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PRINCIPE: Everything is OKC

by Gene Principe / Edmonton Oilers
Marincin scores the game winner on Wednesday (photo by Andy Devlin)

Všetko najlepšie k narodeninám in Slovak or Happy Birthday in English. One a little easier (for me) to write and pronounce than the other but Martin Marincin celebrated both by turning 23 in style. With the game on the line and Edmonton nestled into their longest-ever home shootout ,the defenceman ended it. I mean that game 'Tuuka' long time for an eventual winner to be decided. It finished with a slip up and a slide in between Rask's legs. He turned 23 but it was shooter 24 that finally put a close to the second-longest shootout in Oilers history (13 round Feb.2 vs. SJ). I was almost half expecting, if Marincin had missed, for new father Rob Klinkhammer to burst onto the ice and put an end to the proceedings just like he did against the Sharks. Instead, another OKC-developed player made an impact.

Martin Marincin was going to start the season in Edmonton or so I believed. I thought he had shown more than enough in his 44 games with the Oilers last season. He looked like a blueliner with potential who had spent enough time getting the minor-league seasoning before making the full-time leap to the NHL. Well, before you could say Happy Birthday in Slovak (see above) Marincin was gone. Whisked away in a demotion. Not quite ready to make the Alberta capital his permanent address. A hard lesson, and potentially a shocking one, for a young blueliner who had become a regular on Edmonton's back end. Back to the minors he went. More patience and more playing time necessary. It's a theme and an approach that's paying off for the organization.

It seemed to me that for the last few years OKC had become an injury replacement destination. When Oilers were hurt they would hop down to their AHL affiliate, get a player, fill a void and then back to the minors that player would go. That doesn't at all seem to be the case anymore. Marincin is the latest example of someone who can use his time with the Barons to his and the Oilers advantage. He could be the next one after the two latest ones.

Anton Lander and Oscar Klefbom celebrate the OT winner in Montreal (photo by Getty Images)

Let's start with Anton Lander, who does not seem to be at all the same player he once was. Lander's a leader, Lander's a goal scorer, Lander's a player. It has been nothing short of sensational how the second round pick in 2009 has transformed himself. He does not look at all like the same player. Lander was one of those fill-ins who would get the call, spend a day or a week or two with the team and off he went. However, through his disappointment he didn't stop developing. Instead, using his time wisely and now at the ripe old age of 23 he looks like a mainstay for seasons to come.

That leads me to another Swedish subject in Oscar Klefbom. Like Lander, since coming to North America, Klefbom has done a little bit of bouncing back and forth from the AHL to the NHL. There were times he came up and didn't even play. As the defenceman was simply an insurance policy in case someone was hurt. Now it seems hard to imagine the Oilers moving forward and Klefbom not being in the lineup every single night. His rise doesn't seem as dramatic as Lander's if only because we never saw him that often. The other first-round pick in 2011 is now carrying himself like he deserves to be in the NHL because of what he can do and not because of where he was drafted. Klefbom continues to shore up the defensive side of his game and has started to punctuate his play with well-timed journeys looking for offence. The 21 year old is rounding into a impact player at both ends of the ice.

You see it with Leon Draisaitl being assigned back to junior and maybe we'll see it next year with Darnell Nurse and a trip to the minors for time spent learning his craft at the pro level. It's a formula that's working. Even if the Oilers are moving their AHL affiliate next season, when it comes to what the Barons have done, everything is OKC.

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