Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Springfield Falcons '08-09 Preview, The Forwards

The '07-08 season was the first season of the Springfield Falcons and Edmonton Oilers affiliation. A mixed bag, the Oilers finally got to see some of their prospects under their sole direction. While the Falcons missed the postseason, there were also some positives. The Oilers saw the emergence of Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, Rob Schremp, Slava Trukhno, Liam Reddox, and Theo Peckham while also having other players show signs of improvement and get an opportunity that they may not have otherwise gotten.

Fast forward to the present, the Falcons have the look of a contender in the AHL's Atlantic Division. While there may have been a lack of talent last year, there is an abundance of it this season. Falcons fans should be treated to their first playoff action in quite some time, and maybe because of it, the Falcons can solidify their ties to the city of Springfield.

Here's a look at the players poised to make an impact on this years team.

The Forwards

C/W Rob Schremp-After a whirlwind year, Rob Schremp could still find his way into Springfield's lineup before long. After working hard on improving his skating and strength this summer, Schremp looked quicker and stronger on the ice, however he left his confidence elsewhere. It could have been much easier for Schremp if he just brought his confidence along with his improved physical ability. Since he didn't he might just have to start the year in Springfield. If Schremp is sent down, expect him to be a catalyst in Springfield's offensive game. A top 10 point getter in the AHL last year and a top 5 PP point getter in the league, a lot will be expected of Schremp this year. Expect Schremp to be the QB on the PP again, and expect him to raise his even strength production. A good measuring stick for Schremp this year would be if he can score more goals at ES. He was a great assist man 5 on 5, but adding more goal scoring at even strength would really round out his offensive game.

C/RW Gilbert Brule
-The Falcons added some world class speed to their line-up when Gilbert Brule was sent down from the Oilers as a late roster cut. Brule also has the distinction of being the Falcons highest draft pedigreed player in the 2 seasons that they have been affiliated with the Oilers. A small but gritty player, Brule's speed, grit, and heart are not in question. However what is in question is whether or not he can bring the offensive flair to the pro's that helped him to go 6th overall in the 2005 entry draft to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Expect Brule to get a ton of icetime in offensive situations. Brule brings a very good wrist shot to his arsenal, but he needs to learn to consistently score with it, first in the AHL, then eventually the NHL. Expect Brule to be among the Falcons leaders in goals and points this season and to also be one of the Oilers first call-ups.

F Liam Reddox
-A utility player in every sense of the word, Reddox looks to build on his massive improvement last year and become one of Springfield's leaders. A gritty player and a tireless worker. Reddox also shows glimpses of skill that you wouldn't expect from someone that plays his style of game. Expect a big year from Reddox playing on the 2nd or 3rd line and being a big contributor on the penalty kill.

C Tyler Spurgeon-After a frustrating year last season that ended due to a nasty concussion, Tyler Spurgeon is ready to prove his worth to the team and earn a second pro contract. Spurgeon is already showing great sigjns of being back on track, after a slow start to the Oilers rookie camp, Tyler proved to be one of the Oiles hardest workers in the preseason. Expect Tyler to be an on ice leader of the team this season, and like Reddox, expect him to factor heavily on the PK and at even strength in a shutdown role.

LW Slava Trukhno-A slow start to the season last year had Trukhno bouncing in and out of the press box early on in the season. However by the end of the year he hit his stride and proved to be an excellent option on the power play, and a solid even strength contributor. Entering this season, Trukhno knows what is expected of him. Where he'll fit in is up in the air as the Falcons are bursting at the seams in skilled forwards. Expect Slava to be anywhere between the 1st and 3rd line and also for him to get PP time again with a much improved PP unit.

LW Ryan Potulny-A newcomer to the Oilers organization, Potulny brings a pedigree of being a sniper. At 24 years of age, Potulny should take a large role on the Falcons this year. Expect Ryan to be in the Falcons top 6 and to get regular PP time. Lower on the Oilers depth chart than many people anticipated, Potulny should be a fixture in the Falcons lineup while other players get NHL opportunities ahead of him.

LW/C Bryan Lerg-Having played a small handful of games with the Falcons last year, Lerg had the opportunity to see what he had to work on to be effective at the AHL level. After a solid rookie camp, Lerg is looking to put himself on the Oilers radar with a big AHL rookie season. However yet again playing time will be sparse on a team that is stacked up front. However Lerg's 2-way play may keep him in the lineup more often than not.

RW/C Ryan O'Marra-After a disappointing professional rookie season that had O'Marra playing in the ECHL at times, this season will tell the Oilers whether or not they have a player in O'Marra. At the time of the Ryan Smyth trade, O'Marra was seen as the "sure bet", while Robert Nilsson was seen as the wild card. Over a season later, the exact opposite has been true. O'Marra will have his work cut out for him, however what he does have that makes him stand out from his competition is his size. On a team that is loaded with sub 6' tall players, O'Marra's reach and mass gives him a different tool kit than players like Reddox, Spurgeon, and Sestito.

RW Carl Corazzini-After leading the Grand Rapids Griffins in scoring last year, Corazzini signed on with the Oilers. However it was obvious at the time that his acquisition was to bolster the Falcons lineup. At that time, I doubt that the Oilers figured on the possibility of having Rob Schremp, Gilbert Brule, and Ryan Potulny on the farm. Corazzini, like Potulny will likely be with the Falcons from start to finish.

LW Jean-Francois Jacques-His future for the season is up in the air due to the fact that he has a back operation in his future. However if he does make it back healthy this year, expect Jacques to provide some much needed toughness up front. A solid contributor at the AHL level, this season will go a long way into determining his future with the Oilers. First things first, here's to hoping for a speedy recovery for big #22.

RW Stephane Goulet-Another big body up front, Goulet doesn't bring the physical presence or speed that JF Jacques does, however he brings a good set of hands around the net and a natural goal scorer's mentality. Expect Goulet to get some PP time in front of the net in the Ryan Smyth/Dustin Penner role. Goulet showed great chemistry with Slava Trukhno last year, and if the Falcons could get Ryan O'Marra up to speed a Trukhn-O'Marra-Goulet line could really give opposing teams fits down low due to the line's size, grit, and skill.

C/W Tim Sestito-The recently named captain is a relentless worker who also plays the game with reckless abandon. Expect Sestito to be on the teams bottom 2 lines, but he will fight, claw, and sacrifice his body to try to ensure a win. While the Falcons 3rd and 4th lines might be on the small side, they certainly don't lack in heart and character.

RW Colin McDonald-This will be McDonald's 2nd pro year in Springfield, and it is time for him to make his mark. McDonald brings a big frame and a player that loves to shoot the puck. After a solid start to his rookie year, McDonald really slowed at the end of the season. That is not uncommon for players fresh out of the NCAA. In the NCAA they play less games and as a result there's a large difference from a 40ish game season to an 80 game season. With a year under his belt, it's time to see if McDonald is a Fernando Pisani in the making, or another blown 2nd round selection by the Oilers from the late 90's and early 00's.

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