WWW.AEROS.COM - SEASON PREVIEW
Prior to the beginning of the Aeros 2012-13 season, Josh Fisher and Joe O’Donnell break down the Aeros South Division foes.
Oklahoma City Barons – South Division
2011-12 Record: 45-22-4-5, 99 points
Playoffs: Western Conference Finals (lost in 5 to Toronto)
Aeros All-time Record vs OKC – 10-5-0-3 (.639%)
2011-12 Season Series Aeros 1-4-0-3 (.312)
The Barons had a great run in 2011-12, leading the Western Conference and finishing second in the AHL with 99 points. Oklahoma City once again has high expectations. Head Coach Todd Nelson has improved his team every year in Oklahoma City. One would argue that Nelson could be the happiest coach in the AHL with the Edmonton Oilers prospects pool that he has to work with this season. A lot of experts feel Oklahoma City is one of the most talented teams in the AHL. Here is why.
The Oilers have some of the top prospects in the league starting with forwards Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, as well as defenseman Justin Schultz. Eberle was awesome last season in Edmonton. The 22-year old scored 34 goals and added 42 assists for 76 points in 78 NHL games. He has two full NHL seasons under his belt. Eberle was Edmonton’s first-round pick (#22 overall) in 2008. Nugent-Hopkins was the top pick (#1 overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Last year, Nugent-Hopkins finished third in team scoring for Edmonton with 52 points off 18 goals and 34 assists in 62 games.
Defenseman Justin Schultz was one of the more sought-after free agents out of college. He was originally drafted by Anaheim in 2008 (#43 overall -2nd round), but he never signed with the Ducks, becoming a free agent this past summer. Edmonton signed him after he posted 44 points from the blueline in 37 games at the University of Wisconsin. In 41 games as a sophomore, Schultz tallied 18 goals and produced 47 points from the back end.
Can’t forget about Magnus Paajarvi, he was the 10th overall selection by Edmonton in 2009. He had 25 points in 34 games with Oklahoma City last year. He also played in 41 games with the Oilers, setting up six goals and totaling eight points. The team also returns Philippe Cornet after his breakout year. Last season, Cornet was among the league leaders in goals scored with 24 in 67 games played.
The biggest challenge for this team is the defense. There is a lot of youth on that blueline heading into the season. Veteran Bryan Helmer has departed, leaving the leadership role to defenseman Alex Plante.
Guys you may know already –
There has been a small amount of turnover, but Aeros fans should remember a few Barons from last year. Goalie Yann Danis was the goalie of the year, putting up outstanding numbers with a 26-14-2 record. He was among the best in the AHL last year with a 2.10 goals against average and a.924 save percentage. Veteran Center Josh Green is back after scoring 39 points in 58 games for the Barons last season. Feisty forward Antti Tyrvainen returns for his second season in OKC. Last year he picked up 71 penalty minutes and 19 points in 55 games.
Mark Arcobello returns after a successful season in 2011-12. The former Yale standout scored 17 goals and set up 26 others to finish with 43 points in 73 games played in 2011-12. Also, former LA Kings first round choice (13th in 08), defenseman Colton Teubert returns to the blueline. He brings a physical, defensive-minded style to the rink.
Players to Watch
C – Jordan Eberle – In my opinion, Eberle could produce one of the best offensive seasons the AHL has seen in years. The talent pool in OKC is conducive for Eberle to set up goals as well as score them. It will be exciting to watch him play this season.
F – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Not trying to be repetitive here, but this guy is in the same category as Eberle. He has drawn comparisons to a young Wayne Gretzky. I think that has to do with his tall and slim stature. Despite his build, he makes big plays. He is super skilled and makes good decisions with the puck. I am equally excited to see him play this year.
LW – Dane Byers – With Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins dishing out, someone has to send it home. Byers, a former second-round pick of the Rangers in 2004 has plenty of experience in the NHL and AHL. He also plays with an edge, averaging nearly 50 points and over 150 penalty minutes each of the last six seasons. He had 39 points in 61 games with Springfield in 2011-12.
The Season Series –
The Aeros and Barons will meet 12 times this season, including six games at the Toyota Center.
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