Recently coming aboard as a professional tryout with the Edmonton Oilers, right-shot winger Justin Bailey has now signed a contract with the Oilers’ AHL affiliate the Bakersfield Condors. As an AHL deal, Bailey does not currently affect the Oilers cap or contract limit.
Bailey’s style and role
The first and most notable skill that Bailey brings to the table is his speed, perhaps among the faster skaters in the NHL. At a baseline, his speed and 6’4” frame provide a strong starting point for the journeyman who was a second-round pick in the 2013 entry draft. He still leverages these assets into being a capable forechecker and a power forward style of winger.
To be fair, most of his limited time in the NHL last season was for the disappointing Travis Green coached Vancouver Canucks, but he posted awful CF% and xGF%, a trend that has seemed to follow Bailey in limited roles with the Buffalo Sabres, Philadelphia Flyers, and Canucks over the years.
Such poor numbers might be in part due to the less-than-ideal circumstances (injuries, etc.) that usually led to his being in an NHL lineup, but it might very well be the case that these numbers reflect poorly on his hockey sense at the NHL level. Being fast can be great if one is going the right way, but any missteps could lead to being more out of position more quickly.
In his junior career, Bailey showed the potential for a middle-six level offence, but his shot and scoring touch have lagged behind such a pace. It shouldn’t be said that those traits have not developed, as Bailey has produced at a high level in each of his past two AHL seasons, producing 43 goals and 74 points in his past 83 AHL games.
Unfortunately at his age, as a 1995-born player, it might be too late to expect huge improvements from Bailey anywhere, reflected in the AHL only nature of his deal.
Bailey’s place in the Oilers depth chart
It might be worth noting that the Oilers have bolstered the position of their power wingers, having added Evander Kane and Reid Schaefer, and arguably Warren Foegele and Dylan Holloway in years past. This could speak to traits that management has felt was missing from the roster and system as a whole, but it might also speak to having a similar type of presence in the AHL, for some stylistic synergy for the Bakersfield Condors.
Bailey’s play might be a welcome addition to the Condors, giving a legitimate scoring threat to a lineup that will likely include a glut of promising prospects, many of whom will be in their rookie seasons in pro hockey.
Xavier Bourgault, Tyler Tullio, Carter Savoie, and Matvei Petrov all had strong seasons to finish off their respective junior careers, but as Bailey knows it can be difficult to live up to the expectations that the hockey world collectively projects onto young athletes. In this sense, and perhaps because of his family’s history in athletics (his father Carlton Bailey was a CFL running back), Bailey might be able to excel in a mentor role on top of his abilities as a scoring forward.
While padding some of his linemate’s offensive numbers will certainly aid their confidence, a stronger AHL lineup will lead to more internal competition and the opportunity to play in more meaningful games down the stretch of the season.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire