Photo: After a period of adjustment, Curtis Hamilton has looked solid in his first year of AHL play. Hamilton projects into a talented, multi-tool forward who could possibly complement star forwards Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Jordan Eberle. (Photo courtesy of Aaron Bell/OHL Images)
The Oklahoma City Barons are the AHL's top team with a 22-8-1-3 record. The days of the Edmonton Oilers' farm teams being bottom feeders is long gone as the club has made a point both this season and last to put a winning team on the ice, committing to older players and AHL veterans rather than rely exclusively on young prospects. This season, led by players like Ryan Keller, Josh Green, Bryan Helmer, and Yann Danis, the Barons are the team to beat.
Photo: Tobias Rieder is currently among the top offensive prospects in the OHL. (Photo courtesy of Aaron Bell/OHL Images)
The Edmonton Oilers have looked to the North American junior ranks (specifically the CHL) early and often in the four years since Stu MacGregor took over as Head Scout. As a result, there has been a tremendous amount of quality and quantity at the junior level for the exciting young club, players who will be pushing for roster spots at the pro level sooner than later. Many have graduated in recent years and are either pushing for a spot with the big club, or are established as NHL regulars already. There are still 10 junior level players in the Oilers system, many of whom are having very nice starts to their 2011-12 campaigns.
David Musil, D, Vancouver Giants
Acquired: 2nd round (31st overall) in 2011
Photo: David Musil, one of several promising young defensemen for the Edmonton organization, projects to be a physical two-way defenseman in the NHL. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)
Cupboards that were bare and wanting not too long ago are now bursting at the seams. In the span of three years, the Edmonton Oilers have impressively rebuilt their prospect pipeline, finding success both early and late in the draft, as well as with a handful of shrewd free agent signings. Being among the league's worst teams the past few years has certainly helped with early first round picks, however the depth and breadth of talent currently bubbling under the surface is primarily the result of two things: an organizational commitment to a full and thorough rebuild, and the incredible work done by Head Scout Stu MacGregor and his team at the draft table.
Photo: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been a standout for the Oilers in training camp. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)
Coming off a 40 win and 91 point season, the Oklahoma City Barons were the first Edmonton Oilers farm team in quite a while to have a successful season. Granted, they would have certainly preferred more playoff success, but after years of toiling in futility at the bottom of the standings, the first year in OKC was a positive one for the Oilers minor league affiliate.
While the Barons have lost some of their veteran leaders (and their top three scorers from a season ago), they have the look of a deeper, more talented, more well rounded club and will be looking to improve on last season's success. Winning in the AHL is rarely the result of boasting the most talent, but more about the right mix of veterans, youth, and a balanced roster. Before the puck has dropped on the season, the Barons look like a quality, playoff caliber club yet again.
Nineteen-year-old goalie Frans Tuohimaa was one of two Finnish goalies selected by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2011 NHL Draft. The Jokerit prospect was selected in the seventh round (182nd overall) while Samu Perhonen, who played for JyP's junior club as well as Finland's U-18 team at the World Junior Championships, was selected in the third (62nd overall). Both recently attended the Oilers' July prospects camp but unfortunately Perhonen was sick for much of the camp. Hockey's Future recently caught up with Tuohimaa to get some feedback on his first experience as an NHL prospect.
Hockey's Future: Did you have a chance to talk to either Teemu Hartikainen or Toni Rajala (two other Finnish players in the Edmonton system) about the Oilers before you came to camp and did they give you any advice?