The Edmonton Oilers Top-50 Prospects

Jonathan Willis
April 25 2009 11:33AM

peckham

This is my ranking of Oilers prospects; every single prospect of note is included somewhere on this list. It differs significantly from similar efforts by The Hockey News and Hockey’s Future - I’m much less concerned with draft position than I am in where the prospects are right now.

I use statistics a lot in my rankings, but I also take into account scouting reports and what I’ve seen of each individual prospect. The one exception I will make is that I don’t place a ton of emphasis on Kevin Prendergast’s public statements – sometimes they’re blatantly wrong, often they contradict what he said in the not too distant past. Without further ado, here’s the list:

1. Theo Peckham – Peckham has limited offensive upside at the NHL level, but he’s got size and plays a mean game. More than that, he was an outstanding shut-down defenseman in Springfield this season, constantly playing the toughest minutes, and didn’t look out of place in 15 NHL games. 2. Riley Nash - Nash has good offensive upside and plays a two-way game; unfortunately for the Oilers his development may be stagnating in Cornell and he still needs to add size. 3. Jordan Eberle - A natural goal-scorer, Eberle took a modest step forward in the WHL this year and starred for Canada at the World Juniors. He showed an ability to translate his offense to the AHL as well, scoring nine points in nine games. Will need more time before being NHL ready. 4. Linus Omark - The best offensive talent in the system right now, Omark had a phenomenal year in Sweden but is small and has never played in North America. 5. Devan Dubnyk - Dubnyk’s AHL numbers aren’t impressive, but he was playing for an absolutely abysmal team and lost more than twice as many games as he won. He was not part of the problem this season. 6. Gilbert Brule - His grit and offensive ability are undeniable; he is however both undersized and was injured (again) this season. Brule was rushed into the NHL and won’t ever be the player he was projected as in his draft year. 7. Teemu Hartikainen - The gritty Finn was one of the youngest players in his country’s top league and still managed 17 goals. His skating is still reportedly not very good and his -8 on a good team is cause for concern. Overall, he looks like a mid-round steal by the scouting staff at this point. 8. Philippe Cornet - Another pick that looks like a steal, Cornet actually put up more points than Eberle this season. He has a reputation as a smart, two-way player. 9. Ryan Potulny - Potulny’s track record just screams “tweener” to me, but he was far and away the best forward in Springfield and scoring 38 goals was an incredible accomplishment in that environment. Looked good during his NHL recall. 10. Chris Vande Velde - Vande Velde has size and faceoff ability and has put up decent point totals in college hockey. At this point he seems like a decent bet to have a future as a checking forward. 11. Alexandre Plante - The massive defenseman bounced back from a poor 2007-08 and added an edge to his game. On the other hand, Calgary was such a dominant squad that it’s questionable whether much of his offense will make it to the NHL. 12. Cody Wild - It was a strange season for Wild, who played a half dozen games in the ECHL this season and had trouble staying in the lineup under Jeff Truitt, but he was one of the few bright spots in Springfield. 13. Taylor Chorney - Kevin Prendergast swears that Chorney’s a better player than Wild, but the fact is that he played similar competition, posted vastly inferior numbers and is smaller to boot. His -29 was the worst on the team, and his defense partners (notably Roy and Wild) were vastly better without him than with him. 14. Jeff Petry - The two-way defenseman’s numbers dropped off this year as Michigan State was outscored nearly 2:1 by their opponents. That said, Petry’s -31 was easily the worst on the team. 15. Liam Reddox - The dependable defensive player doesn’t bring size to the NHL but he does bring willingness and smarts. He’s been a coach’s favourite everywhere he’s been, but the change in coaches may mean he ends up back in the AHL. 16. Jean-Francois Jacques - Jacques finally notched an NHL point after being a dependable AHL scorer for years. He’s a brilliant AHL player and adds size and energy to the lineup; if he’s finally figured out how to translate his game to the NHL he could be a force. 17. Milan Kytnar - Displayed offensive capability this season in Saskatoon and reportedly plays a well-rounded game. 18. Tyler Spurgeon - Was tremendous in a defensive role in Springfield this season; his -4 was one of the best marks on the team and Spurgeon was consistently used against tough opponents. Injuries are still a major concern. 19. Rob Schremp - Schremp’s season was an absolute disaster. He should have been on the cusp of NHL duty, but wasn’t even a leader in Springfield this season. His -26 was the worst mark among forwards despite the fact that he was playing some of the softest minutes on the team. Still, this is rock bottom and he’ll get at least one more year to try and turn things around. 20. Johan Motin - A big defenseman who was used sparingly in the Elitserien, Motin may not be developing as hoped. He would likely benefit from coming over to North America. 21. Ryan Stone - May have a career as an energy forward. Stone has never had a high-end offensive game but adds size and is a tough customer. 22. Colin McDonald - Played tough-minutes this season and showed some offensive talent down the stretch, where Rob Daum leaned on him heavily. He’s a big man with a good shot who may end up having a career as a 4th-liner. 23. Vyacheslav Trukhno - For the second year in a row, Trukhno has failed to translate his junior offense to the professional game. He doesn’t do enough other things well if he isn’t scoring to make the jump to the NHL. 24. Andrew Perugini - The Oilers signed Perugini to a minor-league contract, and he responded by outplaying draft pick Bryan Pitton and stealing the starting job with Stockton. That said, his numbers aren’t good enough at this point. 25. Josef Hrabal - This season went very poorly for Hrabal, who will be at Oilers training camp next fall. He was supposed to be one of Springfield’s top defensemen but was injured early and then used badly by Jeff Truitt. On his third trip to Stockton he left for Europe where he had six poor games in Sweden. He needs to show something this year or I think he’s done. 26. Alexei Mikhnov - Incredibly, Mikhnov’s still in the conversation. The Oilers have been in contact with him and he’s still interested in coming over, but likely only on a one-way deal. He would be ranked higher if I thought the Oilers were inclined to give him one. 27. Bryan Lerg - Lerg was injured this season, but comments from the Oilers have not been encouraging and it very much sounds like he may not be in the plans. A well-rounded player with a good NCAA career, Lerg is undersized and had a disappointing professional debut. As an undrafted player, he also gets less benefit of the doubt from the team. 28. Guillaume Lefebvre - Lefebvre, rather shockingly, led the Falcons in difficulty of competition and also contributed as the team’s resident tough guy. He’s getting older, but a fourth line job may yet be his. 29. Glenn Fisher - This player simply refuses to die. After being drafted he had lousy years with the University of Denver before blowing the doors off in his final NCAA season. Edmonton signed him; he responded with a middling ECHL year. He was signed to an AHL/ECHL deal and seldom used as Devan Dubnyk’s backup, but when the acquisition of Dany Sabourin forced a move he posted phenomenal numbers with Las Vegas of the ECHL. He’ll be 26 this week and is a bit of an enigma. 30. Tim Sestito - The organization’s love for this player is baffling; he must be a heck of a character guy because he doesn’t contribute at all offensively and isn’t blessed with size either. He’s a hardnosed guy who handles AHL tough minutes, but even a regular fourth-line job is probably not a realistic possibility. 31. Sebastien Bisaillon - Smallish, injury-prone defenseman showed a high-level offensive game in junior, but doesn’t bring enough offense as a pro to justify his other deficiencies. 32. Ryan O’Marra - O’Marra has size and is still young. He managed one goal on the season in the AHL and is rapidly running out of time with the organization. 33. Mathieu Roy - At one point Roy looked like a good bet for a career as a #6/#7 defenseman, but injuries have taken a toll. He has size, some offense, and a nasty disposition, but I think he’s already played the bulk of his NHL career. 34. Bryan Young - Big hitter has only average size and doesn’t contribute at all offensively. He plays a safe reliable game against soft AHL competition and isn’t a prospect of interest at this point. 35. Bjorn Bjurling - Bjurling had an off year, and will be thirty before next season. He doesn’t seem to be in the organization’s long-term plans. 36. Jake Taylor - Veteran minor-leaguer probably deserves to be ranked higher, but despite having size and playing a gritty game he’s at the age where NHL teams stop looking. 37. Bryan Pitton - Had a disastrous professional debut in the ECHL, losing his starting job to Andrew Perugini. He got a second chance when Perugini was injured in game one of the playoffs, but imploded so badly that Parker Van Buskirk, coming off a middling season in junior, replaced him as Stockton’s starter. Still has two years on his NHL deal, so he has time to rebound. 38. Jordan Bendfeld - A nasty defenseman with size and toughness, Bendfeld’s an ECHL player at this point. 39. Geoff Paukovich - Has size and occasionally injures people by hitting them from behind. Not a prospect of note. 40. Stephane Goulet - A 50-goal scorer in junior, Goulet’s a tall, lanky winger who has had three bad professional seasons and is probably done with the organization. 41. Charles Linglet - The undrafted 26-year old looked good in 21 games with Springfield and has some size but is realistically a career minor-leaguer at this point. 42. Alexander Bumagin - The 22-year old Russian seems to have peaked in his draft year. 43. William Quist - Quist hasn’t followed the Oilers’ recommendations and had a poor season with Nybro in Sweden’s second-best league. The 6’5” enigma is not likely to ever where an Oilers’ uniform. 44. Robby Dee - A part-time player with the University of Maine, it’s very doubtful that Dee gets a contract offer when he finishes school. 45. Matt Glasser - The smallish Glasser has had three uneventful seasons with the University of Denver and is in much the same position as Dee. 46. Robbie Bina - Had a lousy professional debut and was outmatched at every level. The undersized defenseman is already one of the older prospects in the system. 47. Parker Van Buskirk - Undrafted goaltender has been OK as Stockton’s starter in the ECHL playoffs but in all likelihood is only a stop-gap. 48. Mikahil Zhukov - Scored a career-high 5 goals in the KHL this past season. Not a player of interest at this point. 49. Jeff Lee - Big winger was rewarded for a fine season with the Oil Kings by being signed to a professional tryout; he was pointless in two AHL games. 50. David Rohlfs - Sometimes a forward, sometimes a defenseman, Rohlfs is almost always an ECHL player.

Some Elaboration

There were undoubtedly a few surprises on this list, so I’m just going to comment on those and a few other points. There are a couple of places where there is a real drop-off between players. I think Peckham has some space in the number one slot and is easily the surest bet in the system. Devan Dubnyk may be an elite AHL goaltender; with the quality of Springfield this season it’s hard to be sure based on the numbers. I’d say there’s a bit of a drop-off from Dubnyk in the number five spot to Brule at number six.

I have Jeff Petry rated quite low; THN ranks him as the second-best prospect in the system and Hockey’s Future has him in the number three slot. He hasn’t shown NHL-level offense during his NCAA career and his defensive numbers, both this year and last haven’t been inspiring either.

Rob Schremp also fares badly on my list; THN has him ranked 10th overall and Hockey’s Future slots him in the #6 spot. I tend to ascribe this to a difference in how we view probability – other outlets like him because he probably won’t be an NHL’er, but he has a shot at putting up big points if he does make it. Personally, I rate that behind a guy like Tyler Spurgeon, who has a better chance at an NHL career but probably won’t be a particularly special player if he does make it.

The other thing that I do is draw extensively on my AHL Quality of Competition rankings, which give us a better idea of which low-offense types are being elite AHL checkers and which ones are just being AHL grinders. For instance, Ryan O’Marra, who Prendergast tossed under a bus in his interview the other day, was frequently praised during the year as a shut-down player by Oilers’ brass when it was obvious from his QualComp numbers that he was playing on the fourth line.

There are two more big drop-offs at about the #17 and #25 slots. Players below #17 are real long-shots, and players below #25 are probably write-offs at this point although one or two may surprise.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#101 Chris
April 26 2009, 04:08PM
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@ Ogden Brother: Gagner may have been a better example. All NHL teams bring up and use SOME young players. Developing Gagner at the NHL level has clearly been a priority of the Oilers... Most organizations, however, don't try to develop so many young players at once. Having multiple first and second year players in your top six, is in my estimation, a good way to purposely "ice an inferior team." It's been the same old, same old, for too many years. I would like to see a more steady, measured, conservative approach to player development. I hope Tambellini agrees with me. This whole thread has been one long argument about why the cupboards are bare. (I won't even seriously entertain the notion that they are not) Is it poor drafting, average drafting, slightly above average drafting, What? Are we as fans content with just above average drafting? Are the cupboards bare because Lowe traded away, or failed to sign key vetrans and rushed our prospects into early NHL service? Was it too early? Were all these guys really ready for fulltime roster spots? If they were, why can't the Oilers even claw their way into the upper half of the league standings and make a playoff appearance? More than HALF the teams make it you know. Nitpicking about whether Vande Velde is a higher ranked prospect than Plante isn't going to change the fact that the Oilers have been a poorly run organization for a number of years. So Oilers faithful... am I crazy for not being hugely excited by this list of prospects? Or do you agree with me that Tambellini has a lot of work to do?

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#102 Smytty777
April 26 2009, 05:23PM
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Chris wrote:

So Oilers faithful… am I crazy for not being hugely excited by this list of prospects? Or do you agree with me that Tambellini has a lot of work to do?

You are free to have your opinion, but I haven't seen you assemble an actual argument using facts or statistics that suggest that the Oilers have a below average draft record. Whereas I have seen multiple sources suggesting that they are somewhat above the curve.

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#103 Chris
April 26 2009, 05:45PM
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@ Smytty777:

Are you satisfied with drafting "somewhat above the curve?" Is that good enough for you? Also, could you please site YOU'RE "multiple sources" that suggest this? I sited an April 21st Lowetide article for your consideration that helped to qualify my opinions. (Comment #74)

The beauty of a draft record debate is that it's difficult to evaluate the performance of your chosen prospects until upwards of five to ten years later... Maybe that's why Predergast still has a job issuing apologies to the fans of the Sprinfield Falcons... And why Shawn Horcoff is still the Oilers number one center, and Hemsky still doesn't have a full time first line L.W and on and on...

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#104 Smytty777
April 26 2009, 07:32PM
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@ Chris: Take off the OilerGoggles Willis: Peckham will only be a top four d-man on a team that either misses the playoffs or battles for eighth. Nash is an enigma that values his comfort zone more than developing into a serious NHL’er. Eberle will be lucky to develop into a twenty goal scorer who lacks physical dimenson. Omark will NEVER play in the NHL and Dubnyk is a big oaf who can’t come across his crease fast enough to stop a Dale Weise wrist shot let alone an NHL grade slapshot

As I said you are free to your opinion, but hyperbole does little to further your argument. Willis has run a number of articles on the Oilers drafting and Coming Down the Pipe had a segment a few weeks ago as well, you have read the Lowetide article yourself. Everyone is free to their opinion, but if you want to be critical of the Oilers draft record than put together a cohesive argument that rebuts Lowetide's contention don't just rant and say that Omark will NEVER play in the NHL, because that does nothing to enhance your point and it seems like a foolish statement considering Omark's age and ability.

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#105 Chris
April 26 2009, 08:28PM
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@ Smytty777: The Lowetide article suggested that the Oilers, under Predergast, will be below the league average at drafting both elite, and impact players. I never argued thier ability to draft large volumes of marginal and average NHL'ers... in fact that is how I'd assess much of this current group: a large number of these players are likley to be marginal or average NHl'ers. As for the golden boy Omark: if he was serious about playing in the NHL why sign in the KHL? Could it be that he's concerned his game won't translate well on smaller NHL ice? Is he just greedy? Or maybe he doesn't like his odds of legitimately making the Oiler squad out of camp when Tambellini has publicly declaired his intention to get the Oiler roster bigger. Whatever the reason... I do know this: very few players make it to the NHL without being 100% committed to that goal... Omark seems to lack that commitment. I've read many draft reports that peg Eberle as being a stretch to ever be an impact top six forward; and his game ALREADY lacks physcical dimension. (Was happy with his AHL debut though). Dubnyk IS slow laterally: that is a FACT... And I'm not the only one who figures Peckham is likely to always be a bottom pairing D-man.

Yes, it is fair comment that I'm prone to hyperbole. I'm an emotional guy, and have been disappointed with Oilers management for quite some time. My occasional overstatements tend to get conversation going though... and that is the purpose of this site. I do always have reasons for my views... And even if SOME of my commentary is colored by gut instinct; My gut has very rarely let me down. I've watched a lot of NHL hockey over a lot of years... I've sat through many draft days, prospect games, and held out hope for a lot of different Oiler prospects... My experience holds my expectations in check.

Sorry if I've offended you sir. Good day.

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#106 voxel
April 26 2009, 08:49PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Given that he was -31 this season, I’d say Petry’s struggling with NCAA speed right now.

On a terrible team with the worst offense in the NCAA(62 goals for... NCAA average 100.. typical range 90 to 110). The entire team was brutal across the board except for IMO Lerg and Petry and maybe Leveille.

http://msuspartans.cstv.com/sports/m-hockey/spec-rel/m-hockey-stats.html?0809/nbstats/msum

Being a key player and -20 was par for the course.

Heck look at Kopitar this season (near team worst in +/-) on a team that sucks at ES. Stoll was in the same situation on the Oil last season.

You gave Devan Dubnyk the benefit of the doubt with his mediocre stats on a Springfield team (Potulny scored 38 goals!) that was better than Michigan State (forwards were pathetic). Personally, I don't see anything special in Dubnyk myself. Purely objectively using stats, he's kinda a bust.

IMO Petry will be fine. He'll be a second pairing D-man in the NHL. Whereas Chorney and Peckham might be 3rd pairing / PP specialist types.

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#107 smytty777
April 27 2009, 08:50AM
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@ Chris: No offense taken, as I said you are free to your opinion (I don't personally agree with some of the conclusions), but the Nation is one of the best places around to debate the Oilers. If you do decide to do a more in depth look at the Oilers draft record let me know as I am always interested in reading up on these type of things.

Cheers.

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#108 SLURVE
April 27 2009, 11:01PM
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Speaking of draft picks, the Oilers should be looking at size, grit, toughness and softhands in the 2009 draft. A guy named Zack Kassian. Man, can this guy be the power forward encompassing all the above traits the Oilers so desperately need. Check him out on Youtube. I don't think Kassian has ever lost a fight and HE FIGHTS ANYONE. He has the smarts and skills to be a scorer sort of what JF Jacques could be but not. Kassian could protect the smaller forwards and he is enthsiastic to play the game. Kassian is a blend of Nolan, Gary Roberts , Jason Arnott and Probert all wrapped in one. I hope Tambo picks this guy up.

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#109 Bryanbryoil
April 28 2009, 11:07AM
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Really underrating Paukovich, IMO he has the tools to be a physical 4th line center that's good on faceoffs and the PK.

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