by Lisa McRitchie on 12/21/11 at 02:00 AM ET
While the Edmonton Oilers have been struggling as of late to find wins, their AHL and WHL affiliates have found themselves in the exact opposite situation. The Oilers have still played some exciting hockey, and of course the future looks bright but while the Oilers are falling towards the bottom of the NHL, the Barons are sitting on top of the AHL, and the Oil Kings’ strung together 11 wins before their Christmas break.
The hottest Oil in Edmonton, not just the other Oil in town did lose their final game before the WHL Christmas break, but prior to that had strung together 11 points. The team is currently first in their division (Central) and third in the WHL.
In the AHL, the Barons are leading the league with 42 points and this is only the team’s second team of existence. Although the team is not made up of all Oilers’ prospects and signings, there are some unexpected names leading the team in points namely Philippe Cornet and Gilbert Brule. Brule was assigned to the AHL after a illness riddled season and a summer filled with trade rumours and rumbings. So far this season, Brule has played 25 of 30 games and has accumulated 8 goals and 10 assists. Although I don’t anticipate a Brule call-up in the immediate future it’s excellent to see that Brule is starting to play with more consistency and more importantly staying relatively healthy and in game shape.
Cornet in a left winger who is in his second year in the AHL and at the age of 21 will still have opportunities to try to crack an NHL lineup, even the Oilers’ lineup in his future. Cornet would also be another excellent call-up should the Oilers find themselves shorthanded. Of course the Oilers will likely run out of defencemen long before forwards.
There is of course also Magnus Paajarvi who would love to be called back up to the NHL should a roster spot open up once again. If you take a quick look at the Oil Patch banner, I’m sure you can tell that I am a bit of a Paajarvi fan and so I of course wish him well in his development. While playing with the Oilers this season, Paajarvi saw limited ice team on the bottom lines and struggled to find his scoring touch; Paajarvi was goalless in 25 games.
Instead of feeling depressed or cast of by the Oilers with his assignment to the Barons, Paajarvi has had nothing but positive things to say. After all, this assignment is to a winning team where Paajarvi will see plenty of ice time. In his first game with the Barons, Paajarvi scored the game winning goal in the shootout and is of course looking to score more.
In an open an honest interview with Jason Gregor of the Team 1260 on Monday afternoon, Paajarvi talked about what it meant to him to be playing in the AHL. If you have ten minutes, it’s well worth your time. Gregor also commented on his interview in an article he wrote today for Oilers Nation.
On playing in Edmonton with the Oilers to start the season Paajarvi was quick to proclaim “The situation that I had, wasn’t the best for me I think.” And ultimately of course Paajarvi is right. Paajarvi had ample learning opportunities on and off of the ice with the Oilers’ vets, but players need playing time.
With Paajarvi’s skills as well as SEL and NHL experiences, he is a valued addition to the Barons’ roster. At the same time, Paajarvi knows that a lot of people are watching him. “I have to be smart here. Sure I could have been on the 4th line or in the pressbox for the whole year, but I don’t think that would do anything good for me compared to coming down here, play a lot of minutes and really develop.”
Paajarvi isn’t sure how long he will be in OKC “Anything can happen, there could be an injury in warmup in Edmonton today, or there could be no injuries for a lot of weeks. I could be playing well, or not so well down here. There are so many situations I can’t think about them so I just need to go out and do my best here. It is all up to me and I’m going to do everything in my power to get back up there.” Paajarvi told Gregor. It’s interesting that he brings up the injury during warmup as that is something that has happened to the Oilers already this season with Darcy Hordichuk who aggravated a groin injury.
“I want to be a big impact, and if you look a couple of years ahead I think that this is the best for me.” Paajarvi went on to say. Of course he also added that “I want to be really, really good in the NHL for sure.” If Paajarvi can maintain his healthy positive attitude and work on his game through playing games this assignment is the exact opposite of a demotion.
“The most important thing for me, I think is to play,” Paajarvi reiterated. “There’s a lot of things that I need to work on and that I need to be better at, but the most important thing is to play, I think. And that’s when you can look at things after that. Right now I think that playing time is the number one thing.”
Playing in the AHL will give Paajarvi new experiences and once his fellow Swede Linus Omark returns to the lineup from his ankle injury I expect to see the two reunited as another potential line combination. Omark will not return before the new year, but perhaps having a good friend close at hand will help both players.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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