So, in keeping with the theme of the season, Brandon Davidson (perhaps our best defender as of late) is out with an injury, and Klefbom has yet to return to skating.
That leaves the NHL club with Sekera, Clendening, Pardy, Nurse, Nikitin, and Fayne. We can assume Sekera-Fayne will continue as a pairing, but even if the Oilers tempt fate and keep Nikitin on the ice, they need a 7th defenseman for when something goes wrong. Now, although there’s no right-hand D on the Condors, there’s a few defensemen who are an option to be called up.
In no particular order, here are the Condors’ defensemen: Brad Hunt, Joey LaLeggia, Jordan Oesterle, Dillon Simpson, David Musil and Griffin Reinhart. These are who the Oilers have to pick from. So, the question is, who gets the recall?
Brad Hunt – He’s 27, 5’9, 187lbs, a left shot, and he’s putting up his usual crazy AHL totals of 32 points in 42 games, but his scoring has never translated to the NHL, and his defensive game is a little on the tire fire side. We can leave him down there.
David Musil – He’s a big kid at 6’4 203lbs, and he’s only 22, but he’s still a little on the thin side for his height, so he’s not overly physical. On the plus side, he’s been logging time on the right side this year, but he’s more of a 3rd pairing shutdown body at this point, which isn’t what the Oilers need to look at right now (10 points in 51 games).
Dillon Simpson – 6’2, 197lbs, 23 years old, another ok prospect who’s doing decent work down with the Condors, but he doesn’t provide much that would be different from Musil. Offense isn’t his game, he’s another guy who’d be a 3rd pairing player by his projection right now.
Griffin Reinhart – We know him well, and at 22, 6’4, 212lbs, he has the size to be physical. He’s able to come up and play 3rd pairing time, sure, and he has decent hands (9 points in 27 AHL games), and if the Oilers wanted a steady body to come up and play for Davidson, he’s a logical choice. However, he’s also not providing a new dimension, simply more of the same.
Jordan Oesterle – 23, 6’0, 182lbs, able to play the right side, and he did well in his 4-game audition earlier this year alongside Davidson. In the AHL this year, he’s put up 22 points in 41 games, showing he has some scoring flair (although it should be noted this is an aberration in his career so far, and his 1 point in 4 NHL games seems more on par). He’s a slick 3rd pairing defenseman who showed well in his audition, and there’s a very good chance he’ll be the recall, however, once again, he’s more of the same on this club.
Joey LaLeggia – 23, 5’10, 185lbs. Yes, he’s not physical. Yes, he’s not all that big. He is not a shutdown guy, and he is not a physical force on the ice. However, what he does have is true puck skills and the ability to run a power play and produce numbers, at least at every other level he’s played at. He was a Hobey Baker trophy runner-up, and unlike Brad Hunt is capable of playing defense with speed and positioning. His AHL numbers aren’t out of this world, but in his first full AHL season he has 23 points in 47 games, and during his time at the University of Denver he had 132 points in 156 games, putting up 40 points in 37 games his final season. What LaLeggia provides is someone who may be able to run a power play and get shots on net, which LaLeggia can do. In his final college season, he had 15 goals and 25 assists. In the AHL this year, he has 7 goals and 16 assists. What you can take from that is he’s able to hit the net consistently, or his assist to goal ratio would be quite a bit higher. He’s someone with a dimension to his game the Oilers need, and he should be the call-up.
Now, if we do bring him up, how do we use him? We can assume the first pair will remain Sekera-Fayne, not much doubt there. The rest of the pieces have been in flux, but let’s put Nikitin back on the bench. That leaves us Clendening, Pardy, LaLeggia and Nurse. Now this is where it gets a little iffy. By default, you wouldn’t want to put a fresh AHL call-up with another fairly new player such as Nurse, so that leaves us trying out the pairing of Nurse-Clendening as the 3rd pairing. That means we’re putting LaLeggia in with Pardy on what could very well be the second pairing, and I’ll be the first to say, yes, this is a risk.
So, I’m going to suggest instead that Pardy-Nurse play together as the second pairing. This is a step up for Nurse, and one of the two is going to be playing on their right side, but at this time of the year, you might as well see what guys are capable of. That leaves us with a 3rd pairing built for heavy offensive zone starts and power play duty in LaLeggia and Clendening. Now, I’ll be the first to say this is not a defensive zone pair, and they’re not going to set the world on fire with their shutdown ability. However, they might be a deadly duo on the power play, and at 5 on 5 their ability to get the puck up the ice may trigger some interesting options.
There’s my pick folks, Joey LaLeggia. Let’s see if Joey can breathe some life into our power play for the first time in, oh, this season