Last Thursday (Sept. 8), Justin Bailey signed a one-year American Hockey League (AHL) contract with the Bakersfield Condors, just one day after reportedly signing a professional tryout contract (PTO) with the Edmonton Oilers. The 27-year-old right wing, who has spent the last few years in the Vancouver Canucks organization, will look to showcase his abilities during Oilers training camp and prove in the preseason that he belongs on their roster.
While odds are long that Bailey cracks Edmonton’s 2022-23 season-opening lineup, it wouldn’t be unprecedented. Previous Oilers’ PTO signings include success stories like Alex Chiasson, who scored 22 goals in 2018-19 after coming to Edmonton on a PTO.
Related: Oilers’ Most Successful PTO Signings
Bailey hails from Buffalo, was a second-round draft pick by his hometown Buffalo Sabres in the 2013 NHL Draft, stands 6-foot-4, and weighs 214 pounds. Here are four other things to know about the new Condor and Oilers hopeful:
Bailey Has Athletic Genes
Bailey’s father, Carlton Bailey, had a decade-long career in the National Football League (NFL), playing 140 regular season and 17 playoff games, with stints on the Buffalo Bills, New York Giants, and Carolina Panthers.
The linebacker was part of some tremendous teams, getting to at least the divisional round of the NFL Playoffs seven times. He was also with the Bills for the first three of their four consecutive trips to the Super Bowl in the early 90s. In the AFC Championship game on Jan. 12, 1992, Carlton intercepted Hall-of-Fame quarterback John Elway and ran into the endzone for Buffalo’s only touchdown in a 10-7 victory over the Denver Broncos.
Justin’s parents separated when he was young, and the future NHLer was raised by his mother with help from his grandmother and grandfather.
Bailey was Born on the First of July
Bailey was perhaps destined to play hockey, given he was born on Canada’s 128th birthday, July 1, 1995. Canada Day has long been one of the NHL’s biggest days; until the last couple of years when the COVID-19 pandemic threw the calendar out of whack, as the start of free agency traditionally fell on July 1.
Bailey has yet to be involved in a transaction on Canada Day. But in a fun twist that warrants an exploding head emoji, the American did once celebrate his nation’s birthday, Independence Day, with a new contract, when he signed a one-year, two-way deal with the Canucks on July 4, 2019. Yes, that’s right: The American born on Canada’s birthday signed with a Canadian team on America’s birthday.
Bailey Has Previously Been Teammates With Nurse
Bailey spent the majority of his Ontario Hockey League (OHL) career with the Kitchener Rangers, but in his final season of major junior, he was dealt to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. With a lineup that included Darnell Nurse, Edmonton’s first-round pick in the 2013 Draft who has since become a star blueliner for the Oilers, the Greyhounds were loading up for a run at the championship.
Bailey helped Sault Ste. Marie cruise through the first two rounds of the OHL Playoffs, as the Greyhounds authored back-to-back sweeps of the Saginaw Spirit and Guelph Storm. But in the Western Conference Final, they ran into a player that Oilers fans might be familiar with, Connor McDavid, who led his Erie Otters to a 4-2 victory over the Greyhounds.
McDavid, of course, was drafted first overall by the Oilers and immediately made the jump to the NHL while Bailey turned pro and made his NHL debut with the Sabres in 2015-16. That same season Nurse became a full-time NHLer with the Oilers. Now, some seven and a half years later, here they are all in Edmonton.
Bailey Hasn’t Scored an NHL Goal in Over Four Years
In 82 career NHL regular season games, Bailey has just five goals. The last time he scored in the NHL was on March 10, 2018, for the Sabres against the Vegas Golden Knights, putting the puck past Marc-Andre Fleury.
Bailey’s current scoreless streak in the NHL is 34 games, spread over parts of four seasons. He hasn’t scored a goal with either of his last two NHL teams, the Philadelphia Flyers and the Canucks. He is, however, a proven scorer at the minor league level. He has 111 goals in 296 career regular-season AHL games, including 15 in 30 appearances for the Abbotsford Canucks last season.
When the Oilers open their 2022-23 regular season schedule on Oct. 12 (hosting Bailey’s former club, the Canucks), 1,677 days will have passed since he last scored in the NHL. But before the New York native worries about lighting the lamp, he first has to get an opportunity to do so. His quest to do just that begins at Oilers training camp later this month.
Brian is an Edmonton-based sports writer and broadcaster. His experience includes working as a sports reporter for the Edmonton Sun, where he covered the Edmonton Oil Kings 2013-14 Memorial Cup championship season.