Oilers’ Midseason Rookie Report

By pbadmin
Mass confusion would be one way to describe the current situation of
the Oilers’ prospects.
Hamilton has been a far cry from hockey paradise as of late but with all
the chaos in Edmonton, it’s only natural. The Bulldogs’s talent,
patience and desire has been severely tested as they continued to play
musical rosters. But with all the bad, there is a lot of good. Swiss
phenom Michel Riesen took the world by storm at the World Junior
Championships earlier this month, comeback kid Steve Passmore is
gaining valuable experience and skills playing in the IHL and the strong
core of talented prospects like Mike Watt and Scott Fraser continue to
impress in Hamilton, leading the Bulldogs to challenge for first overall
in league standings. Here’s a quick overview of the future Oilers:


Up until last week, the Bulldogs had probably the best goaltending
tandem in Jean-François Labbe and Steve Passmore. The goalies were
putting up incredible numbers as both fought for the number one spot, as
well as the next chance at being called up. Now normally, having two hot
goalies would please most teams but it seemed to cause problems for the
Oilers. They didn’t want to stunt the growth of the younger Passmore but
Labbe was playing great, going 15-5-6 and posting a .924 SV% and 2.42
GAA in 26 games, and after his MVP performance last year with Hershey,
he deserved to be the top goalie. So before any trouble broke out,
management sent Passmore to the San Antonio Dragons of the IHL. He’ll be
able to focus on being number one without having Labbe’s stats looming
over him even though Steve took the Dogs to the Calder finals last year
and has had pretty nice numbers this year(9-5-3, 2.71, .906). Labbe
should continue to impress as king of the pipes in the AHL with ECHL
graduate Chris Wickenheiser backing him up.


Michel Riesen continues to make the Oilers’ scouting staff look good as
he adds a bronze medal from this month’s past World Junior Championship
to his growing list of accomplishments. After leading all scorers at
last year’s European Junior Championship, Riesen lead Team Switzerland
to victories over the powerhouse Team Canada and Team Sweden. He lead
the Swiss in scoring with 4 goals and 5 points in 7 games and was a
Second Team All-Star. The only bad news is that Riesen will be stuck
with his Swiss team, Biel-Bienne, for at least another season.


The Oilers continue to harvest talented kids out of the US’s college
system that are turning into legitimate NHLers. Tom Poti is still one
of the dominant rearguards with the Hockey East superpower Boston
University and should be with the Oilers next year. An incredible skater
who is capable of taking the puck end-to-end, Poti is also strong and
intelligent in his own end. Former BU Terrier Dan Lacouture, one of the
brighter prospects in the system, is with the Dogs now. At 6-3, 210 lbs
Lacouture has Edmonton management drooling over the power forward he’s
turning into. His all-around offensive package is complete with his
excellent shot, sound playmaking and decent hockey sense. He plays with
grit and determination and is a well-conditioned athlete who should have
little trouble playing 82 games a season. Mike Watt, a left winger from
Michigan State, is now with the Bulldogs. A hulking left winger, the
6-2, 210 lbs Watt possess a deadly shot, is a devastating bodychecker
and was the only NCAA member on Canada’s WJC gold medal winning team in
1996. Watt is also an incredible skater with excellent hands and
offensive instincts that has had no problem adjusting to the smaller ice
surfaces of the AHL. Despite playing only 28 games, he’s fifth in
Bulldog scoring with 14 goals and 23 points and is tied for the team
lead in game winning goals with 4. However, he needs to work on his
two-way game and should finish the season with the Dogs before making
the jump to the NHL. Another former Spartan in the Oilers’ ranks is Rem
Murray, who’s currently in his sophomore season with Edmonton. Primarily
a checking winger, Murray has good size(6-2, 195) but has yet to meet
his offensive expectations that will keep him a regular.


Hamilton bad boy Dennis Bonvie currently has 124 PIMs this season. Not
bad considering he’s only played 28 games this season but a far cry from
last year’s league leading total of 522. It could be that Bonvie has
finally found his game as a strong, two-way player. The right winger has
chipped in 8 goals and 17 points but just as impressive is his +5. The
bruising twosome of Georges Laraque and Sean Brown has also helped take
some of the physical responsibilities off of Bonvie.


When Oilers’ GM Glen Sather shipped off Steve Kelly to the Lightning a
few weeks ago, he referred to the talented yet physical center with
blazing speed as “just another prospect.” While that statement was a bit
harsh, okay really harsh, considering that Kelly was one of the few
consistent members of the Oilers while he was there, his loss is
lessened by the exciting development of the offensive forwards in
Hamilton. The depth at both wings is a pleasant surprise all in itself
because of such prospects as Mike Watt, Dan Lacouture and Joe Hulbig on
the left side and Scott Fraser, Laraque and Bonvie on the right. Fraser,
picked up from the Carolina Monarchs, has been the all-around consistent
player for the Bulldogs. While leading the team in scoring with 21 goals
and 46 points, Fraser is also an impressive +26 in 35 games.


Center Jeff Daw had only 11 goals and 19 points last year with Hamilton.
This year and only half-way through the season, he’s already put up 17
goals and 35 points to place second in team scoring. But his scoring is
not the only thing that’s improved. Daw has been consistent in both ends
of the ice, posting a +16, also second best on the team.

So as the Oilers continue to turn around their season as their new
members get into the swing of things, their future can only continue to
improve as their farm system with the Hamilton Bulldogs heads to another
trip to the Calder Cup Championships, this time coming out as the