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Last night, the AHL, the NHL's minor league affiliate, opened their season with seven games on schedule. While many people probably wouldn't care if this were any other season, they do now, because of the current NHL lockout. NHL players who are under two-way contracts were sent down to their NHL clubs affiliate AHL teams, so they could still play professional hockey during the lockout. Younger players, who are still in their entry-level contracts, are playing down in the AHL as well. Seeing star players such as Jordan Eberle on the Oklahoma City Barons, Adam Henrique on the Albany Devils, and Chris Kreider on the Connecticut Whale will be the norm until the NHL settles their labor dispute. 

One team in particular though, the Oklahoma City Barons, are destined to have an exciting season. The Edmonton Oilers' AHL affiliate team is filled with talent, because the Oilers have many young players on their NHL roster who were sent down to the Barons. On their roster, the Barons now have Calder Trophy finalist Ryan-Nugent Hopkins, NHL All-Star Jordan Eberle, and the newly signed rookie Justin Schultz. Other players on the Oilers are not playing on the Barons, like Taylor Hall, who is not playing because of a shoulder injury (it is still possible that he will play in Oklahoma City eventually), and 2012 first overall pick Nail Yakupov, who is playing in his homeland of Russia in the KHL.

With young guns like Eberle, Schultz, and Nugent-Hopkins, the Barons are going to be arguably the most exciting team in the AHL this season. Their now-explosive offense should create a buzz not only in Oklahoma City and Edmonton, but across the hockey world, as we watch the NHL's next powerhouse team start to come together in the AHL. In a few seasons, the Oilers will be among the elite NHL teams, and we the hockey fans have the pleasure of watching them grow into an elite team, even with the NHL lockout. 

With all of the recent failure the Oilers have had over the past few seasons, this should give their fans something to look forward to, when the Oilers get back on the ice.

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