October 14 2012 09:57AM
The Edmonton Oilers have a lot of prospects either in the system, in junior, college or European leagues. We're early into the regular season in most of these leagues and early returns for the top 20 (and beyond) is very positive.
Top 20 from September is here, updates below.
- L Nail Yakupov, Neftekhimik (KHL) 6, 4-2-6 -1. First class start from a young impact player. Shoots a ton, gets into high percentage offensive areas, and he handled the Hockey Canada-IIHF fiasco with aplomb. There are no down arrows for this young player. Massive talent.
- D Justin Schultz, OKC (AHL) 2, 1-1-2 E. Has captured the imagination of Oilers Nation with his performances in the first two regular season games. Terrific puck handler, he's involved a lot in plays from the neutral zone into offensive zone. Aggressive player, we don't really know about him defensively (yet) but there's a big brain, some ridiculous puck handling skills and a lot of confidence. I would hope (and pray) the Barons find a LH defender who can play Dallas Smith to Schultz's Bobby Orr.
- D Oscar Klefbom, Farjestad (SEL) 11, 0-3-3 +7. A stunning early portion of the season has SEL observers talking in grand terms about his future. Calm feet, good decisions, his poke checks alone are worth the price of admission. I think it is fairly accepted now that Klefbom will be in North America next season--likely in the NHL.
- D Martin Marincin, OKC (AHL) 2, 1-0-1 +1. Big defender is finding his way in pro hockey after a solid junior career. I'm not enamored about his being paired with Schultz--both are rookie pro's and Marincin is going to have to be the stay-at-home part of the pairing--that isn't really his game. That quibble aside, from what I've seen of him we should be pleased with Marincin. Although he's made some errors that have led directly to goals and chances, rookie defensemen develop slowly and we should be patient. Overall, good arrows.
- D Martin Gernat, Edmonton (WHL). The first down arrow on the list, and for a couple of reasons. First, a shoulder injury that will apparently have him out for some time (and unlikely to play at par when he returns). Second, there seemed to be some confusion about his injury and where he should have surgery coming from the OK camp; lack of communication is a troubling sign.
- L Teemu Hartikainen, OKC (AHL). 2, 0-1-1 E. Fans of the Finn (like myself) are used to slow starts, and his performance in game one of the regular season was distressing. However, Hartikainen played much better in game two and looks to have fit in nicely on the 3line. This is a huge season for Harski.
- R Tobias Rieder, Kitchener (OHL). 7, 1-5-6 -1. Last season after 7 games (5-5-10 +6) we were talking about a possible impact player. This season, he's started a little slower but there's no doubt the Oilers have a splendid prospect in Rieder. We've discussed his ability to play in all three disciplines before, and he's doing it again this season. Can't wait to see him in OKC.
- G Tyler Bunz, Stockton (ECHL). 2, 1.00 .952 A very impressive start for Bunz, as he follows the career path of Dubnyk and the other Oiler goalies over the last several seasons. He hasn't been busy (20 shots per game average) and that SP will fall down over the season. Still, impressive start.
- L Daniil Zharkov, Belleville (OHL). 9, 2-2-4 +1. Like Rieder, young Zharkov's start a year ago (9, 7-4-11 +4) turned a lot of heads. This season, he's off to a slower start but is still getting PP time and should improve his current numbers. Belleville is playing well, but their GF total is subpar despite the wins. They'll need more from Zharkov to contend.
- R Tyler Pitlick, OKC (AHL). 2, 0-1-1 +2. Leads the Barons with 8 shots on goal and from the action I've seen this is a player who "gets" his role. Looks better equipped to win battles this season to my eye, he certainly shows determination along the wall. The question is offense, and coach Nelson is giving him a massive opportunity.
- G Olivier Roy, OKC (AHL). 2, 2.00 .949. Roy performed well in his one game with OKC, and it is very interesting to see him get in games this early. Coach Nelson talked about playing Roy quite a bit this season and he'll be challenged in front of the current blue. Another great opportunity.
- D David Musil, Vancouver (WHL). 9, 2-5-7 E. At this point he's a man among boys and clearly the class of the Vancouver defensive group. The Giants are struggling this season and I wonder if the Oil Kings might come calling at some point. Excited to see Musil join the pro kids on defense.
- D Colten Teubert, OKC (AHL). 2, 0-0-0 E. When chaos rules the day--and face it, the OKC Barons have FOUR rookie pro's on the ice right now along the D--a calm presence is a welcome sight. I've been impressed with his physical play and quiet feet. He might be overlooked by the casual fan, but Oilers Nation knows the value of a defenseman who can stand in there and make the right play when things get dicey. At the AHL level, that's Teubert.
- L Mitch Moroz, Edmonton (WHL) 9, 0-4-4 +1. Moroz began the season on a skill line but has been moving up and down the lineup. Still, Moroz has been supplying the team with physical play (he had a big fight on Friday night against Calgary) and filling a role. I'd give money to know how the Oilers feel about the way this player is being handled.
- D Dillon Simpson, UND (NCAA). Not much to update, the North Dakota Something Something's have only played a couple of exhibition games. The thing to keep in mind about this player is that he's been taking a regular shift in NCAA hockey at an extremely young age. That will benefit him later on as he grows stronger.
- L Jujhar Khaira, Michigan Tech (NCAA) 2, 0-1-1 E. Khaira has 15 pims already, a reflection of a hit from behind in game one. Big winger with toughness and skill, he's a pretty interesting prospect.
- L Curtis Hamilton, OKC (AHL). 1, 0-0-0 -1. At the beginning of last season, we talked about him in the same way we discussed Tyler Pitlick. Those days are gone, and Hamilton played only one weekend game in Cleveland. He's a skilled player with two-way ability, but I think the most positive thing we can say is that Hamilton's timeline to the NHL will meander.
- D Erik Gustafsson, Djurgaden (Allsvenskan) 9, 1-1-2 +5. A solid start to the season, Gustafsson has been getting some solid reviews over the last few weeks. Oilers may have selected an obscure player based on final draft lists, but appears to be a player.
- D Brandon Davidson, OKC (AHL). 2, 0-0-0 E. Young defender doing some good things and struggling at others. Hey, rookie defenseman should be defined by this credo (imo): survival is success. There's miles to go, and I do believe he'd be better served by playing on a team with more experience, but if wishes were horses beggars would ride.
- D Taylor Fedun, OKC (AHL). 2, 0-0-0 E. He's looked fine to my eye, I think he'll emerge as more of a top 4 option as the season wears on. Fedun's skill set--two way defender--fits nicely with this group and I think a youngster like Marincin might benefit from playing alongside.
I didn't have Ryan Martindale in my top 20 (rightly so) but his impressive early season (2, 0-2-2 +2 and winning a top 6F job) should serve as a reminder about how quickly fortunes can turn. A year ago, we were talking about Phil Cornet and Martindale was ECHL bound, and this season the roles are reversed.
This prospect development thing isn't an exact science, and Martindale's fall reminds us of it.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Since Taylor Hall was drafted, the Oilers top 20 lists have been ridiculous. This continues through today, with Yakupov, Schultz and the rest representing top level potential and a strong tomorrow.
I also wanted to take a moment to mention the 2010 NHL Entry draft for the Oilers. Hall (NHL), Pitlick, Marincin, Hamilton, Martindale, Davidson, Pelss (AHL) and Bunz (ECHL) are all in pro hockey today. Kellen Jones is still in school, Jeremie Blain recently signed an AHL contract and Drew Czerwonka's back with Kootenay as an overager.
Good draft, Stu and the boys. Will it be a great one? That's what is being decided in OKC and Stockton. Good arrows, folks. Good arrows.