October 20 2012 11:19AM
Justin Schultz is the latest Oiler prospect to create mania in the fanbase. After watching Hall, Ebs and the Nuge, we were all stoked for the Russian. Looks like we'll have to make room for more impact youth.
Early in September, I listed the Oilers top 20 prospects. This list is very strong, despite the fact the Oilers have graduated not only Hall, Eberle and the Nuge in the last couple of seasons, but also Jeff Petry, Devan Dubnyk and others. The impact of all those last place finishes has been a strong prospect list for three years running.
The great thing about the current list is that it addresses blue. Incredibly well. Let me show you what I mean.
- Nail Yakupov: 8, 5-2-7 -1 in the current best league on the planet, he's also shooting (27 shots) and getting himself into good offensive situations. We compared Yakupov to other great Russian teenagers of recent vintage here, and so far he's covering the bet. Incredible. Andrey Osadchenko is quickly becoming the authority on this young player and is always a good read.
- Justin Schultz 3, 3-2-5 +5 and 13 shots in 3 games! He's tied for 3rd overall in AHL points and is the league leader in points by a defenseman and points by a rookie. He's tied for 12th in shots on goal and his 2 SH goals give him the league lead there too. Remember in summer when we were discussing NHL equivalencies? Schultz had an NHLE of 82, 15-25-40. Folks, early returns suggest he's all that.
- Oscar Klefbom 11, 0-3-3 +7 in another quality European league. Klefbom has a down arrow in that he's injured, but the early part of the season was no less than outstanding. Don't let the boxcars fool you--the Oilers have a player in Klefbom who is extremely close to NHL ready. He'll push for an NHL job fall 2013 if he's healthy, and I wouldn't bet against him.
- Martin Marincin 3, 2-0-2 +6 and that plus minus number leads the league this morning. In all the excitement over Schultz and the quick start from Klefbom, it was perhaps easy to forget about the lanky Slovakian. However, he's been a quality defender in early games and is partnered with Schultz on the top duo. I didn't think it would work, but coach Todd Nelson's hunch is paying dividends. A rookie pairing can work if they're good enough. Who knew?
- Martin Gernat DNP. Gernat serves as a cautionary tale for those of us (me) who get too excited about all of the good arrows. This young man looked like an enormous draft steal as late as this past summer, but a major injury (and vague reports about progress) have him in prospect limbo. Gernat was supposed to join the team this weekend, but that timeline has been moved back to early November. What will we hear in early November? I don't know who is advising this young man, but there appears to be a disconnect between player and team on basic things like timeline for return. It is at this point a major concern, and this is a player who is not signed.
The rest of that top 20 is worth looking at too, especially close to ready men like Teemu Hartikainen.
So what? I think we're at a point now where there's just too much young talent developing in the system for the big club to fail beyond this coming (maybe) season. At the NHL level, there is Hall, Ebs, Nuge, Petry, Gagner, Dubnyk and others. Bubbling under? Yakupov, Schultz, Kelfbom, Marincin and others, added to the 'tweeners' who may still emerge like Paajarvi and Lander.
Too much. Too deep. Too many. And now: a flood of blue.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
If there's an NHL season in 12-13, I don't think Oilers Nation can expect the playoffs--this is still a young and developing team, and management hasn't done enough in goal or on the NHL blue to make the second season a certainty.
Based on the young NHL men, the OKC kids, the Euros and the junior/college men already in the system, I think it is fair to say the rebuild is done the moment kids like Schultz and Klefbom show they can play at the NHL level. Based on what we've seen, a reasonable ETA is exactly one fall from now.