Bakersfield Condors coach Gerry Fleming and the rest of his staff will be enjoying the beauty of Jasper National Park in Alberta for the next few days but as a part of taking care of business.
The Condors staff, along with the Edmonton Oilers staff, will be on hand for Edmonton’s annual Development Camp where 36 young prospects, a few who will be in Bakersfield this season, will be participating in numerous on and off-ice activities.
Fleming said the camp, which runs from today through July 5, is sort of get-to-know-everybody affair with some ice time.
“We get the ground work down and basic fundamentals in what Edmonton is trying to accomplish,” he said. “We go over stuff like cooking classes, nutrition hints, how to deal with the media … with all the activities on and off the ice it’s a great opportunity to get to know one another.”
Players at the camp expected to be in Bakersfield include defesemen Ethan Bear (not skating due to injury), Caleb Jones, Ryan Mantha and Ziyat Paigin and forward Joseph Gambardella.
Paigin, Mantha and Gambardella each played a few games for the Condors late last season.
Holes to fill
Today is the first day NHL teams can sign free agents and without a doubt the Oilers will be signing many this summer, some to plug in with the big club and others to fill holes on the farm in Bakersfield.
With four rookie D-men penciled in for Bakersfield as well as Ben Betker and Dillon Simpson, and the possibility of veteran Mark Faye and his $3.6 million salary being back in Bakersfield, only a bit of help (think one more experienced blueliner) is needed on the back end.
Goaltending is pretty much set as well with second-year pro Nick Ellis tabbed to start in Bakersfield.
Rookie Shane Starrett also joins the fray but there are no other pro goaltenders in the pipeline so the Oilers need to acquire another experienced netminder for depth, which is likely to push Starrett to the ECHL.
Up front is the big concern. The Oilers certainly will be looking for a left wing, center and perhaps a right wing to play up there and the holes are much deeper in Bako.
As for top six players, only captain Ryan Hamilton and defenseman-turned forward Joey Laleggia (who has been extended a qualifying offer) fit the bill.
Right winger Jessie Puljujarvi is being projected on many depth charts of being with the Oilers when the season starts but the youngster, who just turned 19 in May, was not yet ready for prime time at the end of the AHL season after being sent down to Bakersfield in January.
It would not be surprising to see Puljujarvi back in Bakersfield this fall, at least for a while, to further hone his game.
“We’re working on them,” Fleming said of the gaps at forward. “Free agency is just starting up. We’re working as hard as we can to fill the holes that need to be filled. We’re going to get guys to fill those holes. There’s always somebody coming up.”
Past and future
Defenseman Griffin Reinhart, who played 84 games with the Condors over the past two seasons, was plucked from the Oilers by the Vegas Golden Knights in last month’s expansion draft.
“Griff made great strides in his game from last season,” Fleming said. “I wish him well and hopefully he can be on the Las Vegas roster when the season starts.”
The Oilers had seven selections in the NHL Entry Draft last month, led by their first-round pick of right wing Kailer Yamamoto (No. 22 overall). But don’t expect to see Yamamoto or any of the other selections in Bako anytime soon. Players are drafted in their 18th year but those drafted out of Canadian Major Junior hockey can not play at the AHL level until age 20.
If Condors fans want to keep tabs on players that might be in Bakersfield soon, keep your eye on 2016 second-round pick Tyler Benson, a left wing for the Vancouver Giants, or fifth-round selection Dylan Wells, a goaltender for the Peterborough Petes. Both will be 20 next year and have signed Entry Level Contracts with the Oilers.
New ECHL affiliate
The Wichita (Kan.) Thunder are the new ECHL affiliate of the Condors. The Oilers sold their previous affiliate, the Norfolk (Va.) Admirals last season. Malcom Cameron is the coach of the Thunder. Expect around five AHL-contracted player to be assigned to the Thunder by the Oilers.