September 06, 2011
Ottawa 67's centre Ryan Martindale might end up being this season's Craig Cunningham — the prospect whose skills are beyond major junior hockey, but might end up playing an overage season since his NHL organization could run out of contracts.
Martindale, who turns 20 in late October and was a high third-round pick of the Edmonton Oilers in 2010, counted 34 goals and 83 points in Ottawa last season. His plus/minus rating also improved from +2 in his draft season to +38; having Ontario Hockey League co-scoring champ Tyler Toffoli as his right wing alone didn't account for that jump, since the pair also played together in 2009-10. All of that might not amount to a hill of beans as far as breaking into pro hockey. Bruce McCurdy explained the Oilers don't have much wiggle room:
Yet after his fourth full season with Ottawa 67's, Martindale remains without a pro contract. He's a victim of a numbers game as Oilers have painted themselves 49 contracts deep into a 50-contract corner, and are simply keeping their last option open. Brandon Davidson is in the same situation, and either or both could face the prospect of an overage season, just as [22-year-old Oilers farmhand] Milan Kytnar once did.
Martindale has shown real solid improvement in points and plus/minus every single year in the OHL, last year centring a dynamite line with Tyler Toffoli and Shane Prince which saw Ryan rank third on his line (and on the team) in both points and plus-minus. That said, I have a hard time visualizing a guy with 83 points and +38 being a full-time passenger, surely he took his turn behind the wheel as well. Questions persist about Martindale's "drive" whatever that means, but there are lots of understated players who have success. I'd like to see for myself, please. Too bad he missed summer camp this July with a bout of tonsillitis; that couldn't have helped the contract situation any. (The Cult of Hockey)
Cunningham, as you know, declined an AHL contract with the Boston Bruins and went on to have a strong final season, posting 27 goals and 87 points in 71 games split between the Vancouver Giants and Portland Winterhawks.
For the 67's, having Martindale return to them would be found money. Coach-GM Chris Byrne's team might already have two scoring-line centres with Sean Monahan, a potential high NHL draft pick in 2013 who was impressive with Team Canada at the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka under-18 tournament in August, and Minnesota Wild draft pick Tyler Graovac. It would be kidding ourselves to say they would not be that much more potent if they could retain their top centre among a core group that also includes three NHL second-round picks in Toffoli, Shane Prince and Dalton Smith, who are each entering their final OHL seasons.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: CHL Images).