Bolstered some young NHL battled tested stars playing in Oklahoma City during the NHL lockout, the Barons arguably have the deepest, most talented roster in the American Hockey League.
“All the guys are ready, excited to get started,” said coach Todd Nelson. “Our last exhibition game (a loss to Houston last weekend) kind of straightened us out. It was a humbling experience. It’s not a bad thing going into the season, knowing if we don’t put a good 60 minutes together we can get beat.
“Now it’s time to start the regular season. Hopefully we can get off to a great start. In this league and the NHL you need to start well. If you don’t you have to end up clawing your way back into a playoff spot. We have to make sure we’re ready to go.”
OKC probably is the favorite in the Western Conference. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the No. 1 overall pick in 2011, was a viable candidate for NHL Rookie of the Year last season with the Edmonton Oilers. Jordan Eberle has led the Oilers in goals the past two seasons and played in last year’s NHL All-Star Game.
“We have a good team,” Eberle said. “With the success they had last year and the additions this year we’ll have some pressure on us. That’s good. Sometimes you need to go into games expected to win. We definitely have that mentality.”
Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle didn’t play in the two preseason games but will be on the No. 1 forward line along with Magnus Paajarvi, who split time between Edmonton and OKC last season and helped the Barons reach the Western Conference finals.
“(Watching preseason games) was a good opportunity for me to see how the league is,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “It’s fast paced. It’s not much of a step down (from the NHL). You definitely have to prepare for the best. It’s been a long (summer) break. I’m ready to get back to playing.”