Welcome to West Division Wednesdays, where we each week we will take a look at one of the Checkers' division rivals. The focus this week is on the Oklahoma City Barons, affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers.
The Barons forwards brought a lot of scoring to the table last season, finishing seventh overall in goals for, but with some key departures, they could be searching for more. Roman Horak led the team in goals (23) and points (32), but bolted for the KHL
this offseason when he wasn’t offered a one-way deal, and the flashy Linus Omark
was dealt midseason. AHL veteran Matthew Ford and second year player Andrew Miller will be expected to pick up that slack on the offensive end, while Anton Lander and Mark Arcobello should establish themselves as the top-tier scorers on the team. Lander is a solid two-way player with excellent playmaking skills, and Arocbello showed he has some elite scoring ability at the AHL level, registering 28 points (10g, 18a) in just 15 games this past season. The Barons also added some veteran leadership in the midseason acquisition of the gritty Steve Pinizzotto, a strong player
who will grind and get under the opponents skin, and Jason Williams
, who has 704 career AHL and NHL games under his belt, but spent the last two seasons in Switzerland and is an uncertainty in regards to scoring output.
Brad Hunt exploded offensively this year
, with his 50 points (11g, 39a) landing him fifth in scoring among defensemen in the league. He was an important piece on a power play unit that ranked third in the AHL and was a catalyst to the Barons securing the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Along with Hunt, Taylor Fedun provided some offensive clout to the blue line, chipping in 38 points (10g, 38a), good for 11th in the AHL among defensemen. But while the Barons had no shortage of firepower from their D, it was their defense that struggled heavily, surrendering the third most goals against in the league, a figure that all but negates their impressive scoring output. The good news for the Edmonton organization is that their system is deep
with young, talented defensemen, like the physical David Musil and the 6’5” well-rounded Martin Gernat. The difficulty for Oklahoma City is that the development of these young players leaves them susceptible to the inflated goals against numbers they suffered last year. But another pro year under their belts should help Musil and Gernat, along with other prospects like Oscar Klefbom and Brandon Davidson.
Richard Bachman was a constant in goal for the Barons, ranking second in minutes and tied for first in games played. Bachman has proven himself to be a consistent player at this level, and despite having a somewhat down year number-wise, he will provide stability to a very young collection of skaters.
There isn’t a lot of certainty with the Edmonton Oilers, meaning that more Barons could find themselves with a shot at the NHL. But OKC still possesses strong scoring depth, both up front and on the blue line, and if they can improve their defensive game and get a strong year from Bachman, the Barons could continue to be a gritty team that grinds out wins and is tough to play.