With the losses of scorers Alexandre Giroux, Brad Moran, Liam Reddox, and Colin McDonald - and the promotion of Linus Omark - the Barons are looking to fill a big void on offense. While I was a bit wary up until last week, the Barons preseason game against the Houston Aeros did much to ease any worries I had. Many of the young guys came to play, and while it was a game against a second-string Aeros club, it showed a lot of promise for this coming season.
With the news yesterday of the release of Ryan O`Marra, Ryan Keller, Josh Green, Teemu Hartikainen, and the suprising , to me anyway, release of Gilbert Brule from Edmonton training camp, the Barons are stocked with their veteran leadership for the rest of training camp. Coach Todd Nelson has a full week to prepare with his full lineup, and he'll be able to lay out his strategy for the Barons' opener against the Texas Stars this coming weekend - a far cry from the couple of days Todd Nelson was given last year to throw lines and tactics together.
Ryan Keller joins the Barons after spending last season captaining the Calder Cup-winning Binghamton Senators. Scoreless in four preseason games with the Oilers, Keller had a +1 rating. In 71 games with Binghamton last season, Keller had 32 goals and 19 assists. The interesting aspect I find with Keller is that he picked up the scoring pace in the playoffs last season and scored 10 goals and 15 assists in 23 games. With the dearth of Barons' offense in last season's Calder Cup Playoffs, I hope Keller's addition helps change that for this year. I also find it interesting that the Barons will have both captains from the two previous Calder Cup-winning teams, with Bryan Helmer winning the Cup as captain with the Hershey Bears in 2009-10.
Josh Green returns to the Oilers' organization after spending three years with the Oilers from 2000-03. Since then he has played in four different organizations, and has made stops in Sweden and Austria. Last year with the Ducks organization, Green played 69 games with the Syracuse Crunch, scoring 15 goals and adding 31 assists. Green also gained a call-up to the Ducks and was held scoreless in 12 games with Anaheim. Green scored two goals in three preseason games with Edmonton.
Cameron Abney makes his professional debut this season after playing with the Edmonton Oil Kings last season. The 6'4" winger had his best year points-wise last season, scoring seven goals and 13 assists in 60 games. Abney played in the Barons' preseason game, and logged his first fight in a Barons jersey. He may be considered one of the bubble players to be sent to Stockton.
Curtis Hamilton will also make his professional debut after a brief appearance with the Barons at the end of last season. Scoreless in the Barons preseason game, Hamilton logged an assist in one of his two preseason games with the Oilers. Hamilton spent last season with the Saskatoon Blades, scoring 26 goals and 56 assists in 62 regular season games, and added four goals and seven assists in 10 playoff games. Hamilton also scored four goals in seven games with the Canadian U-20 team last season. It'll be interesting to see where Hamilton is placed in the lineup, possibly with Mark Arcobello and Tyler Pitlick.
Scoring two of the Barons' four goals in the preseason game, Tyler Pitlick made a good impression. He worked well with Mark Arcobello, and may be one of the top guns this season. He spent last season with the Medicine Hat Tigers and scored 27 goals and 35 assists in 56 games. I'm definitely looking forward to what Pitlick is able to bring this season.
Rumored to have earned an Oilers contract, Ryan Martindale joins the Barons after spending last season with the Ottawa 67's. He got progressively stronger on the scoresheet during his time with the 67s and tallied his career-bests with 34 goals and 49 assists in 65 games last season. Martindale scored one goal in the Barons preseason win. Considered to be a sleeper prospect, Martindale is probably the most intriguing new player this season for me.
Antti Tyrvainen isn't much of a scorer, but he brings some much-needed muscle to the Barons. The Barons lacked hard-checking players last season, but Tyrvainen is a good choice to remedy that this season. Tyrvainen makes his North American debut after spending his playing career in Finland. Last season with the Pelicans club, Tyrvainen had 14 goals and nine assists in 52 games and added 186 penalty minutes. He's definitely an agitator that I can't wait to see.
Both Hunter Tremblay and Tanner House spent time with the Barons last year and both return this season. Tremblay was held scoreless in three regular season games, but scored a goal in the postseason. House played in six regular season games and scored a goal and added four assists, and played in one playoff game.
Newly signed to a tryout agreement, Triston Grant spent last season with the Rochester Americans. Playing in 56 games, Grant scored seven goals and six assists while adding 144 penalty minutes. Adding some more muscle, I'm interested to see where he fits in the lineup, if he is with the Barons for an extended stay.
There's a lot of young talent on the Barons this season, and I'm excited about the possibilities. There will be some tough decisions when Todd Nelson makes his choices on who to send to Stockton, or other places.
This week, the Barons continue their training camp as they prepare for their season opener in Cedar Park, TX. The Barons will take on the Texas Stars on Sunday, with a 5 pm Central (4 pm Mountain) puck drop. A good warm-up before the Oilers opener against the Penguins. I will be making the trip down, and will be live-tweeting the game, with a full report on Monday.