m. MDT
|d||19||68||7||14||21||-3||102||EVERETT SILVERTIPS (WHL)|
|f||19||70||35||50||85||29||83||CALGARY HITMEN (WHL)|
|DARNELL NURSE||D||19||64||13||37||50||1||91||SAULT STE. MARIE (OHL)|
|F||19||69||34||27||61||-2||72||VANCOUVER GIANTS (WHL)|
|f||19||59||16||27||43||5||59||EVERETT SILVERTIPS (WHL)|
|F||19||70||35||28||63||25||156||EDMONTON OIL KINGS (WHL)|
|F||19||39||9||8||17||-4||14||LONDON KNIGHTS (OHL)|
|27||13||6||19||-10||12||OWEN SOUND ATTACK (OHL)|
|F||24||41||5||9||14||10||142||JOKERIT HELSINKI (FINLAND)|
|F||19||49||2||2||4||2||35||NIZHNY NOVGOROD (RUSSIA)|
|26||41||20||16||4||3.06||.907||OKLAHOMA CITY (AHL)|
|LAURENT BROSSOIT||20||7||2||4||0||3.53||.885||OKLAHOMA CITY (AHL)|
|5||2||1||1||3.63||.901||OKLAHOMA CITY (AHL)|
|22||19||n/a||n/a||n/a||3.12||.894||HPK HAMEENLINNA (FINLAND)|