The Bakersfield Condors have done a pretty good job developing players for the NHL the past two seasons.
But the playoffs have remained elusive since Bakersfield became the American Hockey League affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers in the 2015-16 season.
Development, as always, remains a primary function of the team, but reaching the playoffs is a priority as well. The Condors feature a number of new players, with many boasting a good amount of AHL experience.
The Condors, who lost 4-1 in Stockton on Friday night, host San Antonio tonight at 6:30 p.m. It's the 2017-18 home opener at Rabobank Arena.
“We have a lot of new faces,” Condors coach Gerry Fleming said. “We’ve got some young guys on the back end, but I like the fact we have a little more depth this year than going into last year.
“We’ve surrounded ourselves with some guys who have won championships. We’ve surrounded ourselves with what we feel is a good corps of veterans who can help our guys along. We’re pretty excited about the season right now.”
Following is a glimpse at five Condors — four of them new to the team — who will be expected to play large roles this season.
Height/Weight: 6-1, 180
Hometown: Millersville, Md.
Acquired: Free agent signing out of Providence College in 2016
Scouting report: Entering his second pro season, Ellis was the final goalie sent to the Condors from Edmonton’s training camp and is looking to improve on a rookie campaign where he finished as Bakersfield’s No. 1 goaltender.
Ellis played in 34 games for the Condors last season, going 16-12-1 with a 2.69 goals-against average and .918 save percentage. He carried the workload for Bakersfield during the second half of last season after Laurent Brossoit left for Edmonton in January.
Coach Gerry Fleming's take: “Nicky came off a pretty good rookie campaign last year. His numbers were good but obviously he’s looking to improve.
“It’s his second year, it’s a big year for him. He’s worked hard this summer on the things he needed to work on: his movement to get to areas quicker and get square to the shooter.”
Height/Weight: 6-1, 205
Hometown: Arlington, Texas
Acquired: Fourth round draft pick by Edmonton in 2015
Scouting report: The rookie defenseman brings impressive credentials into his first pro season, including winning a gold medal playing for Team USA in the Under 20 World Junior Championships over the summer. That, after leading his junior team, the Portland Winterhawks in scoring by defensemen with 62 points (nine goals, 53 assists) in 63 games.
Jones, 20, comes from a solid pedigree: His father, Ronald “Popeye” Jones, played in the NBA for 11 seasons, while his older brother Seth is a defenseman for Columbus in the NHL.
Fleming's take: “He’s coming off a tremendous season. Was one of the top defensemen at the world juniors. He’s a big guy, he’s thick. There’s going to be a learning curve but we like what we see.
“He sees the ice well, he moves the puck, he skates well. He gets the puck to the net from the point. A young guy but a tremendous amount of upside.”
Height/Weight: 5-11, 205
Hometown: Ochapowace, Saskatchewan
Acquired: Fifth round draft pick by Edmonton in 2015
Scouting report: Rookie coming off a standout season to finish junior play as he helped lead the Seattle Thunderbirds to the Western Hockey League championship and was named WHL defenseman of the year after putting up 70 points (28 goals, 42 assists) in 67 games.
Bear upped his offensive output in the WHL playoffs with 26 points in 17 games. He also developed into a solid two-way player in his final junior season, finishing the regular season at a plus-14.
Fleming's take: “Very Similar in play to Caleb. Both their games are underrated defensively. They’re both pretty strong with their sticks positionally, they close time and space quickly, they make guys fight for their ice, they’re competitors.
“Ethan has a bomb for a shot. We’ll use them on the power play. They’re young, but good young prospects the Oilers have in the organization.”
Height and weight: 6-1, 210
Hometown: Miramichi, New Brunswick
History: Fourth round draft pick by Colorado in 2007
Scouting report: Heading into his eighth pro season, Malone brings more than 400 games of experience — 237 in the AHL and 176 in the NHL — to the Condors.
The veteran was signed to a two-year deal by Edmonton over the summer to add depth to the organization. He spent all of last season at the AHL level after playing the previous two seasons full time in the NHL.
Fleming's take: “A guy with a lot of experience in the American Hockey League. He’s a seasoned vet. We’re looking for leadership. Not only off the ice but on the ice.
“We know what he can do on the ice. He’s a versatile guy, we can use him in all situations: killing penalties, on the power player, late in the game, up a goal or down a goal. He’s going to be a big part of our club.”
Position: Right wing
Height and weight: 6-0, 195
Hometown: Calgary, Alberta
History: Second round draft pick by St. Louis in 2011
Scouting report: Signed as a free agent by Edmonton on July 1, the fifth-year pro is looking to regain the scoring touch he displayed when he led the AHL’s Chicago Wolves in scoring with 48 points (31 goals) as a rookie in 2013-14.
Rattie has played in a handful of NHL games (35 total) every season since turning pro. He was waived by the Blues last season and was picked up by Carolina, playing five NHL games for the Hurricanes before being waived again and picked up by the Blues, who then assigned him to Chicago (AHL).
Fleming's take: “A goal scorer. That’s what Ty’s job is, to put the puck in the net. He’s coming off a little bit of an off season last year and I’m sure he wants to redeem himself.
“He’s put big goals on his personal achievements for this year, so hopefully he can reach those goals and help us win.”