Learning in the AHL, KHL All-Star captains and a Prospects Game replacement

Jordan Eberle, along with Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Justin Schultz, experienced major growth and development in the AHL this year. (Resolute/Wikimedia Commons)

Jordan Eberle, along with Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Justin Schultz, experienced major growth and development in the AHL this year. (Resolute/Wikimedia Commons)

As the NHL gets ready to finally begin its season, young Edmonton Oilers stars Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Justin Schultz look back at the first half of the season in Oklahoma City with find memories.

The time spent in the American League was especially helpful to first-year pro Schultz who was able to adjust to being a professional in a much smaller setting than Edmonton where a rabid fanbase eagerly  awaits the start of the season. Chris Wescott explains how they worked with fans and got used to being an active member in a community:

During their time in Oklahoma City, the players had the opportunity to connect with a smaller fanbase than they will see in the NHL and to become part of the fabric of the local community. From open house events with Season Seat Holders, to involvement with the Special Olympics of Central Oklahoma and Habitat for Humanity.

Schultz, as a rookie, had never experienced that kind of community side to the career of a professional athlete before.

“I never did stuff like we did here. We built a house and painted the house. That was a great experience to do that for people that are less fortunate so it was definitely a first for me and hopefully we can do some stuff like that in the future.”

They also worked tirelessly on the ice as well as coach Todd Nelson helped them improve where they needed to as Nugent-Hopkins has worked to improve on faceoffs and defensive play, Hall has developed his passing game and Eberle has become an all-around player.

During a time in which continued development and stability from within the organization was key, Oklahoma City stood tall to the task, taking good care of Edmonton’s treasures.

Now they’ll get their chance to play with the best in the world once again, but OKC was not a bump in the road in their career. It was a valuable stop on a bright journey.

*     *     *

The Kontinental League All-Star Game will be played on Sunday in Chelyabinsk, Russia and the voting for the captains has ended as Ilya Kovalchuk (St. Petersburg SKA) and Alexei Morozov (Kazan Ak-Bars) were selected to lead the Western and Eastern squads, respectively.

Kovalchuk is in the KHL due to the NHL lockout and is fourth in scoring with 18 goals and 42 points. But while many NHL skaters went to Russia this year, including Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk who is also staying for the All-Star Game, Kovalchuk is considering staying put for the remainder of the season, citing contractual obligations to St. Petersburg and bitterness over the lockout as reasons he would consider finishing the year in Russia.

This is Morozov’s fourth KHL All-Star game, having participated in the event in 2009, 2010 and 2011. He played in the NHL from 1997-98 to ’03-04, amazing 84 goals and 135 assists for 219 points and 98 PIM in 451 games, all with Pittsburgh. He has played with Kazan since then, including their transition from the Russian Superleague to the KHL and has experienced much success in Russia with 218 goals, 281 assists, 499 points and 277 PIM in 465 games. He has finished in the top 10 in league scoring six times, including five consecutive top four finished from 2004-05 to ’08-09. He has 11 goals and 33 points in 41 games this season.

*     *     *

Jordan Subban of the Ontario League’s Belleville Bulls has been added to Team Cherry for the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game next Wednesday, replacing Ryan Pulock, captain of the Western League’s Brandon Wheat Kings who chipped a bone in his wrist during a 7-2 loss to the Calgary Hitmen on Tuesday. The Bulls are currently first in the East Division and second in the Eastern Conference and Jordan is a big reason for that as he is second on the team in scoring with seven goals and 27 points and is a minus-2 so far on the season.

-Tim Kolupanowich

@TimKolupan_

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