At least for now, the National Hockey League lockout is having a positive effect on the Stockton Thunder.
Thanks in part to a trickle-down situation caused by the lockout, three talented players from the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League were added to the Stockton roster on Monday (Oct. 8) and could be available for the Thunder’s ECHL season opener to be played Friday night at Stockton Arena.
The Thunder announced that forwards Philippe Cornet and Toni Rajala have been assigned to Stockton from the Barons by the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, and defenseman Teigan Zahn has been loaned to the Thunder by Oklahoma City. The Barons and Thunder are minor-league affiliates of the Oilers, who are not currently playing because of an ongoing labor dispute at the NHL level.
The lockout has forced some of Edmonton’s young NHL-level players to drop to the AHL, and the presence of players such as Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in Oklahoma City has set the stage for moves such as those involving Cornet, Rajala and Zahn.
Cornet, 22, comes to Stockton after leading the Barons in goals last season with 24. He was a starter in the 2012 AHL All-Star Classic, and he played in two games with Edmonton during a brief call-up last season. The 6-foot, 196-pound left wing was a fifth-round pick of the Oilers in the 2008 NHL entry draft.
Rajala, 21, is a native of Finland and was chosen by Edmonton in the fourth round of the 2009 NHL entry draft. A 5-foot-10, 163-pound right wing, Rajala has played in the World Juniors Championships for Finland at both the under-20 and under-18 age levels. He scored 24 points in 12 career games at the under-18 level, including 19 points in six games during the 2008-’09 season to break a scoring record that had been set by Washington Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin.
Zahn, 22, played last season at the University of Calgary, where he shared the team lead in assists with 12. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Zahn was a seventh-round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2010 NHL entry draft.
Also on Monday, the Thunder released defenseman Mike Monfredo and goalie Jimmy Spratt. Earlier, forwards Eric Hunter and Justin Maylan were released from tryout agreements by Oklahoma City, freeing them to report to Stockton. In other recent transactions, the Thunder released goalie Ryan Klingensmith and forwards Kyle O’Kane and Chris Corbeil following a pre-season victory over the Bakersfield Condors on Saturday night.