Regardless of how many games the Barons win during the lockout, Edmonton general manager Steve Tambellini said it's a huge benefit for the organization.
“It's exciting to have our young players here together,” Tambellini said. “We were at the point we weren't going to attract the top free agents. (Rebuilding), we knew we'd have to develop our own players first. The process the past couple of years has been drafting and building the roster.
“A lot of these players are still 19 and 20 years old. By the time they're 22 and 23, they'll be men in the NHL. Right now, they're very young. For them to have a chance to be together in Oak City is so good for us.”
They're young, but it's a roster loaded with NHL experience.
Left-winger Taylor Hall is another No. 1 overall pick who could join the Barons in a month. Hall is awaiting word to resume hitting following shoulder surgery. OKC's roster a month from now could have 13 players that have combined to play in nearly 1,000 NHL games.
Because of the NHL lockout, the Barons' normal No. 1, 2 and 3 lines move down a slot. OKC's fourth line should be formidable. Players sent to Double-A Stockton would make some AHL rosters. The Barons are so deep they could overwhelm teams with thin rosters.
The challenge is the Barons will get everyone's best shot.
“For sure,” Nelson said. “Besides having those guys here, we would have had a target on our back because we had the best record in the Western Conference last year. It will be interesting to see how we deal with it.”
Oklahoma City opens the season Friday against Lake Erie in Cleveland. The Barons home opener is Oct. 19 against San Antonio.
“We have a lot of skill on this hockey club,” Eberle said. “But I think our best attribute is how hard we work. A great quote is ‘work beats skill if skill doesn't work.' That's definitely the mentality we have to take.”