By Bob Hersom, OKC Barons on 10/15/2010

By Bob Hersom

One person said, “I predict the Barons will look like an entirely different team a week from now.”

Another person said, “The Barons have too much talent to not be good.” Those comments came last weekend, Oct. 9-10, in the Cox Center, where Oklahoma City opened its first American Hockey League season with a pair of losses. 

While it was a disappointing start for the Barons, they had, after all, been together as a team for only one practice before the weekend games. Eight of the 21 Barons who suited up last weekend had stayed with the parent club, the Edmonton Oilers of the NHL, until five days before the AHL opener. Then they faced the 1,800-mile drive from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, to Oklahoma City. 

“We’re going to find out a lot over this week about where we’re at as a team,” Barons coach Todd Nelson said. “All of these guys are learning my systems, of what I like to see, and I’m learning from them, too.” Heading into the second weekend of play - home games on Friday and Saturday nights - the Barons have a number of reasons for optimism.

Here are some:

- Scoring.Yes, scoring, as in goals, even though the Barons scored only twice in their first two games, and both goals came from rookie winger Teemu Hartikainen.

Five other skaters figure to be solid goal scorers for the Blazers. The list is led by Alexandre Giroux, who has led the AHL in goals for two straight seasons.

Giroux, coming in with 309 goals in nine AHL seasons, started this season with no goals in consecutive games. The past two seasons he had only four goal-less stretches of two games or more.

Among other Barons who figure to be good goal scorers this season:

Phillippe Cornet scored 80 goals and 203 points the past three years in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Linus Omark had 43 goals and 91 points the past two years in Europe.

Brad Moran, from 2003-08, had 97 goals and 280 points over four AHL seasons. He played the past two seasons in Sweden.

Liam Reddox, now in his fourth AHL season, was a great scorer in juniors, with 132 goals and 307 points in his final five seasons.

Chris Vande Velde, a rookie from Moorhead, Minn., scored 124 goals and 272 points in seven years of amateur hockey.

Matt Marquardt hasn’t been a big scorer in two pro seasons, but he had 84 goals and 139 points in two years in the Quebec juniors.

“Bottom line is that we didn’t get the goals that we needed,” Nelson said. “We understand that there are some guys that are here to provide that scoring, and they will will. But the thing is that right now we’re a bit snakebitten. But they’ll overcome that. I’m sure they’ve all gone through that at some point in their careers. The goals will come.”

- Goaltending
Yes, goaltending, even though eight goals were scored against the Barons in their first two games.

The Barons’ veteran goalkeeper, Martin Gerber, does not have a good record (0-2-0) or goals against average (4.01) or saves percentage (.857) so far. But he will. His career numbers in the NHL include a 2.65 GAA and .910 SPCT.

Gerber was in goal for 60 games in Carolina’s 2006 Stanley Cup championship season, and he was a backup for the 2003 and 2007 Stanley Cup runnerup teams.

And he came to Oklahoma City after a good preseason camp with Edmonton, blocking 33 of 34 shots on goal in two games.

“I thought Marty Gerber played a lot stronger (in the second game),” Nelson said. “He’s getting into a good rhythm.”

- Youthful exuberance
According to The Hockey News’ player ratings, seven of Edmonton’s top 10 prospects are with the Barons: No. 3, defenseman Jeff Petry; No. 4, defenseman Taylor Chorney; No. 6, winger Teemu Hartikainen; No. 7, defenseman Alex Plante; No. 9, Linus Omark, winger; No. 10, Johan Motin, defenseman.

Petry, the son of former major league baseball pitcher Dan Petry, played with the most exuberance and hustle of any Baron on the opening weekend. The Hockey News ranks him 56th among all NHL prospects. He was plus-3 with one assist in two NHL preseason games.

Chorney, a first team All-American at North Dakota two years ago, was called up to the NHL four times last season.

Hartikainen, a 20-year-old rookie from Finland, scored the first - and also the second - goal in Barons history. He scored both of the team’s goals in the first two games.

Plante, the 15th player taken in the 2007 NHL Draft, when he was 18, had a solid camp with Edmonton. He had four assists in two NHL preseason games.

Omark stands 5-foot-9 and weighs 170 pounds. But don’t be fooled. He’s a feisty player who produces highlight reel goals. And he had one goal and two assists in three NHL preseason games.

Motin, who turned 21 last Sunday, is in his second AHL season. The 6-2, 220-pound blue liner was on Sweden’s silver medal team at the 2008 World Junior Championships.

Two other Barons who stood out during the Edmonton Oilers’ preseason camp were center Chris Vande Velde, with two goals and two assists in three games, and winger Ben Ondrus, who had a goal, an assist and a plus-2 rating in three games…

The Barons opened the season with a 25-man roster. Five players have been healthy scratches in the first two games, including forward Jesse Gimblett and Mark Arcobello, who have been sent to Stockton of the ECHL. The other scratches have been forward Marquardt and defensemen Jordan Bendfeld and Motin. The Barons took a 23-man roster into the second weekend of play…

The Springfield Falcons were Edmonton’s top farm team last year, and they had the worst record in the AHL, at 25-39-12-4 (wins, losses, overtime losses, shootout losses). But only 12 players from that team are on the Oklahoma City roster this year…

The Barons will play three games in three nights, with home games Friday and Saturday and a trip to Houston on Sunday. Overall, the Barons will have 12 times when they’ll play three games in as many nights this season. Nearly half (36) of the team’s 80 games will be played in those situations…

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