Organizational Sketch: Blue Chip/Top Prospects

Jonathan Willis
July 15 2013 10:21AM

Who are the Oilers’ best prospects, and what positions do they play? The following is intended to give a general outline of where the team can expect to get internal help, and what positions need to be shored up.

The brief bios below are presented in alphabetical order, and are divided into two groups: blue chip prospects and legitimate prospects. Unsurprisingly, with so many first round picks in the NHL, the Oilers are low on blue chip pieces – by my count they have two – but they do have some legitimate talent in the system, most of it on decent (and, since so much of it is from the most recent draft, most of it also years away).

I use Calder Trophy eligibility as my definition of what a prospect is, which is why players like Taylor Fedun, Teemu Hartikainen and Anton Lander aren’t included below. Reasonable people may disagree on the boundaries here – some might prefer to see Oscar Klefbom listed as a legitimate rather than blue chip prospect, and the reverse for a player like Martin Marincin – but as a general overview this should give us a good idea of the system’s depth.

Blue Chip Prospects

These are the best of the bunch – top prospects who would be a boon to any NHL system.

  • Oscar Klefbom: Left-shooting, two-way defenceman with superb skating
  • Darnell Nurse: Left-shooting defenceman with a range of skills and toughness

Legitimate Prospects

A hair below the blue chippers, these players have legitimate value but either have more risk or lack the top-end ceiling that would make them top prospects.

  • Greg Chase: Well-rounded, tenacious centre without top-flight offensive ability
  • Brandon Davidson: Left-shooting defender who does many things well and had a tremendous season battling back from a cancer scare
  • Martin Gernat: Left-shooting defenceman with size and a two-way game
  • Jackson Houck: Competitive forward who can score a bit with average size and skating
  • Brad Hunt: Undersized left-shooting defenceman lit up the AHL as a rookie professional
  • Jujhar Khaira: Big left wing with offensive ability and an emerging power game who needs to improve his skating
  • Martin Marincin: Huge left-shooting defenceman who can skate and move the puck
  • Andrew Miller: Small centre with puck skills who was pursued by multiple teams as a free agent
  • David Musil: Big, smart, defensive defenceman who could improve mobility
  • Toni Rajala: Small winger can play on either side, has wicked puck skills and doesn’t back down
  • Marc-Olivier Roy: Averaged sized right wing with grit and a range of skills
  • Dillon Simpson: Left-shooting, two-way defenceman with smarts
  • Anton Slepyshev: Left wing with decent size and good scoring who may not be overly interested in the NHL
  • Bogdan Yakimov: Huge centre with a power game and skating issues

The Depth Chart

On defence, the system is well-stocked; exclusively with left-shooting defenders, but stocked all the same. The Oilers’ best prospects and best depth occurs at the same position, and there’s a nice range of readiness with some guys in junior or college, some getting their feet wet as professionals, and others knocking on the door to NHL employment. It’s a good group.

Up front, the picture is much less rosy. Five of the eight players were drafted this summer (and it’s entirely possible not all of them will be on this list a year from now) so they’re early in their development; add in Jujhar Khaira and there are only two guys relatively far along. Unfortunately for Andrew Miller and Toni Rajala, they’re both smallish players who aren’t necessarily an ideal fit for the Oilers’ needs at the present. This isn’t an especially good group and while the Oilers have done a good job re-stocking since the hiring of MacTavish (only Rajala and Khaira were inherited from the previous administration) it’s likely going to take a year or two to get the proper mix here.

In net, there is no picture. The Oilers swung hard for European free agent Antti Raanta and missed, which leaves them without a single compelling goalie prospect in the system.

Recently around the Nation Network

On basically every team there seems to be some level of dissatisfaction among fans with the current state of the roster. In Edmonton, it's mostly been depth positions that some (inluding me) have critiqued, so it can be interesting to contrast what the hometown team has done with another squad - like the Toronto Maple Leafs. Cam Charron has their projected opening night lineup here (check out that bottom six) and it's worth a look.

Click the link to read more, or alternately, feel free check out some of my other pieces here:

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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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#1 geoilersgist
July 15 2013, 10:30AM
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So really Tambi just used his FISTS for diddley squat while he was here except draft 1st overall 3 times

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#2 oilers2k10
July 15 2013, 10:39AM
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Six of eight forwards on your list were all taken in this years draft, I wonder how many will still be there this time next year.

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#3 Craig1981
July 15 2013, 10:49AM
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@oilers2k10

I;m guessing not very many. I really wish Tamballini wouldn't of traded away our 3rd and 4th rounders so MacT could of Zykov with our 2nd rounder instead of needing to trade down.

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#4 Craig1981
July 15 2013, 10:54AM
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geoilersgist wrote:

So really Tambi just used his FISTS for diddley squat while he was here except draft 1st overall 3 times

I think Gerant, Marincin, Kelfbom, And Musil are all very good prospects.

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#5 DrDave
July 15 2013, 10:56AM
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Are Bunz and Roy really not considered to be even legitimate prospects??

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#6 2004Z06
July 15 2013, 10:57AM
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So Roy and Bunz are now officially busts? I was surprised the Oil didn't take Jarry when they had the chance.

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#7 Jason Gregor
July 15 2013, 11:11AM
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JW,

Chase played mostly wing last year, not centre. He got some 2nd unit PP time, but played mainly on 3rd line, yet still was 4th on team in points with 49.

He also was on PK. He'll get more icetime this year and in 18-year-old season could have 65 points. He's not elite scorer, but has better hands than some think. Plus he's a pest on the ice. He could, I repeat could, be best 7th round pick since Brodziak.

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#8 Smokey
July 15 2013, 11:12AM
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2004Z06 wrote:

So Roy and Bunz are now officially busts? I was surprised the Oil didn't take Jarry when they had the chance.

Jonathon, where would Tobias Ryder be on the depth chart if he was still with us? Trade still irks me, considering the obvious lack of skill depth. I think the guy had a legitimate 3rd line potential.

For those who think are goalie situation is all bad, I don't think its great, but we gotta remember Bunz had one year in the pros, and Roy what a year in the ECHL and AHL. Should we be waiting at least 2-3 years to make that assumption. Maybe the Oilers are accepting their apparent inability to assess and develop goalies

I also don't get the freaking out of trading 3-4 rounders on occasion for a NHL player. Such assets have what a 5-10 percent of making the NHL.

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#9 dv.asteroid
July 15 2013, 11:13AM
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Bold prediction. After all the talk about myriad players, next year it will be yak-city mania. Domination proclamation. Nuge, hall & yak-city....magic follows.

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#10 CaptainLander
July 15 2013, 11:23AM
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"Up front, the picture is much less rosy"

Oiler prospect depth is an interesting thing. People have complained about the lack of forward depth and this to is inaccurate. Rather then look at prospect depth not playing on the big club I would make more sense to asses the players by age. Do we need prospect depth at forward. In mean blue chip. I my eyes 4 of our top 6 forwards can still be seen prospects, Hall and Ebs can likely be removed from the list but RNH and Yak should still be considered as prospects.

The Oil seem to have more depth in the prospect world on D but these D are the same age as the kids on the big club. I think when you look at prospects it is where they will fit on the big team in 2-4 years. For the forwards there is little space in the top 6, especially for pure skill guys. Likely the reason the Oiler scouts have avoided skill players in round 2 and up.

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#11 horndog77
July 15 2013, 11:25AM
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So when Eric Fucale was still available in the early second round why did they not trade up a few spots to draft him? Clearly they were hoping he would fall to them, but why chance it if clearly they have no real depth for goalies.

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#12 Craig1981
July 15 2013, 11:28AM
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@Smokey

I am not freaking out over 3-4th rounders, but the fact remains that the Oil had to replace those picks in a deep draft with the trading of the pick that LA used to take Zykov (that ISS had ranking 19th who scored 40 goals in JR.) And I may of been fine with that BUT, we got a total of 35 games out of it. AND those games were with Smithson and Fistic who are marginal at best.

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#13 Numenius
July 15 2013, 11:29AM
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Do you not count Ryan Hamilton as a prospect?

He would help your depth chart at LW.

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#14 Obiwan Eberle - Team Silver Fox
July 15 2013, 11:29AM
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Gregor,

What about Zharkov?...not legit?

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#15 etownman
July 15 2013, 11:36AM
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What about Moroz! Looks like an excellent prospect to me!

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#16 madjam
July 15 2013, 11:43AM
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Really depends on ones definition of blue chip player . I would categorize a tad different . The immediate blue chipper , the projected blue chipper and thirdly the prospects -expected to make team but not elite level players . Hall , Hopkins and Yakupov fit my first, and to be honest I thought Gagner fit that back when he entered the league . Eberle fits the second as well as Perron , and this year Klefbom and Nurse appear to be going in that direction . The rest are projects /prospects more likely not of the projected blue chip variety .

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#17 Jason Gregor
July 15 2013, 11:46AM
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Obiwan Eberle - Team Silver Fox wrote:

Gregor,

What about Zharkov?...not legit?

He could be on list. Signed two-year deal in KHL. I'd also have Moroz on the list. Way too early to write him off.

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#18 Smokey
July 15 2013, 11:47AM
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Craig1981 wrote:

I am not freaking out over 3-4th rounders, but the fact remains that the Oil had to replace those picks in a deep draft with the trading of the pick that LA used to take Zykov (that ISS had ranking 19th who scored 40 goals in JR.) And I may of been fine with that BUT, we got a total of 35 games out of it. AND those games were with Smithson and Fistic who are marginal at best.

Fistric and Smithson were needed, both positions were lacking due to injuries. I would of resigned Fistric at least to be a 6/7 defender. Smithson well I thought he would be a fit, but he was meh

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#19 The Heist
July 15 2013, 11:48AM
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We should consider trading for some forward/goalie prospect depth from an eastern team. Example, Tampa has good prospects and goalies in janus and vasilevskiy. Good forwards in namestikov and peca out of college. I know vasilevskiy and namestikov are very highly regarded obviously but I'm sure trading some of our "highly regarded" defensive depth could do it. Just spitballing here

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#20 The Heist
July 15 2013, 11:57AM
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Also adding to my comment, Florida not only has a wealth of good prospect talent, they're also all really young and bunched together age wise, meaning a couple years down the road they're might be a logjam. some good pieces would have to move to make way. If I was mact I'd look for those kinds of situations.

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#21 Citizen David
July 15 2013, 11:58AM
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CaptainLander wrote:

"Up front, the picture is much less rosy"

Oiler prospect depth is an interesting thing. People have complained about the lack of forward depth and this to is inaccurate. Rather then look at prospect depth not playing on the big club I would make more sense to asses the players by age. Do we need prospect depth at forward. In mean blue chip. I my eyes 4 of our top 6 forwards can still be seen prospects, Hall and Ebs can likely be removed from the list but RNH and Yak should still be considered as prospects.

The Oil seem to have more depth in the prospect world on D but these D are the same age as the kids on the big club. I think when you look at prospects it is where they will fit on the big team in 2-4 years. For the forwards there is little space in the top 6, especially for pure skill guys. Likely the reason the Oiler scouts have avoided skill players in round 2 and up.

I agree with this. I'm not as concerned about the forward prospect depth because of how ridiculously young our forwards are. It would have been super awesome if Pitlick and Hamilton and Martindale had turned out and could be coming in to upgrade the bottom six but it is what it is. I still have some hope in Lander if he's given another year in the AHL. I loved our draft this year. Obviously they are years away and could be busts but right now they give me lots of hope. Great selections.

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#22 Aspin
July 15 2013, 12:00PM
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Jonathon, I am not sure why so many people underrate Marincin. I really hope MacT does not under-rate him as much as the fans do because if he includes them in a deal they will regret it for the next 15 years. When is the last time a big 20-year old defenceman for the Oilers came into the AHL and did what Martin did in his first year? I am not saying he is Chara or will turn out to be Chara but boy there are some similarities they way they are developing.

I would say Marincin is closer to the blue-chip prospects then the rest of the group. He is way ahead of the rest of the guys on their and it is more a diservice to put him in that group than it would be a stretch to put him with Klefbom and Nurse.

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#23 Citizen David
July 15 2013, 12:00PM
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JW how big of a deal is it for a left shooting defencemen to play right? Will it be a hindrance?

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#24 Citizen David
July 15 2013, 12:05PM
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Aspin wrote:

Jonathon, I am not sure why so many people underrate Marincin. I really hope MacT does not under-rate him as much as the fans do because if he includes them in a deal they will regret it for the next 15 years. When is the last time a big 20-year old defenceman for the Oilers came into the AHL and did what Martin did in his first year? I am not saying he is Chara or will turn out to be Chara but boy there are some similarities they way they are developing.

I would say Marincin is closer to the blue-chip prospects then the rest of the group. He is way ahead of the rest of the guys on their and it is more a diservice to put him in that group than it would be a stretch to put him with Klefbom and Nurse.

I'm a huge Marincin fan. Been one of my favourite prospects since we drafted him. He has a shot at developing into a top pairing defencemen but at the moment I wouldn't put him with Klefbom and Nurse. Klefbom's injures scare the heck out of me. If he can stay healthy I think he'll be an absolute beast. But I'm just so worried he'll get worn down.

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#25 Obiwan Eberle - Team Silver Fox
July 15 2013, 12:13PM
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never mind

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#26 Ducey
July 15 2013, 12:28PM
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One or more of Pitlick, Ewanyk, McCarron, Moroz or Kessy will take a step forward this year. I have given up on Curtis Hamilton.

My $ is on Pitlick and Moroz(who should both be moving up their lineups and getting more PP time).

The other thing to remember is that excess Dmen can be traded for forwards.

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#31 godot10
July 15 2013, 01:08PM
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I think it is a early to right off Zharkov, Ewanyk, and Moroz as legitimate prospects, before they have played a game of pro hockey.

I think it is a bit early to right Olivier Roy off completely either. He's master the ECHL. The weak defense to start the season in OKC (Teubert and Plante falling off a cliff, with the rest being rookies), made his first AHL shot look rocky, but even Danis struggled early, until the OKC defense was stabilized.

The silicon chip seemed to go off in Pitlick's head after his return from injury. I would not totally write him off as a prospect yet, but there is a lot of suspect here also.

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#33 Prudham's
July 15 2013, 01:11PM
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Is Zharkov not worthy of the list?

oops. just saw the comment

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#36 Craig1981
July 15 2013, 02:07PM
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Smokey wrote:

Fistric and Smithson were needed, both positions were lacking due to injuries. I would of resigned Fistric at least to be a 6/7 defender. Smithson well I thought he would be a fit, but he was meh

Were Fistric and Smithson really any better than the person one down from them on the depth chart...... Thats where my problem lies....the quality just wasn't there. I have no problem with the fact our 2nd was used to draft Lucic since we got value for that pick. We had no playoffs and our team is weaker today because of those trades

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#37 Smokey
July 15 2013, 03:29PM
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Craig1981 wrote:

Were Fistric and Smithson really any better than the person one down from them on the depth chart...... Thats where my problem lies....the quality just wasn't there. I have no problem with the fact our 2nd was used to draft Lucic since we got value for that pick. We had no playoffs and our team is weaker today because of those trades

Fair argument. The guy one down was Peckham, organization gave up on him and ruined an asset. Smithson was probably better then Lander on faceoffs, and hitting, but not much else, I concur.

If you trade a second for an NHL asset you generally win the trade. 15 percent of players in round 2 become actual players, and the Lucic argument means that you got lucky.

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#38 nunyour
July 15 2013, 07:43PM
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I for one think their scouting is brutal and a large piece of the problem,i wonder is there is stats on drafting performance .I would be interested to see where the oilers fall.

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#39 nuge2nail
July 15 2013, 09:32PM
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Oiler Domination To Follow

Our Defence in a few years has the potential to be huge, physical, fast and extremely offensive. Solid top Four.

Petry - J Shultz

Klefbom - Nurse

Marincin - Smid

Gernat - Belov

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#40 Tikkanese
July 16 2013, 04:10PM
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You lost me at Greg Chase being a legitimate prospect. Not sure how a 7th rounder this year is deemed legitimate already. I would think he's at least two solid seasons away from even being considered a legitimate prospect. Way to early. That said, hopefully he is the last round "Luc Robitaille" of this years' draft.

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