On Friday morning, the Edmonton Oilers announced that they had signed forward Justin Bailey to a one-year, two-way contract. The 27-year-old, who attended Oilers training camp on a professional tryout offer, has been playing this season with the Bakersfield Condors on an American Hockey League (AHL) deal.
Bailey has proven to be a positive asset with the Condors, which clearly caught the eye of both Oilers management and the coaching staff. In 16 games this season, he has managed four goals and 10 points, rather impressive totals given the Condors’ struggles to find the back of the net in 2022-23. And, while at this point, he appears to be organizational depth, there is plenty to like about his game if you are an Oilers fan.
Bailey Has NHL Experience
Despite the fact that he wasn’t able to earn a contract an NHL contract out of training camp this fall, Bailey does have previous experience in the league. Just last season, he was able to appear in 14 games with the Vancouver Canucks, and he’s also suited up for NHL games with the Philadelphia Flyers, as well as the Buffalo Sabres.
Overall, Bailey has suited up for 82 regular season games over his career, notching five goals and nine points, along with 18 penalty minutes. While he hasn’t yet been able to make his mark offensively at the NHL level, he has shown throughout his lengthy time in the AHL that he does have skill in his game.
As far as his assets, his biggest may be his size, as he stands at a massive 6-foot-4, 214 pounds. Despite that large frame, he is known as a quick skater who possesses a heavy shot, which is a big reason he has recorded three 20+ goal seasons in the AHL.
What bodes well for Bailey with his speed, size, and shot is that all three are important capabilities for a player in a bottom-six role at the NHL level. Luckily enough for him, the Oilers have struggled immensely in that area this season, causing many to suggest general manager Ken Holland needs to make a trade. While a deal may still ultimately occur, perhaps this signing means they want to see what Bailey can do first before exploring the trade market.
Bailey Comes from an Athletic Family
Though not a pure correlation in terms of his hockey skill, Bailey’s athletic genes appear to run in the family. His father, Carlton Bailey, played as a linebacker in the National Football League from 1988-1997, which included stints with the Buffalo Bills, New York Giants, and the Carolina Panthers.
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Carlton was able to play in the first three of four straight Super Bowl appearances by the Bills and is best remembered for a play in the 1992 AFC Championship Game in which he intercepted Denver Broncos’ John Elway and returned the ball for a touchdown.
Opportunity There for the Taking
As mentioned, one of the weaknesses of this Oilers team, as it has been for many years in the past, is their bottom-six up front. They simply don’t get enough contributions from those players in order to support the top guns such as Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, and while Holland has attempted to fix that, it hasn’t yet gone as planned.
Players like Warren Foegele, Jesse Puljujarvi, Devin Shore, James Hamblin, and even youngster Dylan Holloway, amongst others, haven’t provided the necessary secondary scoring for this Oilers team to be winning games on a consistent basis. One positive in that regard, however, has been the recent emergence of Klim Kostin, a big body who has some offensive skill. Perhaps Bailey can step into this lineup in the near future and provide a similar impact. The opportunity certainly appears to be there in order to do so.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.