Oilers assign five to AHL

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:50 PM ET

DENVER — For the Edmonton Oilers the season is over.

Yet for the five players heading to join the Oklahoma City Barons for their AHL playoff campaign, the best part of the season is about to get underway.

“It’s awesome, there are not a lot of guys here in Edmonton that have experienced playoff hockey,” said Oilers centre Chris VandeVelde. “We get the privilege of going down there and playing in it.

“They’re on a roll right now, so we’ll try to fit in and try to keep it going.”

VandeVelde, Ryan O’Marra, Jeff Petry, Teemu Hartikainen and Linus Omark will join the Barons for the playoffs starting Thursday.

The Barons finished fifth in the AHL’s West Division and will play the Hamilton Bulldogs in a best-of-seven first-round series.

“This is really exciting for our organization, because they’re going down to play playoff hockey,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. “It’s been a while and I know they’ll go down there in the right frame of mind and make the transition as seamless as possible. They’re joining a team that’s playing really well and they’ve played well here. I can’t think of any one of those five kids that’s stepped up and helped us in a big way somehow.”

The only one not thrilled about the assignment is Omark, who will probably not get an opportunity to play in the World Championships for Sweden.

It was something the rookie was looking forward to.

“If they want me to play down there, I’ll go play down there,” said Omark. “I was looking forward to playing for my country and in front of my family, but it’s not going to happen now.

“I’ll go down there and hopefully we can win something.”

Despite having played the majority of the season in the NHL after being initially sent down to the minors, the Oilers felt it would be better for Omark’s development if he returned to Oklahoma City.

“I think the most important thing is that he experiences playoff hockey on this ice surface, which is a different game,” said Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini. “He’s shown that he can succeed on the big ice, having played already in a couple of world championships.

“We think it’s really important that he experiences what the playoffs are like on this ice and also to play with his teammates that he hopefully grows with to become an Oiler.”

Loose pucks ... The Oilers will take part in the draft lottery on Tuesday to determine whether they’ll get the first overall pick for the second-consecutive year. Having finished last, the Oilers have 48% chance of getting the first pick and can drop no lower than second.

“I think if you’re in that position, you want to be in control of the draft,” Tambellini said. “We’re hoping that we win the lottery. If you’re in this spot, and these last couple of years we have been, you want to control the draft.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/DerekVanDiest


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