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Thursday, 20 September 2012

Edmonton Oilers: Farm Team Becomes AHL Dream Team

(Vincent Muzik/Icon SMI)
Many NHL teams recently announced which
players would be sent down to the AHL for next season.

As we all know, at this time anyways, there will be no NHL season due to the lockout. That could potentially change at any moment but the way things are looking it will be lasting a long time. 

So, in that case, why not take a look at what is sure to be one of the best teams during the 2012/13 AHL season?

Last season, the Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton Oilers) were the top team in the Western Conference. They finished the year on top of the standings with 99 points. The only other team in the whole league able to better them were the Norfolk Admirals, who led the Eastern Conference with 113 points.

The Barons could easily have broke the 100 point barrier had they closed out the season with more respectable numbers. In their last ten games the team went a measly .500.

Once the playoffs rolled around, the Barons easily cruised to a series win against both the Houston Aeros (Minnesota Wild) and the San Antonio Rampage (Florida Panthers). However, in the conference finals the Barons met their match. The Toronto Marlies (Toronto Maple Leafs).

The team could not put it together and finally bowed out of the AHL playoffs, losing the series four games to one. Nonetheless, advancing that far in the postseason definitely puts them into the upper echelon of the league. That can not be contested, even without the cast of players they are going to receive from the Oilers.

The Oilers have announced Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and new defenseman Justin Schultz have all been assigned to the Barons, along with 23 other players. Those three named automatically make the Barons much better.

Eberle is coming off a breakout season which saw him reach 76 points in 78 games. Not a bad second season in the NHL at all. In all honestly, Eberle would love to be playing in the NHL this season but knows the AHL still provides him lots of opportunity, he tells Ryan Dittrick of the Edmonton Oilers website.
"Ryan Whitney played in the AHL during the last lockout and he said it was one of the best years in his career. I see it as a good opportunity to improve my game ... and get a winning attitude because we're going to have a good team," Eberle said. "That's something we badly need in our locker room."
There is a possibility that Taylor Hall, the Oilers first overall pick three years ago, could also be joining the three mentioned above. Eberle welcomes the addition but also realizes if it does not happen the team will still be very good, he continues to tell Ryan Dittrick.
"We're going to have some good players down there like Nuge, (Justin) Schultz and, in all likelihood, Hallsy (Taylor Hall) once he gets cleared." 
(The Canadian Press: Larry MacDougal)
As for Nugent-Hopkins, his time spent in the AHL this season may be for the best.

With some questioning his size and strength at the NHL level, this opportunity could be his time to prove them all wrong. Even with a small shoulder injury part way through the year, he was still able to tally 52 points in 62 games. If that is not enough to prove naysayers wrong then what is?

Schultz on the other hand, this will be his first professional season. He was a standout while at the University of Wisconsin playing for the Badgers. It will be interesting however, to see how that translates to the professional level.

With the addition of these superstars, the Barons automatically become a serious contender, yet again, this upcoming season. With the inclusion of multiple scoring threats, they will be a tough team to keep off the scoreboard and an even tougher team to beat.

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