OIL, BARONS SHARING SUCCESS … While the Edmonton Oilers have raced out to the lead in the NHL’s Northwest Division, their AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City is similarly having good early-season fortunes.
After Tuesday afternoon’s 3-1 win over Toronto, the Oklahoma City Barons can boast the league’s best record at 9-2-0-1, good for a .792 points percentage. Their winning streak sits at five, tying a franchise mark for the second-year club, and they have tied Houston for first place in the West Division at 19 points with one game in hand on the Aeros.
Veterans Josh Green (5-7-12) and Ryan Keller (3-7-10), the latter fresh off captaining Binghamton to the Calder Cup last spring, lead Oklahoma City in scoring, but some bright young prospects are shining as well. A pair of 2008 draft picks by Edmonton – Philippe Cornet and Teemu Hartikainen – are showing progress early in their second pro seasons; Cornet leads the Barons with eight goals, already one more than he scored in 60 games as a rookie last season, and Hartikainen has 5-3-8 in 11 outings. Gilbert Brule, a sixth-year pro but still just 24 years old, has 3-3-6 in nine games with Oklahoma City, and Linus Omark has registered five assists in three games since being assigned from Edmonton on Nov. 2.
The pipeline between Oklahoma City and Edmonton is continuing to pay dividends for the Oilers, as defensemen Jeff Petry, Alex Plante and Colten Teubert have all been recalled from Oklahoma City already this season.
ALUMNI WATCH … One month into the 2011-12 season, the steady stream of players making the trip from the AHL to the NHL is in full swing. Through Monday’s action, nearly 84 percent of all players to have appeared in an NHL game this season (623 of 745) had developed their skills in the American Hockey League.
Already this year, NHL teams have iced 132 former AHL All-Stars and 59 former Calder Cup champions. There are 75 players with at least one game played to their credit in both leagues in 2011-12, and 20 AHL alumni have made their NHL debuts this season, most recently Grand Rapids’ Gustav Nyquist (with Detroit), Rochester’s Corey Tropp (Buffalo), Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Robert Bortuzzo (Pittsburgh), Syracuse’s Peter Holland (Anaheim), Toronto’s Ben Scrivens (Toronto) and Hershey’s Cody Eakin, who in his second career game had a goal and an assist and was the game’s first star as Washington defeated Carolina, 5-1, on Nov. 4.
CAPS LOCKED IN … Unfazed by a six-game road trip through New England, the St. John’s IceCaps return home to Newfoundland this week with the best record in the AHL’s Eastern Conference.
After overtime losses in Springfield and Providence on Oct. 29-30, St. John’s won four games last week to finish the trip with 10 of a possible 12 points. At 9-2-3-0, the IceCaps have a conference-leading .750 points percentage and have already a built an eight-point lead over the Bruins atop the Atlantic Division.
The IceCaps, who spent most of the road trip with goaltender Peter Mannino and defensemen Paul Postma, Brett Festerling and Mark Flood all on NHL recall to the parent Winnipeg Jets, are now 6-0-2-0 on the road for the season. St. John’s begins a six-game homestand when Connecticut visits Mile One Centre this Saturday and Sunday.
SCHOOL DAYS … This week’s AHL schedule has four school-day matinees – in Hamilton, Oklahoma City, Manchester and Grand Rapids. Fourteen AHL clubs have mid-week day games on their home schedules this season, all with late-morning starts geared towards groups of students, teachers and administrators who can turn a trip to the rink into an educational experience.
ETC. … Dan Sexton had a point on nine of Syracuse’s 10 goals over two games last weekend (2-7-9), en route to being named Reebok/AHL Player of the Week… Edward Pasquale was the winning goaltender in all four St. John’s victories last week (4-0-0, 1.95, .926)… Brad Thiessen has won six straight appearances in net for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, stopping 152 of 158 shots over that span (0.99, .962)… Texas’s Tomas Vincour enters the week having scored a goal in five straight games (5-0-5), tied for the longest such streak in the AHL this season; Jon DiSalvatore’s current nine-game point streak for Houston (4-9-13) also matches the league long for the year… Matt Frattin scored his first two professional goals in Toronto’s 6-2 win at Houston on Nov. 6; he was recalled by the parent Maple Leafs two days later… On recall from Adirondack, 2011 AHL All-Rookie defenseman Erik Gustafsson logged a team-high 23:00 of ice time and was a plus-6 in Philadelphia’s 9-2 win over Columbus on Nov. 5… Portland was credited with 25 shots in the first period of its 4-1 win at Manchester on Nov. 6, one shy of the franchise record for a single period… Chicago’s 4-1 win in Hamilton on Nov. 8 marked just the second time this season that the Wolves scored more than two goals in a game, but was also the sixth time in their last eight contests that they allowed two goals or fewer… Bridgeport has played seven consecutive one-goal games (4-2-1-0)… After a 1-5-0-0 start, Albany is 5-1-0-1 in its last seven games… Hershey, which begins a three-game homestand on Wednesday, ranks second in the league in home power-play efficiency (9-for-26, 34.6 percent) and second in home penalty killing (20-for-21, 95.2 percent)… Milwaukee made it 22 straight regular-season road games without a regulation loss (15-0-4-3) with a 2-1 win in Peoria on Nov. 5… San Antonio raised $26,000 in a post-game jersey auction following Face Off Against Kids Cancer Night on Nov. 5.