The Oklahoma City Barons have started the season with a great deal of optimism, starting the season with a 4-3-0 record through seven games. Some highlights, some low lights, but all in all some promising results from many of the Edmonton Oilers top prospects.
The highlights of the season early on lay mainly in the form of Justin Schultz. Schultz has been exctly as advertised. A smooth skating, puck moving defenseman that has an excellent sense of when to join the play. As of now, is the AHL leader in scoring with 12 points in 7 games, for a defenseman, which is unheard of. Schultz has not only been a catalyst on the offense but has been fairly reliable in his own end for the most part as he is also 2nd on the team in plus/minus with a +4 rating.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle have come up to speed in the AHL after a slow opening weekend. Nugent-Hopkins is 2nd on the team in scoring with 8 points in 7 games while Eberle has 6 points in 7 games. It has been a learning curve for both youngsters but both have assumed leadership roles and look to keep improving. I have little doubt they will be two of the best offensive players in the AHL in short order. Eberle is sitting with a -2 rating while Nugent-Hopkins is at an even rating.
Magnus Paajarvi is sitting with 6 points through 7 games while fellow countryman Anton Lander is held pointless thus far this season. Paajarvi is getting a more offensive role with powerplay time while Lander has taken on a more defensive role. Despite being held pointless, Lander has managed a +2 rating.
Another surprise player this season has been 2010 2nd round pick, defenseman Martin Marincin. Marincin has been paired mainly with Justin Schultz and has 4 points with a team high +5 rating. By the looks of the early results this season, Marincin and Schultz may have a future together as a pairing at the NHL level.
Word has come down today that Taylor Hall will be ready for his first game with the Barons on Friday night. It will give the Barons another offensive weapon on a team blessed with offensive abilities. Hall is recovering from shoulder surgery last April.
Todd Nelson has been hard on his team for having an affinity for playing soft in spots throughout the early part of the season. While the youngsters have great deal of offensive potential, they do not have a lot of physical ability, and its that physical ability that has cost them some games this season. The Oilers organization as a whole continue to overlook this part of the game and its something that Coach Nelson will have to work around.