The Bakersfield Condors season is over after losing their best of three series to the Abbotsford Canucks two games to none. With a 2–0 and a 4–2 loss in the series, the Condors were overmatched by a Canucks team with a lot of talent in the lineup. It was veteran Calvin Pickard who got both starts for the Condors.
For the Canucks, it was Nils Hoglander who led the way with four points, two goals and two assists, in the series. Goaltenders Spencer Martin and Arturs Silovs split the starts, each earning a victory. Defenceman Jack Rathbone added two goals in the series with a strong performance from the back end.
A strong season for the Condors
The Condors performed admirably on the season as a whole, navigating a number of injuries to their own players and call ups to the NHL. With a number of proven AHL players, the Condors were equipped to perform well, but needed key contributions from younger prospects to attain their results.
Of note, goaltender Olivier Rodrigue had his best season as a professional, authoring a nice bounce back season after a less than ideal showing in 2021–22. Although down the stretch and in the playoff, the Condors relied on Pickard instead, Rodrigue took a big step and should be a big piece for the Condors next season.
Meanwhile, up front the Condors featured a number of top prospects that had strong seasons. Raphael Lavoie exploded with production in the back half of the season, a big reason for the Condors success down the stretch to qualify for the playoffs at all. Dylan Holloway did not play many games for the Condors, but was every bit as good as Lavoie, leading the offensive charge. Both were top tier AHLers and should be looking to make the Edmonton Oilers out of camp next season.
Other notable forward performances came from a trio of AHL rookies. Xavier Bourgault, Tyler Tullio, and Carter Savoie were all able to survive in their first professional seasons, a great first step. The hope for all three would be that next season comes with an increased role and elevated performance, building off their play from this season. Both Bourgault and Tullio had some strong stretches, and should be in the mix as top six forwards for the Condors with a good summer of training. For all three players a dominant season in the AHL in 2023–24 would position them for a call up or a chance to make the Oilers out of camp in 2024–25.
The Condors will be infusing more youth into their lineup next season, and despite being sophomores ,the trio of Bourgault, Tullio, and Savoie will be instrumental in strengthening the lineup for the next crop of rookies to make their mark.
With the Condors out of games the team will head their separate ways. For some this might mean a return home, while others will find themselves available to the Oilers, if only on the basis of practice bodies. Already we have seen Pickard and Holloway earn official call ups, skating with the Oilers on their off days. With the NHL’s salary cap effectively non-existent in the playoffs, these call ups do not affect the Oilers cap situation. Of note, defenceman Markus Niemelainen will also be available, which could be a valuable depth contributor for the Oilers on the left side of the blueline in a pinch.
While Pickard and Rodrigue will be useful for practice situations, Holloway or Lavoie could potentially find their way into the lineup if the Oilers encounter some injuries. Holloway, having spent much of the regular season with the Oilers, is well acquainted with his teammates and should be the first call on offence. Perhaps his brief time in the AHL was enough to continue building his confidence, a key step in reaching his potential. Holloway has the skills to be an effective contributor both offensively and defensively, a potential X-factor for the Oilers. Often, a Stanley Cup run is punctuated by some coming of age performances by younger players, if not the sheer invigoration of a dash of youthful exuberance.
For Lavoie the path to a playoff game is much less likely, but feasible nonetheless. Should the Oilers require reinforcements up front the first call might go to Holloway, if not some veterans such as Devin Shore or Brad Malone, who provide a steadier, defensive style of play. If the Oilers are in need of a more offensive player, Lavoie could be an interesting option. If anything, the chance to be around the team will be invaluable for Lavoie. After finally reaching top line levels of production in the AHL—in his final year of being waiver exempt no less—Lavoie will be at a crucial crossroads in training camp next season. If he wishes to make the team it will need to be in a role where he can provide some offence, a tough spot to secure. Lavoie will need every bit of help he can get, and some familiarity with team concepts and teammates will be beneficial.
Hardly knew ye
In all it was a reasonably successful season for the Condors who lost their Coach, Jay Woodcroft, top goalie, Stuart Skinner, and top defenceman, Philip Broberg, since the start of last season. Despite all this, the Condors managed to play meaningful hockey into the spring, maintaining a competitive and positive environment. Above all else this is the main reason for a positive evaluation of the season, as young players will have a good situation to develop in.
With the focus of Oil Country firmly on the NHL playoffs, there will not be many to take issue with the Condors’ performance this season, or their bowing out in the first round of the AHL playoffs.
Feature photo from @Condors on Twitter