The Edmonton Oilers have reassigned a trio of players to their AHL affiliate, the Bakersfield Condors. Fresh off a 1-0 shootout victory over the Montreal Canadiens, the Oilers sent Jordan Oesterle, Griffin Reinhart and Anton Lander down.
Oesterle made his Oilers season debut against the Canadiens, logging 16:01 in ice-time and had a shot on goal, a hit and two blocked shots. Lander also played against the Canadiens, registering 10:36 ice-time and had a shot on goal. Reinhart didn’t play during his recall.
The trio has done surprisingly well for the Condors, and their returns will bolster one of the most offensively challenged teams in the AHL Pacific Division.
Here’s how their seasons have gone so far:
Lander, 25, has had an up and down season with the organization. After starting the year with the Oilers, Lander was sent down to the Condors, where he went on an offensive tear. The Swedish forward put up an astounding 27 points in 16 games before being recalled by the Oilers on Jan. 19. In that time, he’s played just once.
An unrestricted free agent this summer with a $987,500 cap hit, Lander’s future in Edmonton is in question. He’s been stuck in purgatory, too good for the AHL, not good enough for regular NHL duties.
One of Lander’s best skills is his ability to win faceoffs. Despite his demotion, he’s still the Oilers’ best faceoff man with a 56.1 faceoff percentage (FO%) through 21 games in Edmonton. Mark Letestu (51.8%), Leon Draisaitl (48.9%), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (44.4%) and Connor McDavid (44.3%) are not having nearly as much success as Lander on draws.
If the Oilers continue to struggle on the draw and the Condors fall further out of the playoff race in the AHL Pacific Division, you could see Lander make a return to Edmonton. Until then, he’ll provide the Condors with a veteran AHL top center. Lander has 135 points in 152 AHL games, an impressive 0.89 points-per-game (P/GP) clip.
Reinhart, 23, has been a figure of controversy since being acquired in June 2015 from the New York Islanders. The former fourth overall pick has struggled through his development while several defensemen drafted after him including Morgan Rielly, Hampus Lindholm, Mathew Dumba and Jacob Trouba have taken significant strides.
Reinhart has yet to play a game for the Oilers this season. The organization was quite vocal about their disappointment with his play through the preseason. Then, he got hurt early in the AHL, but his recent recall was entirely based on merit. Reinhart deserved an opportunity to come up after largely being one of the more consistent two-way defenders for the Condors to end the first half of the season.
Sure enough, Reinhart wasn’t likely to play after being recalled on Feb. 4. He’s played 37 NHL games and has just two points, 29 of those games being with the Oilers. With all the injury problems the Oilers have had in their bottom pairing on defense, it wouldn’t be strange to see Reinhart back in Edmonton soon.
He may never become that top-pairing Shea Weber he was projected to be, but there’s still hope Reinhart can develop into a serviceable NHL defender. There’s also belief Reinhart could be left unprotected during the expansion draft. Would the Vegas Golden Knights take a chance on a project defender? Reinhart is a restricted free agent (RFA) this summer with an expiring $863,333 cap hit.
Oesterle, 24, was recalled on Feb. 4, along with Reinhart. He’s been lights out for the Condors this season with 18 points in 24 games, leading all defensemen on the team in scoring. He’s also tied for fourth in team scoring on the Condors with Jujhar Khaira.
An undersized 6-foot 180-pound defenseman, Oesterle has an offensive edge to his game that’s been desirable to the Oilers’ coaching staff. It’s a big reason he’s been recalled to the big club so frequently.
How good has Oesterle been? Spread over the last two seasons, Oesterle has seven goals and 43 points in 68 AHL games. With injuries to Kris Russell, Darnell Nurse and Matthew Benning, Oesterle could find himself back in the conversation. Until then he’ll be a major piece in the Condors push for a playoff spot in the second half.