Yesterday, I wrote about the trade that sent Kyle Bigos to the Sharks in exchange for the rights to defenseman Lee Moffie. Moffie hasn't actually signed a contract with the Oilers yet (the Oilers have exclusive negotiating rights until August 15th), but another college graduate has.
Brad Hunt played four years with Bemidji State University from 2008-09 to 2011-12, helping the team to an appearance in the Frozen Four during an impressive freshman season that saw him score 32 points in 37 games. He performed at a similar level in 2009-10, but was less successful offensively in his last two seasons when Bemidji State's schedule got substantially more difficult after joining the WCHA: during his first two seasons, Hunt scored 0.88 points per game compared to 0.62 over his last two.
But even in those last two seasons, Hunt was highly regarded as a college player. Before the 2010-11 season Chris Dilks of Western College Hockey Blog identified Hunt as the strongest component of a weak Bemidji State defense:
The Beavers return a spectacular offensive defenseman in junior Brad Hunt, a power play specialist with a cannon for a shot, who should have a great year. The concern is how the defensemen in the lower pairings will hold up....
Prior to the start of the 2011-12 season, Dilks was impressed enough with Hunt that he chose him as one of two defensemen on his ballot for the pre-season WCHA All-Star Team even though he projected Bemidji State to finish last in the Conference (they actually finished 9th out of 12 teams). Still, at 5'9'' and under 190 pounds, Hunt was going to be in tough to get an NHL contract straight out of college even if he was a dominant at that level; very good simply wasn't going to be good enough.
And so it was that immediately after Bemidji State's season ended in 2011-12 that Hunt signed with the Chicago Wolves of the AHL, appearing in fourteen regular season games and five playoff games for then head coach Craig MacTavish. In those nineteen games, Hunt scored nine points, including four in the five playoff games, earning him a contract with the Wolves for 2012-13, and perhaps more importantly for his long-term career prospects, a residence in MacTavish's long-term memory.
With the NHL lockout on at the start of the 2012-13 season, competition for ice time was fierce. Chris Tanev would be an NHL regular later that season, but began the year with Chicago, and with several other Canuck prospects on the team, Hunt was going to be in tough. He played in just two of the team's first six games before convincing the coach that he belonged as an everyday player, and he would go on to lead the Wolves defense in points and points per game with 33 in 65 games. Fifteen of those points came on the power play, so he was certainly getting offensive opportunities, but he also delivered.
Once the season ended, it seems that the Canucks weren't interested in giving Hunt a two-way deal, which gave the Oilers an opportunity to swoop in and offer Hunt a two-year entry-level contract. He'll turn twenty-five this August, so he's definitely an older prospect and is likely going to be counted on to provide a veteran presence on Oklahoma City's blueline despite the fact that he was technically an AHL rookie last season. I would be surprised to see him get any NHL action in 2013-14, but he'll almost certainly gobble up a lot of the power play time in OKC and relegate one Oiler prospect to the press-box or ECHL to start the year.