The 6 biggest stories from Oilers’ 2023-24 AHL team in Bakersfield

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It was an unusual season for the AHL Bakersfield Condors, the Edmonton Oilers’ top minor-league affiliate.

The club’s main role is to send plug-and-play talent to the parent team. The Condors succeeded in this area. No less than nine men played for Bakersfield and Edmonton in 2023-24.

The number of Bakersfield-to-Edmonton flights rank as one of the biggest stories from the farm this season.

The shuttle is real

Here are the nine players who spent time with the Oilers and Condors. Not listed is Ben Gleason, who was recalled by the NHL team but did not make an appearance in any game.

Player Bakersfield Edmonton

15GP, 3-6-9

28GP, 5-5-10

18GP, 10-6-16

38GP, 6-3-9

13GP, 4-4-8

31GP, 2-1-3

36GP, 6-6-12

24GP, 1-1-2

49GP, 5-33-38

12GP, 0-2-2

66GP, 28-22-50

7 games

64GP, 2-13-14

1 game

4GP, .939 SP

23GP, .909 SP

33GP, .918 SP

5GP, .873 SP

The Oilers used the minor league team plenty during 2023-24, both for recall purposes and for housing players on NHL deals who were pushed off the roster.

A player like Sam Gagner was productive enough in the NHL to keep his job, but the signing of Corey Perry during the season left him as the odd man out. The fact Edmonton ran so close to the cap that fewer than the allowed 23 men were on the roster also contributed.

There were very few NHL rookies who played for both teams. Only James Hamblin, Raphael Lavoie and Phil Kemp from the list above qualified as NHL freshmen.

As is often the case for NHL teams, minor-league goaltending was a big story. Calvin Pickard’s early recall made him more part of the Oilers, but his time in Bakersfield was highly productive and laid the groundwork for his NHL recall.

Fans often talk about the AHL as purely a developmental league, but for Pickard and the Oilers, time to audition and wait for an opportunity was invaluable.

Holloway and Broberg NHL-ready and then some

Many observers of the Oilers roster construction have been critical of general manager Ken Holland’s slow-playing talent. A mid-level prospect can be moved along incrementally, but impact players like Evan Bouchard spent too long on the farm and in the pressbox during important development years.

That’s a fact, but the payoff from Dylan Holloway is real and on full display in the NHL playoffs.

This season, Bakersfield employed Holloway and Philip Broberg for long periods before they were recalled and instantly showed themselves as satisfactory options.

That’s a major benefit for an NHL team. Having two players of their quality playing in the AHL works as well as a deadline trade.

It’s atypical development but the organizational benefits this spring are undeniable.

Wanner ate everyone’s lunch

Max Wanner was a prominent rookie pro last fall due entirely to the lack of prospects with draft pedigree.

A seventh-round selection in the 2021 draft, Wanner had the look of a value pick based on his two post-draft seasons in the WHL.

A rugged shutdown defender, he was expected to play third pairing and ease his way into AHL play. Young players from the WHL (or any junior league) often take until at least Christmas to adjust to the speed of the game at that level, and the increased size and strength of the opposition.

Someone forgot to tell Wanner, because he was a regular on a prominent pairing from the opening faceoff.

He held his own early and blossomed in the second half of the season.











Condors w/o Wanner



All numbers via

The splits are impressive, but even in the first half, Wanner was playing well with Cam Dineen as his partner.

In the second half, he was paired at times with Dineen or Broberg and played feature minutes at even strength.

That Wanner was able to accomplish it, match the physical edge of AHL veterans (he’s nasty) and pass so many tests in year one bodes well for him.

Wanner’s future is as a shutdown defenceman, with Vincent Desharnais filling the role currently in the NHL.

It’s unlikely anyone will block him; when Wanner is ready he’ll be in the show. His rookie season was the most impressive by a shutdown blue at age 20 since Martin Marincin in 2012-13.

He might see the NHL briefly next year.

Bourgault’s difficult season

Xavier Bourgault is in trouble as an NHL prospect.

His rookie AHL campaign in 2022-23 was a slight disappointment offensively, but the young winger delivered as a responsible two-way rookie with skill.

Year 2 was poor offensively and he did not progress as a two-way type.

The major issue in Bourgault’s game is scoring. Through 117 AHL games, he has scored just 10-21-31 at even strength (0.26 points per game) and 8-12-20 on the power play (0.17 points per game).

Holloway, drafted one year before Bourgault, delivered 0.46 points per game at even strength and .30 on the power play during his 63 AHL games (over three seasons).

Bourgault remains a solid forechecker and makes quality passes.

After that, there are some concerns. He is not lightning fast on his skates, but has good speed and is quick. That got him to the play often as an AHL rookie, it was on display less often in Year 2.

Injury issues this year or otherwise, the Oilers need Bourgault to emerge as an NHL winger. Both player and organization have work to do in the next 12 months.

No kids on the power play

During the 2023-24 season, Condors forwards scored 47 goals and 69 assists (116 points).

Few of those points were delivered by young forwards in entry-level deals.

Bourgault (1-5-6), Holloway (3-1-4), Carter Savoie (1-3-4), Matvey Petrov (2-0-2), Tyler Tullio (0-2-2) and Jayden Grubbe (0-0-0) represented 43 percent of a 14-man forward group and delivered 16 percent of the power-play points.

We don’t have access to time on ice, and young players who don’t bring a lot of offence (Grubbe) are unlikely to see time with the man advantage.

Still, in a year when so many skill forwards could not break through offensively, the lack of feature power play success is curious.

Rodrigue pushes for an NHL shot

At the 1980 and 1981 drafts, Edmonton picked Andy Moog and Grant Fuhr.

In what was an astounding run of brilliance, scouting director Barry Fraser scooped the entire NHL and set up the team in net for the Stanley Cup runs to follow.

What followed was a biblical dry spell for the organization until Devan Dubnyk was chosen in 2004.

It took another decade-plus to do it again with Stuart Skinner in 2017. Against that daunting historical record, the Oilers chose Olivier Rodrigue in 2018.

Rodrigue has made incremental progress over the last several years and is now in line for a full look at an NHL career.

His save percentages over the last two AHL seasons are .912 and .916, both totals ranking him among the best in the league.

Rodrigue received the call to the NHL on Saturday, making him bona fide and a member of the team during the rest of the playoffs.

His arrival against substantial odds is a credit to player and scouting staff.

Perhaps Edmonton will emerge as an organization with the Midas touch in drafting goalies again.

The future

Management has been signing amateur players since last summer with an eye on finding the right player types for the future.

The trade for Grubbe before the 2023 draft, added to the emergence of the tough-as-nails Wanner, may serve as a template for the Condors moving forward. Both men are rugged types and tough to play against.

Also signed are two skilled forwards (Brady Stonehouse, James Stefan) and another goaltender (Connor Ungar) in what might be the beginning of a youth movement in Bakersfield.

It was an interesting, disappointing season for Condors fans. There’s work to be done.

The strong play of Holloway and Broberg in the NHL and the blossoming of Wanner and Grubbe give fans and the organization some hope for the 2024-25 season.

(Photo of Philip Broberg: Mark J. Rebilas / USA Today)

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