When people complain about the Edmonton Oilers, they often say that the team just doesn't have enough NHL players. Well, the Springfield Falcons didn't have enough AHL players. It seemed like they were signing some schmuck to a PTO every week just to have enough players to strap on the pads and keep Cody Wild in the press-box. But as the season drew to a close many of the Oilers' best prospects had their first (or second) taste of pro hockey. After the jump, we'll take a look at how each of them performed in this small sample of games to end the season.
Games played - Eleven
Falcons' record and GD - 2-5-4 and -13 (+32 -45)
The boxcars - 6G 8A 14P
Those are some fantastic numbers! When we look a little bit deeper there's some good news... and some bad news. The good news is that the majority of his offence came at even strength to the tune of 5 goals and 5 assists in only 11 games. His "traditional" +/- was listed at -2, but that improves to "even" (+10 -10) when we remove SH and EN situations, which is pretty darn good when you see that team number sitting at -13. The bad news is that Eberle was playing in some pretty tremendous luck. Eberle got a point on every single one of the Falcons' goals at EV when he was on the ice (he actually missed one and then got an assist on a goal where he wasn't on the ice). It's great to see that Eberle is driving the offence but that number is going to come down. The other thing that's mildly concerning is Eberle's shot count and shooting percentage. He shot 25% on 24 shots and that's bound to come down but the big concern for me is the shot rate of 2.18 shots per game. If Eberle is able to duplicate that shot rate in the NHL and stay healthy for 82 games, that translates to about 180 shots. Since the lock-out a player has scored 30 goals in a season 180 times (nice symmetry, I know); only 17 of those seasons had the shooter taking 180 shots or less. If Eberle's one really good talent is scoring goals (a nice talent to have), he's going to need to find a way to take more shots than he did in his little AHL audition.
Games played - Eight
Falcons' record and GD - 1-5-2 and -12 (+23 -35)
The boxcars - 0G 3A 3P
His AHL debut was a struggle. He did get some PP time and managed two assists. That part isn't so bad. It's at EV where the real worries begin. His EV +/- (no EN goals or SH goals included) of -8 in eight games is pretty epic. When you consider the Falcons only scored once at EV with Petry on the ice (+1 -9), well, that probably tells us something about where the puck was most of the time. Even if he was taking on the vaunt in the AHL this little run of games (along with a sub-par junior season at MSU in 2008-09) is enough to have me keeping my expectations low. I hope that he becomes a good player in the NHL but I'm not convinced that he absolutely will. At this point, I'm not convinced that he's clearly a better prospect than Alex Plante.
Games played - Three (Two Starts)
Falcons' record and GD - 1-1-1 and +1 (+14 -13)
The boxcars - 63 saves on 69 shots for a .913 save percentage
The Falcons only used two goalies during the month of April, Bryan Pitton and Olivier Roy. Each goalie played in three of the five games with Pitton getting pulled toward the end of one of them. You can see Roy's save percentage above. With the same team in front of him Pitton's save percentage was .760. Now, this is an extremely small sample and certainly doesn't tell us anything conclusive but it sure does confirm what we suspected before! Roy is a legitimate goaltending prospect and Pitton... well, he isn't.
Chris VandeVelde - (#19 on the Top 25 Under 25)
Games played - Two
Falcons' record and GD - 0-1-1 and -3 (+7 -10)
The boxcars - 0G 1A 1P
VandeVelde played in two of the Falcons' last three games before the end of the season (he was scratched from the lineup in the last game which was their third game in three nights). He was +1 in the two games (+2 -1) at EV and also had some time on the PK. There really isn't much to be gleaned from a two-game sample which is probably good because it means he got a nice taste of the pros without any red flags on his performance.