Watching Condors games online is nice, and video uploads are a real plus.
But Peter Chiarelli, President of Hockey Operations and General Manager of the Edmonton Oilers, says it’s important to see things up close and personal and that’s just what he was doing last weekend as he was in Bakersfield to watch the Condors in a two-game set against Stockton.
Chiarelli said he tries to come down at least two or three times each season but noted someone from the Oilers management team is usually here every couple of weeks.
“It’s important, these are good prospects,” Chiarelli said of keeping tabs on the Condors, both from afar and up close. “I watch all the games.
“We put Derik Johnson (video coordinator) down here, too. He cuts a lot of video for us so we can see all individual shifts if we want or we can see a condensed game. We all look at it the next day, we meet and talk about the players.
“It makes it a lot easier coming down here when you have that kind of current visualization of what they’re doing right and wrong.”
On Friday night, Chiarelli was paying particularly close attention to 2016 first round (fourth overall) draft pick Jesse Puljujarvi as well as three rookie defensive prospects: Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones and Ryan Mantha.
First, a glance at Puljujarvi, who split time between Edmonton and Bakersfield as a rookie and is here to further develop his game to an NHL-ready status.
From a pure statistical standpoint, Puljujarvi (three assists in seven games) certainly isn’t where most would have expected. After all, he put up 28 points in 39 games with Bakersfield last season.
But at this stage of the season Chiarelli is not worried about the stats.
“His game is cleaner,” Chiarelli said. “He’s making better plays off the defensive wall and the offensive wall. I don’t have any concerns about his offense, he’s a terrific offensive player.
“We told him to come down here and work on the non-glamorous parts of the games, but they’re the essential parts of the game that earn coaches trust. His games are relatively clean, meaning he’s getting the pucks out and making good little plays on the rush. It’s a function of him getting older and more mature and more comfortable.”
Puljujarvi did not score with Chiarelli in the house, but he certainly ramped up his chances. In the first five games of the season he generated just eight shots on goals. He had 16 last weekend.
As for the three rookie defenseman, Bear has shined brightest early in his pro career.
“Bear’s a very efficient player, a very smart, cerebral player,” Chiarelli said. “He’s strong, sometimes he gets caught up in the pace of the game, but he makes a lot of plays.”
Chiarelli said patience will be the key to the development of all three.
“It takes time with these D,” he said. “They’re all smart players. I’m here to see a snapshot and we make the assessment over a longer period of time.”