Last season the Edmonton Oilers dressed 35 skaters and three goaltenders throughout the year. Outside of players acquired in trades, a few of those players ended the year in Edmonton after starting the year with the Oilers’ AHL affiliate, the Bakersfield Condors. This season, the Condors have several notables with a realistic opportunity to become full-time Oilers by the end of the year.
Matthew Benning made the jump from training camp and after serving time on the injured-reserve is playing a sixth-seventh spot on the Oilers defense. Drake Caggiula is still injured and has yet to make his season debut with the Oilers. Those players aside the Oilers have several hopefuls in the system.
Here’s a look at five Condors that could end the year in Edmonton:
RW Taylor Beck
Age: 25 | Years Pro: 6
Acquired: Free Agent Signing – July 2016
AHL Stats: 248 GP – 61 G – 108 A – 169 PTS
Taylor Beck’s become a bit of a journeyman after six pro seasons. He’s spent time with Nashville, Toronto, NY Islanders, Colorado and now Edmonton. The 25-year-old is a proven AHL top-six scorer with a power forward’s game.
At 6’2″ 210 pounds, he has an NHL frame, but his limited skating and defensive abilities have hampered a permanent jump to the big clubs. That said, Beck is currently leading the Condors in scoring with eight points in seven games. There is an opportunity to be had in the Oilers bottom-six as the year goes on, and Beck is doing his job to earn his spot.
Edmonton has several questions about their fourth-line and there is room for change. Iiro Pakarinen, Matt Hendricks, and Drake Caggiula are all still out with injuries. Anton Lander has a questionable future, and Tyler Pitlick still needs to prove he can stay healthy. That bottom six is a work in progress, and there is an outside possibility that if Beck contributes in the AHL and shows significant improvement in the weaker areas in his game, he could be on the Oilers’ fourth line sometime soon.
G Laurent Brossoit
Age: 23 | Years Pro: 4
Acquired: Trade November 2014
AHL Stats: 94 GP – 45 W – 2.59 GAA – 0.915 SV%
Brossoit is by far the Oilers’ best goaltending prospect and he gave Jonas Gustavsson some stiff competition in training camp for the backup job. The 23-year-old was an AHL All-Star last season and posted a 2.66 GAA and .920 SV% through 31 games.
After the Oilers traded Anders Nilsson, Brossoit finished the year as Cam Talbot’s backup. He struggled and only played five games, posting an underwhelming 3.60 GAA and .873 SV%. He lost every game, but the Oilers didn’t play very well in front of him. Thus, the Oilers signed Gustavsson as a free agent.
Brossoit has been limited to just four games with the Condors but has posted a 2.55 GAA and 0.925 SV%. Coach Gerry Fleming plans on using “LB” often this season which is warranted considering he kept a weak Condors team in games they didn’t deserve to be in last year. Brossoit projects to be a 1A/1B option at the NHL level, but at the very least he’ll be a regular backup. The backup job is going to be Brossoit’s sooner or later, a solid year in the AHL could force the Oilers to make Gustavsson available.
F Jujhar Khaira
Age: 22 | Years Pro: 3
Acquired: Drafted 63rd Overall – 2012
AHL Stats: 109 GP – 18 G – 24 A – 42 PTS
Khaira was sent to Bakersfield early in training camp, but don’t let that damper his perception within the organization. The 22-year-old is a power forward and has the versatility to play all three forward positions. The biggest question mark is how high Khaira’s offensive upside is at the NHL level.
Footspeed and offense haven’t proven strong enough to warrant full-time duty with the Oilers, yet. Last season was Khaira’s best offensively but he only tallied 27 points in 49 games. He will need to show the Oilers more if he wants to win a job by the end of the year.
Realistic expectations for the 6’3″ 215 pound-forward would be for him to develop into a fourth-line checking forward with limited offensive potential. The Oilers have some time, but there are long-term decisions to be made on several depth forwards in the mix. Khaira played 15 games with the Oilers last season scoring two points and impressed head coach Todd McLellan with his defensive acumen.
He’s essentially been the Condors’ first-line center the past two seasons and is off to a torrid start to the year with seven points in four games.
D Jordan Oesterle
Age: 24 | Years Pro: 4
Acquired: Free Agent Signing – March 2014
AHL Stats: 118 GP – 14 G – 38 A – 52 PTS
The Oilers found themselves a gem in the college free agency pool when they snagged Jordan Oesterle. The 24-year-old has played in 23 NHL games over the last two seasons and finished the year third in scoring for Condor defenseman despite playing just 44 games.
Along with Joey LaLeggia, he could become a third-pairing defender for the Oilers with limited offensive upside. Oesterle is high on the Oilers’ radar and was in the running for one of the final spots on defense. He has the ability to quarterback the power play with LaLeggia. Oesterle currently has a goal and an assist in his first six games with the Condors this year.
With Matt Benning, Brandon Davidson, and Mark Fayne on the injured-reserve (IR), Oesterle could be the next call-up to the big club if another injury hits. The 24-year-old Michigan-native is waiver-exempt, so the Oilers can bring him up and down without fear of losing an asset. Oesterle is a restricted free agent at the end of the year.
D Griffin Reinhart
Age: 22 | Years Pro: 3
Acquired: Trade June 2015
AHL Stats: 92 GP – 9 G – 23 A – 32 PTS
Reinhart is arguably the Oilers’ biggest prospect on defense but has become somewhat of a project. The 22-year-old could emerge as a legitimate top four NHL defenseman but has struggled to put it all together since turning pro.
When Reinhart was re-assigned to Bakersfield during the pre-season, the Oilers brass wanted Reinhart to mature and have a big year in the AHL before becoming an NHL regular. For what it’s worth, Reinhart finished the year in Edmonton last year and should have been ready for third-pairing minutes this season but had a terrible training camp and was sent down.
There is still a player in Reinhart; he’s far from damaged goods. The expectations need to be lowered from Shea Weber comparables to something more realistic and genuine to his skill set. He’s played in 87 NHL games scoring 23 points but right now getting significant top-pairing minutes in the AHL is the best thing for his development.
It’ll be a longer learning process for Reinhart, but if it all comes together the Oilers could make the expensive deal they made to acquire him look not quite as bad. (The first round pick the Oilers traded was used by the Islanders to take forward Mathew Barzal.) Similar to Oesterle, injuries will eventually open up a door for Reinhart. It’s his choice if he can kick the door down or not.