After a 29th overall finish in the 2008-09 American Hockey League standings, the Springfield Falcons have nowhere to go but up. The Falcons have made definite strides but still sit on the bottom of the Atlantic Division. The parent Oilers injury woes have had a significant effect on the Falcons as it has been revolving door between Springfield and Edmonton.
Eleven Oilers prospects are with the Falcons this season.
Cody Wild, D
Twenty-two-year-old Wild is a skilled offensive defenseman who is working on improving his defensive game. Wild has struggled to gain favor with the Falcons coaching staff and was a healthy scratch for the first five games of the season. Wild spends most of his time on the Falcons second or third defense pairing but gets an ample amount of time on the power play to display his offensive talents. Nine assists in 20 games this season is helping to keep Wild as a fixture in the Falcons lineup this season.
Liam Reddox, LW
After spending most of last season with the Oilers, Reddox again finds himself in Springfield. The 23-year-old has seen some fill-in time in Edmonton with all of the injuries on the big club and has put up six points in 19 games with the Falcons. Reddox continues to show excellent speed and works very hard, but doesn’t seem to have much of a touch around the net as his six points in 19 games indicates. During his nine-game stint with the Oilers, Reddox was hit from behind by Buffalo’s Clarke McArthur in a frightening incident that fortunately saw Reddox only miss a handful of games.
Slava Trukhno, LW
Viacheslav Trukhno is struggling offensively at the AHL level with only seven points in 26 games this season. Offense isn’t all there is to Trukhno’s game as he still brings his grittiness to the table every night to remain a contributor more ways than just on the scoreboard. The 23-year-old, in his third AHL season, thus far does not appear to have a future in the NHL.
At 6’4, Paukovich brings a physical element to the Falcons. Paukovich, 23, doesn’t possess tremendous speed or offensive gifts and has managed only four goals in 27 games this season. With his size and a reputation for throwing dirty checks, intimidation is a definite asset in Paukovich’s game. Having been described as a tractor-trailer for his limited agility, Paukovich does not project to be an NHL player.
Bryan Lerg, LW
At Michigan State, Lerg was a main offensive contributor averaging nearly 20 goals per season and nearly a point per game over his last three NCAA seasons. In his second professional season, Lerg has not yet developed his offensive game at the AHL level, having picked up only five points in 18 games on three goals and two assists. At 5’10”, 175 lbs Lerg fits the profile of so many other Oiler forwards, possessing offensive potential, but a bit undersized. He does have a physical element to his game and is responsible defensively, but to make the jump to the NHL, Lerg will have to show something special that differentiates him from the rest of the pack.
Ryan O’Marra, C
O’Marra made his NHL debut this season by playing three games for the Oilers, filling in for the big club with so many injuries at the NHL level. Although O’Marra has good speed and a good shot, his value at the professional level has not been in putting numbers on the scoreboard. His physicality and ability in the faceoff circle are the two best aspects of O’Marra’s game and the 22-year-old is at his best when he is creating havoc and turnovers. In 22 games this season, O’Marra has five goals, three assists and 22 penalty minutes. He also recorded one assist in three games with the Oilers.
Offensive defenseman Chorney got more of a taste of the NHL this season with a 13-game stint while filling the injury gap with the Oilers. He recorded only one assist with the Oilers but since coming back to Springfield he has demonstrated a definite step up from his rookie AHL season last year. Chorney has two goals and three assists in four games with the Falcons and appears to have gained valuable experience from his time in the NHL. Being a full-time NHL player appears to be on the horizon.
Johan Motin, D
Motin is a 20-year-old making his North American debut after spending three seasons in the Swedish Elite League. In 21 games, Motin has one goal and three assists to go along with six penalty minutes, but offense is not Motin’s forte. The 6’2” stay-at-home defender isn’t known for his physical play and has been a second and third pairing defenseman in Springfield, depending on the injury situation in Edmonton. On a few occasions, Motin has found himself as a healthy scratch and looks to be a bit of a project for the Oilers.
Alex Plante, D
Plante, 20, has brought his physical style of defense to professional hockey this season with the Falcons. Making the jump from juniors to the AHL, the learning curve is steep, but Plante appears to be making that jump quite successfully. Dropping the gloves and banging bodies are what Plante does best with his 6’4” frame and he hasn’t looked out of place so far this season. The offense may take a little while to develop as he has notched only three assists in 25 games this season, but that is not why the Oilers made him the 15th overall pick in 2007. A big, physical defenseman is what the Oilers envisioned and, so far, Plante is right on track to be in the Oilers lineup in the next couple of seasons.
Theo Peckham, D
Peckham is highly regarded by Oilers management largely because of his physical play and had another four-game taste of the NHL this year when Sheldon Souray and Steve Staios were both out of the Oilers lineup with injury. In 19 games with the Falcons, 22-year-old Peckham has asserted himself physically, keeping opposing forwards clear of the Falcons goal, accumulating 50 penalty minutes in the process. Peckham has had stints in the NHL in each of the last two seasons and appears to be nearly ready to make the jump full-time.
Devan Dubnyk, G
Twenty-three-year-old Dubnyk has had a very strong season with the Falcons this season, only to have it interrupted by a call from the Oilers. With Nikolai Khabibulin fighting a bad back, Dubnyk spends most nights backing up the Oilers current No. 1, Jeff Deslauriers. In his one opportunity to get in some game action with the Oilers, Dubnyk battled hard against the Vancouver Canucks, but let in three goals, playing in relief of Deslauriers who was pulled after eight minutes. With so many Falcons in Edmonton covering for injuries, Dubnyk has played admirably, putting together a .924 save percentage keeping the Falcons in the playoff hunt.
The Oilers have two prospects playing with the Stockton Thunder this year in 21-year-old defenseman Jordan Bendfeld and Bryan Pitton a 21-year-old goaltender. Bendfeld caught the Oilers interest because of his size and toughness and he is displaying those attributes nightly in Stockton having picked up 32 penalty minutes to go along with his five assists in 19 games. Pitton has decent number for playing behind a struggling team. In 12 games, Pitton has a 3.22 GAA with a .909 save percentage on the last-place club.