Oilers young guns starting to click offensively in AHL
TERRY JONES, QMI Agency
|Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is in the middle of a scrum in front of the San Antonio net Friday at the Cox Convention Centre in Oklahoma City. (Rob Ferguson, OKC Barons)
OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLA. - Definitely the real deal.
Justin Schultz scored two goals and manufactured a marvelous can’t-miss pass to add an assist while producing a plus 5 here last night.
“That’s a pretty impressive start for a young man breaking into pro hockey,” said Edmonton Oilers’ GM Steve Tambellini of the Wisconsin Badgers graduate who chose the Oilers over 29 other teams in free agency.
“He’s not afraid to show his ability. He has great confidence out there,” added the GM of the first star in the Oklahoma Barons 5-2 win over the San Antonio Rampage in the home opener for the Oilers’ AHL farm team.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had a two-point night and Jordan Eberle scored a goal as the two made it to the scoresheet for the first time three games into the season.
“It’s about time,” laughed Tambellini.
“No. They looked pretty good out there.”
Defenceman Martin Marincin tagged along for a plus five himself despite a one-goal, no assist night.
But it was Schultz who had everybody talking.
“That’s what I saw at training camp. Now you’ve seen him for yourself,” said coach Todd Nelson to the media scrum which included a significant number from Edmonton.
“He’s a special player. And I was happy with his defensive game, too. He had a good stick and good reads,” added the bench boss.
“He’s off to quite the start. I told you he was dynamic,” said Nugent-Hopkins of his Oklahoma City roommate who he plans to share a house with in Edmonton when the season starts.
“He’s smart,” said Eberle. “And he has a great shot.”
Schultz, who scored the winner in the Baron’s first victory of the season, 3-2 over the Monsters in Lake Erie last weekend, scored a shorthanded goal to give the Barons a 2-1 lead in the first period and manufactured the can’t-miss chance for Teemu Hartikainen to send the Oilers farm club to a 3-2 lead in the second.
Hartikainen also had an assist on the Barons’ first goal of the game scored by Martin Marincin.
“It was good for me tonight,” said Schultz.
“It was one of my games like in college.
“It’s getting better and better every time I go out there,” said the free agent who looks like he’ll find his way to be on the five-man unit when he gets to Edmonton to start the season, whenever it begins.
“It was fun out there,” he said.
Until the second period Eberle and RNH were two anonymous guys wearing No. 7 and No. 18 respectively.
Nugent-Hopkins was awarded the second assist on a Teemu Hartikainen setup.
And it was RNH making the perfect play with a backhand from behind the net to Eberle in front for his first goal in the AHL since he went to Springfield after the Regina Pats season ended in 2010.
“Once again he showed he has eyes in the back of his head,” said Nelson.
“We know how each other plays. I knew he was going to be out front and he knew I was going to be trying to get the puck to him there,” he said of the blind backhand.
“It felt good,” said Eberle. “It was good to get some confidence. Now we want to keep rolling.”
“It felt a lot better tonight,” said Nugent-Hopkins.