Before the 2011-12 season got into full swing, I didn't know anything about Hunter Tremblay. No one talked about him, and I don't think I am far off to say that he wasn't really a prospect of interest. He started the year off as a 25 year old without any buzz, which would usually mean that the player is destined to be an AHL lifer in the vast majority of cases, especially in the cases, like Tremblay's, when the player in question has never had an NHL cup of coffee.
Normally, when a winger posts .46 ppg in his first full AHL season as an older, not highly-touted prospect, he isn't in the discussion for NHL employment. What's interesting about Tremblay, though, is his skill set and how that skill set could fit into the Oilers.
When Tremblay is talked about, he is most often mentioned in the same breath as the Barons' PK: Tremblay managed to 5 of his 16 goals shorthanded, which is an impressive percentage in any league. Furthermore, when Tremblay was out of the line-up for the Barons, most notable in the playoffs, the Barons' PK effectiveness took a noticeable dip. There is not a lot of information available for AHL advanced statistics, but from my reading of the OKC guys' write-ups, it seems that Tremblay is an excellent penalty killer, and could perhaps be considered OKC's best forward short-handed.
By my memory, Tremblay also scored several empty net goals this year--not an impressive statistic on its own, but think about the game situation that a player would need to be on the ice for to get an empty-net goal. Tremblay was trusted by his coach to be on the ice for the dying seconds of a game when the team was up by one or two, meaning that Tremblay was entrusted to protect leads by playing a defense-first style of hockey. Like on the PK, Tremblay was effective as clearing the zone and sometimes even scoring, as evidenced by the empty-net goals.
Tremblay's .46 ppg AHL pace puts him at about .2 in the NHL (if you accept that the NHLE for the AHL is .44), which translates to 16 or 17 points over a full 82 game season. I would argue that Tremblay's NHL point totals might even be likely to be a few points higher, because he would be playing in similar NHL situations as he was in the AHL, while a lot of players who make the jump from the AHL or CHL to the NHL see a reduction in the overall or at least PP TOI, which should lower their point totals to a more significant extent than a player like Tremblay's totals should be lowered.
Taking a look at the current Oilers' roster, there is one player that seems to have a skill set quite similar to Tremblay: Lennart Petrell. I believe that Petrell plays more physically, but he is a 4th line player who is viewed as an effective penalty killer, though I don't believe we ever saw him in the last few minutes of a tight game. In the 2011-12 season, Petrell scored nine points in 60 games, which translated to about 12 points over a full 82 game season. Petrell was -10 on a team that was -26, while Tremblay was +14 (the best Barons' forward, Keller, was +22).
Is Hunter Tremblay a more attractive fourth line option for the Edmonton Oilers than Lennart Petrell? Based on the fact that the team didn't do great with Petrell on the ice, even though he seemed to be really low event, I think they can at least take the chance to give Tremblay a shot in a Petrell-like role. Petrell was only on the third unit PK, and I would throw Tremblay in on the second unit instead of Smyth next year to give Smyth more breathing time (if Jones slots in on the first unit PK). Make him earn the job out of training camp, but put him in a place to succeed and give him a real look. At the very least I'd like to see him given a shot as a bottom six call-up option. With his contract being up, the Oilers have to make a decision on him soon. Here's hoping they decide to renew him for a year or two and give him a real shot to make the club in 2012-13 as an improvement over Lennart Petrell.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this FanPost are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or position of the staff.