’s development in his first professional season had a familiar look to it.
Just like another Edmonton Oilers draft pick and Slovakia native, Gernat’s progress escalated after Christmas in his rookie season.
“It’s like we saw from Martin Marincin
last year where there was an adjustment period up until Christmas,” Oklahoma City Barons Head Coach Todd Nelson said towards the close of this past season. “(Gernat) had to learn the hard way and learn through his mistakes. But with that, he’s gotten better.”
Gernat and Marincin both come from the same hometown of Kosice, Slovakia and have become very close friends as members of the Oilers organization. Marincin was taken in the second round, 46th overall, in the 2010 Draft, while Gernat was selected in the fifth round, 122nd overall, in 2011.
|Photo by Steven Christy/OKC Barons |
Marincin played one game for the Barons during the 2010-11 season, coming up from Prince George in the WHL. He played six games the next season. It wasn’t until 2012-13 that Marincin made the jump to the professional ranks on a full-time basis.
As Marincin enjoyed offensive success while paired with Justin Schultz during the NHL work stoppage, he still had much to learn defensively. It wasn’t until after Christmas that Marincin seemed to click at the American Hockey League level. His play with his stick and his range began to catch up to his 6-foot-4 frame.
Gernat was very similar in his development path this season. As the year wore on, Gernat became more comfortable and his game improved. Where in the beginning of the season he was trying to find his place on a crowded blue line, he was later seeing some time as a top-four defenceman in Oklahoma City before the end-of-season arrival of the seventh overall pick in 2013, Darnell Nurse.
“It was from the beginning a little hard,” Gernat said. “We had so many defencemen and I was in the [ECHL] for a couple of games. After I got back I got the opportunity to play and it got better and better during the season. The last 30 games I felt really good about my game and I would say I improved myself a lot.”
Marincin continued his move up the ranks this season, earning 44 games with the Oilers and playing solid hockey for a 22-year-old defenceman. Seeing his friend play in the National Hockey League was great for Gernat. It served as motivation and inspiration to a young kid looking to advance his own career.
“It was great for him and I saw that there is opportunity. We can play in the NHL. You just have to make the big step if you get the opportunity to play... I still have a lot of stuff to do. I want to have a good summer at home and hopefully I get here next season and play a couple of games in the NHL, it would be perfect.”
Gernat played 57 games for Oklahoma City, tallying 21 points (4-17-21).
Nelson said that this season Gernat found a confidence in his game, realizing that he could play at that level in the AHL. He said it’s the same thing that happened with Marincin.
Like Marincin, a focus for Gernat this summer will be adding weight and muscle. It is something he will be attempting following a bit of a break.
“I’ll go home, take a little rest. I’ll probably go somewhere for vacation with my girlfriend and a couple of friends. Then I just want to work hard and I need to put some weight on me again and get stronger so that will be two important things for me this summer.”