While the NHL lockout drags on, a good portion of the Minnesota Wild’s skaters are playing for the AHL affiliate Houston Aeros. That team jumped out to an impressive start, but has cooled off in the last week thanks to injuries to players like Mikael Granlund and Jonas Brodin.
Another team that has a lot of NHL talent on its roster is the Edmonton Oilers’ affiliate, the Oklahoma City Barons. The stars are certainly shining down in the Sooner State–the Barons have three of the top 10 scorers in the AHL right now. Justin Schultz is first in the league with (7+11=18) and Jordan Eberle is right behind with (6+10=16) at second place, with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the mix as well with (5+9=14), good enough for eighth place.
However, the difference between the Aeros and Barons is that Oklahoma City might have to change their usage patterns if they continue to play as good as they have been. Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins both have almost a full year of NHL experience under their belt, so the Barons might decide that they need to focus on developing their other prospects. Eberle and RNH have been seeing over 20 minutes of ice time per game, and that number might have to come down in the coming weeks so other skaters who need the experience more can get their time in.
The Aeros do not have the same problem, and they can continue to give top minutes to the likes of Granlund, Jason Zucker, and Charlie Coyle. Zucker has a mere 6 games of NHL experience, and Granlund and Coyle have yet to don a Wild sweater. So while the Barons face a unique kind of Catch-22 where their stars might play so well that they actually get reduced minutes, the Aeros can keep sending out their top guys night after night to get valuable experience and develop chemistry.