A pair of much-anticipated games finally arrives this weekend as the Oklahoma City Barons, AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, visit Charlotte for the first time this weekend.
Due to the NHL’s ongoing labor stoppage, the game will feature a handful of players who have already enjoyed considerable success at the major-league level. The Checkers have defenseman Justin Faulk, who led the Carolina Hurricanes in ice time per game and made the NHL’s All-Rookie Team at the age of 19 last season, while the Barons will counter with Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – the Oilers’ top three scorers from last season.
The game should prove to be an excellent test to see how the league-leading Checkers (11-3-2) stack up against some of the league’s most talented players.
“We’ll have to take away their time and space,” said Checkers coach Jeff Daniels. “If you stand around watching those guys, they’ll make you pay.”
The Oilers chose Hall (53 points in 61 games last season) and Nugent-Hopkins (52 in 62) with the draft’s No. 1 overall pick in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Meanwhile, Eberle, a first-round pick in 2008, is coming off a breakout 34-goal, 76-point season with the Oilers that saw him earn his first All-Star appearance. So far, they’ve done what one might have expected in their AHL debuts, scoring near or above a point per game.
If that wasn’t enough, defenseman Justin Schultz, who the Oilers signed as a free agent this summer, makes it a Big Four. In his first professional action following a three-year career at the University of Wisconsin, Schultz has 21 points in 15 games to lead all AHL players.
“I can’t wait,” said the Checkers’ Zac Dalpe when asked about the upcoming games. “The guys on that team, you want to see how you go up against them.”
That includes a handful of established players from last season’s Barons team, including reigning AHL Goalie of the Year Yann Danis, which captured the No. 1 playoff seed in the Western Conference.
“We’ve got to be smart with the puck because they’ve obviously got some really skilled players,” said Daniels. “It’s not even just the guys you hear about – there are some players from last year that played well against us too.”
Here is a list of promotions to go along with this weekend’s games: