By the OilKnight 01/03/20
Welcome to the 2020 edition of the Condor Report!
I made a New year’s resolution this year to cover the Bakersfield Condors as much as I can in addition to the all draft eligible prospect stuff I do for a couple of reasons:
For one, there are no Edmonton Oilers prospects in the OHL currently and I miss them. Secondly, you the fans demand more content and I’m all about supply and demand.
So, what I’ll be doing now that I officially have the AHL TV pass is provide you as much content as I can regarding our Edmonton Oilers prospects. In particular, I will be focusing on 5 players specifically: Evan Bouchard, Tyler Benson, Ryan McLeod, Dmitri Samorukov & Kirill Maksimov. The best part too tracking all these guys is they all kind of offer something different in terms of skill-sets. This game though, Samorukov did not play after taking a puck in the face last game apparently.
Bakersfield vs. San Diego 01/03/20 – Condors win 3-2
Game recap: The Condors came out flying scoring 2 goals in just over 2 minutes. The Gulls fought back to tie it 2-2 after controlling the majority of the 2nd period. But, the Condors got a goal in the 3rd and hung on as Stuart Skinner was excellent in this one.
My analysis: I gotta be honest, I wasn’t thrilled with the line combinations (big surprise I know). My BIGGEST issue though is on the Powerplay where it is pretty much a gongshow right now. See, this team is a lot like their parent club in Edmonton. They’re not a great 5 on 5 team. If, they are going to win games they need to be good on special teams. Call-ups have killed their depth especially on D (Jones, Bear, Lagesson & Yamamato up front). But, it appears they still have the pieces to be good on both units but are not utilizing them properly to take advantage of their abilities.
By now you’re probably saying “what does this guy know, he watched one game“. Now, I may not have seen a lot of Condor games this season but I watched all these OHL kids for 4 years before they even got there. I’ve written numerous articles on their strengths & weaknesses over those 4 years for different outlets, and have been around the game my whole life.
In case anyone is not familiar with what Kirill Maksimov is good at (and that includes Jay Woodcroft), take a look at this:
Why is that guy not on your Powerplay? Either the left half wall or playing the bumper position in the middle? My friend Rich on Twitter tells me “they pass way too much on the PP”. Well, that’s because they are all PASS FIRST players on the PP.
Benson – passing playmaker, 7 goals in 30 games. Marody – not a shooter, 5 goals in 26 games. Gambardella, Currie, Logan Day?
If you want to score on the PP you need shooting threats to score on the PP it’s simple. Maksimov is a shooter and has a helluva shot. It is NHL caliber. Why are you not taking advantage of that? And why is Logan Day quarterbacking your powerplay when Evan Bouchard is EASILY the better option and has been doing it for years at a very successful rate?
I hate to be the guy that always questions the coaching staff but come on – it’s common sense. What is he waiting for? The team is 18th in the league and has two LEGIT PP threats that he is choosing NOT to use on the Top unit – in favor of ineffective veterans. That’s my only real beef so far. Maksimov shoots like Ovechkin from the left circle and your PP is struggling….so put him on the PK? Put both Maksimov & Bouchard out there and let them shoot the lights out. It’s 30 games into the season now stop fooling around by creating some imaginary pecking order. Play the best options regardless of age……..period. But Woodcroft is a McLellan disciple and loves his vets….
The Big 5
So, now I’ll give you my breakdown of the 5 main prospects I talked about. I always strive to give un-bias analysis and give you good and bad not sugar-coated. That will vary from game to game depending on their performances obviously. FYI, I wrote articles on the (4 now former) OHL prospects for the Edmonton Journal in the summer, and highlighted the things they needed to work on as they turned to minor pro. You can find those here:
Bouch was terrific all night. He moved the puck extremely well. Was good on retrievals. Showed off his tremendous poise with the puck. Made plenty of good decisions. Led several successful breakouts and defended well. I thought he was the best player on the ice last night. Looked in compete control all game. Helped preserve a one goal lead late with a blocked shot & penalty drawn to ice the clock. Wasn’t overly aggressive, did get beat once trying to stick check but recovered well. Overall, excellent game.
I haven’t watched Benson consistently for a long time admittedly. I didn’t see him much in his draft year as he was hurt for more than half of it & my viewings of him have been sporadic at best since then. What I do know is he isn’t the fastest or toughest player but makes up for it with his hockey IQ, passing & good positioning. That’s pretty much what I saw last night.
Benson is a natural playmaker and exhibits excellent vision and passing ability. That was obvious last night. There were times though, I thought his lack of speed did allow defenders to close the gap quickly. Unable to beat defenders wide, he coughed up the puck a few times along the boards. Board play in general was rather poor. But overall, I thought he had a good game and at this point I’m still not sure how well his game will translate to the NHL. He’s still a wildcard for me. Has he earned a promotion? Absolutely. Will his production translate into a Top 6 role in Edmonton? Still not sure but it’s time to find out me thinks.
To the untrained eye, McLeod is often seen as “had a good game” because he was “flying out there”. I know because I’ve seen and heard it for 4 years. The reality is, the biggest knock on his game is he has speed for miles but doesn’t go hard enough to the net & is viewed as a perimeter player. We saw a few examples of that again last night. Even the scramble at the side of the net he didn’t move his feet just reached from the outside to try and bank it in (though he then passed to Bouch for a goal). Puck died on his stick a few times along the boards when he was checked. Poor decision to skate into middle with two defenders there and shoot from far out when could have fought harder for a better scoring chance. “Settled” for low percentage shots. Still a great skater, defensively responsible but work still needs to be done to get greasier chances. Did show some jam in a couple board battles. Need to see more of that.
The challenges for Maksimov as he turned pro were to constantly be moving his feet and not take dumb penalties. No PIMs last night and I thought he was moving his feet all game. Was aggressive on forecheck & on the backcheck creating several turnovers. Great in puck protection along the boards & keeping pucks alive. Didn’t get many Grade A chances but was around the puck a lot. It appears he is relegated to 2nd PK unit and little to no PP time which is extremely disappointing right now considering how well he is playing at both ends of ice & the natural PP weapon he is. Patience I guess but the skating was a positive for sure. Remember, he was basically out for 5 months from March-August with a knee injury. Seems to back to form now.
As mentioned Dmitri Samorukov was injured and did not play this game. Overall, I thought Bouchard looks to take over as the Top Dman in Bakersfield. Benson appears ready for his NHL call-up. McLeod still has work to do to get greasier, and Maksimov seems to be doing everything right to get more opportunity in an offensive role. Again, it was just one game but now that I have the AHL TV pass, I will continue to provide you the fans updates on all our favourite prospects. Stay tuned!
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