Timetable for the defence

Jonathan Willis
September 05 2013 09:55AM

There’s no secret that the strength of the Edmonton Oilers prospect group can be found on the blue line. That’s good on the one hand because it’s the area where the team needs high-end help. On the other hand, an NHL team can only break in so many rookies at one position at a time, so it’s worth asking when these players will be NHL ready and in what order.

When?

The chart above shows the season I expect a player to be in a position to play 25+ games in the NHL (assuming, of course, that they make it at all). It’s based on recent Oilers’ history, which has mostly seen defencemen graduate in the 20-24 age range, with the average around age 22.

Oscar Klefbom is the prime candidate for time this year; the organization has been extremely upbeat about his progress, he has draft pedigree, and it would be unsurprising in the least if he were to graduate to Edmonton after half a season or so in the AHL. Taylor Fedun goes here, too, because he’s last year’s top right-side AHL’er and at the age of 25 he’s at the point where most players either make the jump or start looking for a second opinion.

After a strong first AHL campaign, Martin Marincin would be in the mix too except that the Oilers are loaded on defence and Klefbom is in front of him. Another year in the AHL won’t hurt and he’s likely to make the jump next year. Brandon Davidson also lands here, after two and a half AHL seasons and at the age of 23; he established himself as an AHL’er last year and this gives him a full season to push up the depth chart and then most of another to wait for an opportunity. Brad Hunt, meanwhile, is in a similar position to Fedun.

I have assumed that Darnell Nurse will be returned to junior twice to mature physically before cracking the Oilers’ roster. This timetable has him making the team at age 20 – early, yes, but given his draft position expected. Martin Gernat and David Musil are both essentially on the Marincin track here, with two seasons of AHL play before competing for NHL time at the end of their entry-level deals; a slow pro debut could push this back a year but either could start strong and challenge a year earlier, too. Dillon Simpson finishes his college career and gets a full year in the AHL before pushing for playing time at age 22. Erik Gustafsson gets one more season in Europe, one season in North America to establish himself, and is then pushing for NHL time.

Finally, Ben Betker gets penciled in at age 23; that’s at the long end for an Oilers’ defence prospect but he was a late pick so it makes sense to give him some time.

Obviously…

Obviously, things won’t work out exactly this way. Some players will be traded, some may not sign (or be signed), and others won’t develop into NHL’ers. There’s no way to know with any certainty who will make it and who won’t. Looking at Lowetide’s top-20 list from five seasons ago is instructive – of a group of four real prospects, Theo Peckham eventually made it in a depth role, Jeff Petry turned out very well, Taylor Chorney got 42 games on a terrible 2009-10 team that look to be the heart of his NHL career, and Cody Wild did nothing. Peckham and Petry and Chorney all got looks at the highest level, though.

Klefbom, Marincin and Nurse look to be the first guys in line for NHL work over the next three years, and the Oilers could conceivably rework their depth chart to include all three at the major-league level (though it’s both a squeeze and that’s an awfully young group). Gernat, Simpson and Musil are the other three guys who look like they have the best case for NHL employment, but the timeline is rough – especially if the Oilers plan to be contending for the Stanley Cup in 2015-16 (which they absolutely should be). I really wonder, just looking at this, if Simpson signs an entry-level with the Oilers.

Outside of Klefbom and Nurse (key guys the team seems to want to build around), a lot of these players look like candidates for the ‘team trades top prospect for immediate help’ kind of move good clubs make at the deadline.

Recently around the Nation Network

Brian Burke is joining the Calgary Flames hockey operations group, and at Flames Nation Book of Loob has already decided what he's looking forward to most: 

If this all comes to fruition, my favourite part of his tenure will be whatever synonym for "Aggressive" he uses to coin the direction of the team (Truculent is so played out). My personal favourites are Bellicosity and (my personal favourite) Scurrilous. Damn that sounds hip.

Click the link above to read more or check out some of my recent work:

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#51 pkam
September 05 2013, 01:24PM
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2004Z06 wrote:

What cap pressure are you referring to? The cap will be 70+ next year and with upcoming TV contract renewals and possible expansion/relocation fees likely close to 80 mil the year after.

Why do people keep using the cap as a point of argument?

Simple math for you...Top 6F @ 6 mil per, top 2D @ 5 mil per, top goalie at 4.5 per = 50.5 mil.

This does not account for players coming off the books. I.e. Hemsky, N.Schultz etc.

Where is the problem?

TV contract is part of the HRR, but I doubt expansion/relocation fees are part of the HRR. If I recall correctly, it was not and the NHLPA wanted to add it into the HRR in the last CBA negotiation. Is it included in the HRR now?

And top 2 D will not be 5M per, more than 6.5-7.0M or more today. It may be even more a couple years later if the cap reaches 80M. If our young defensemen are good enough to be top 2 D, they will demand the market value.

Top goalie price varies between 5.5M to 7.0M. And I heard Linquist is asking 8+M. If Dubnyk shows he can be the number 1, I believe he will demand at least 5.5M.

So I would say the top 6 F, top 4 D and our starting goalie will average to 6M each, that is 66M for 11 players, not 50.5M for 9 players.

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#52 Quicksilver ballet
September 05 2013, 01:31PM
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DSF wrote:

I doubt the Leafs will move Kadri although stranger things have happened.

The Flames could certainly use Cody Franson, though, and it was Burke who acquired him.

Monahan for Kadri? Would solve some cap issues for the Leafs. They could afford to hang onto Franson.

One way or the other, Burke with get a couple guys out of Nonis this coming season.

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#53 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
September 05 2013, 01:41PM
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This attitude that you absolutely need an elite top-tier goalie to win games continues to baffle me.

Corey Crawford has made it to the conference finals twice in the past 3 years and he's - for all intents and purposes - identical to Devan Dubnyk.

Sure it helps, but some people here seem to think that icing a team with an average goaltender is the hallmark of a GM who's letting the fans down.

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#54 Quicksilver ballet
September 05 2013, 01:50PM
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@DSF

I know where you're coming from, but Nonis has left himself exposed on Fanson and Kadri. Not sure Burke cares at all about the biotching that would ensue in TO.

Might be like pounding a square peg into a round hole, but Burke is going to pizz someone off soon with his latest challenge.

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#55 Spydyr
September 05 2013, 02:02PM
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Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty) wrote:

I'm thrilled that Burkie is running the show in Calgary ....Helps bring back the Battle of Alberta in a big way...Right at a time when we're poised to dominate....

Big fight coming up at the Sutter family barn. Get your tickets soon.

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#56 EHH Team
September 05 2013, 05:35PM
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Tikkanese wrote:

Flames turned down Seguin for the 6th pick(Monahan), why would they then trade him for Kadri?!?

If they turned down Seguin for #6, that was a mistake IMO.

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#57 Dog Train
September 05 2013, 05:50PM
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I like the idea of Nurse spending two more seasons in the minors. He is still a raw talent with lots of room to fill out. This also gives us an opportunity to sort out the pretenders and contenders in the pipeline of defensemen. Having a top 4 dman on an entry level contract in a few seasons could be a real big help for us when it comes to staying under the cap.

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#58 Quicksilver ballet
September 05 2013, 05:55PM
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Tikkanese wrote:

Flames turned down Seguin for the 6th pick(Monahan), why would they then trade him for Kadri?!?

I was thinking the exact same thing too EHH Team. I don't think that's at all true. Tikk probably only believes this is true.

Kadri could just be a better player than Seguin. Outside of 2 finals appearances for Tyler, there hasn't been much else. Nazem could also just be a better person, perhaps.

Should be interesting to see what Burke does this coming season.

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#59 otter2233
September 05 2013, 06:45PM
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Czar wrote:

When the shoe fits, not even sure DSF knows what a fluffer is, but I'll try to be a little more considerate to the ladies out there next time.

Anyone from the Nation going to Penticton? Be nice to get some first hand reports at the tournament.

Hey Czar, not sure if anyone else has commented on your post but the Oilers website is live streaming the Flames-Oilers rookie game tonight. Not sure aboot the other games but I imagine they will stream those too.

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#60 madjam
September 05 2013, 07:25PM
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Caught the Oilers feed and felt starved for Oiler action . Got our butts kicked , and final score flattered us . Best Oilers were Bunz and Ewanyk , followed by Gernat and Musil . Klefbom and Nurse duo was terrible unfortunately , with Marincin equally as bad .Flames rookies showed a lot better than ours did . Depressing to watch .

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#61 The Soup Fascist
September 05 2013, 11:53AM
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JW, how much of a concern is it that ALL the high end D prospects are lefties?

As the speed picks up from junior to minor pro to the NHL - the less time you have to make a subtle body turn to change an angle, or the little less mustard on a backhand pass or time it takes to reposition a puck - can bite you in the a$$.

Am I over-valuing the fact that at the next level we are going to need some "righties". One saving grace is two younger guys, Justin Schultz and Petry are righties and should be around awhile.

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#62 DSF
September 05 2013, 01:41PM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

Monahan for Kadri? Would solve some cap issues for the Leafs. They could afford to hang onto Franson.

One way or the other, Burke with get a couple guys out of Nonis this coming season.

Yeah, I thought of that too but it would certainly make the Leafs weaker next season.

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#63 JM
September 05 2013, 01:47PM
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pkam wrote:

TV contract is part of the HRR, but I doubt expansion/relocation fees are part of the HRR. If I recall correctly, it was not and the NHLPA wanted to add it into the HRR in the last CBA negotiation. Is it included in the HRR now?

And top 2 D will not be 5M per, more than 6.5-7.0M or more today. It may be even more a couple years later if the cap reaches 80M. If our young defensemen are good enough to be top 2 D, they will demand the market value.

Top goalie price varies between 5.5M to 7.0M. And I heard Linquist is asking 8+M. If Dubnyk shows he can be the number 1, I believe he will demand at least 5.5M.

So I would say the top 6 F, top 4 D and our starting goalie will average to 6M each, that is 66M for 11 players, not 50.5M for 9 players.

Your 66M cap hit suggests top 4 D averaging 6 Mil/year? Smid is at 3.5 until 2017, Petry will likely be re-signed at a similar number.

Nurse and Klefbom will have a combined cap hit of about $3 Mil total until 2016. There is plenty of time before we're worrying about 6 million dollar cap hits for our D.

If Jr. Schultz, Nurse and Klefbom all re-sign for 6 million within the next 4 years, that’s a problem I’ll be extremely happy to deal with.

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#64 pkam
September 05 2013, 02:14PM
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JM wrote:

Your 66M cap hit suggests top 4 D averaging 6 Mil/year? Smid is at 3.5 until 2017, Petry will likely be re-signed at a similar number.

Nurse and Klefbom will have a combined cap hit of about $3 Mil total until 2016. There is plenty of time before we're worrying about 6 million dollar cap hits for our D.

If Jr. Schultz, Nurse and Klefbom all re-sign for 6 million within the next 4 years, that’s a problem I’ll be extremely happy to deal with.

At the moment, UFA No. 1 will be around 7-8M. No.2 will be 6-7M, the no. 3 will be 4.5-5M and no.4 around 4M, total around 20-22M. I believe this will go up 10% in a couple of years and make it 22-24M.

Our situation may be a little different because of the lack of true top 2 D and the number of ELC and RFA in our top 4 D. It makes it less costly but the result is we are one of the weakest defense.

When our young defense player are mature enough, we will have to pay them fair market value. Just watch how much Pietrangelo gets this year and Subban get next year. And these are RFA contracts, not UFA contracts.

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#65 Wäx Män Riley
September 05 2013, 05:34PM
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@DSF

i'm watching the young stars game and wondering if you said Monohan is a better player than Gagner. i know you said that about Horvat, but do you think that about Monohan?

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#66 719
September 05 2013, 11:34PM
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In relation to the cap, we know this past season:

Renaud Lavoie reports via Twitter “Escrow for NHL players should be around 17 % for the 2013 season. HRR estimate at $2.2 Billion

Based on these numbers, for the 2013-2014 nhl season the cap for each team would have been 58.2 million (rather than the negotiated 64 million) taking into account the new CBA and the 50/50 split for HRR.

What kind of growth can the NHL legitimately expect with the Canadian dollar dropping? I wouldn't be surprised at all if the cap next year (2014-2015) stays at the 64-66 million range (this would require 10% growth in HRR over the lockout shortened year), and moves up roughly 10% a year at maximum each subsequent year

FYI in the 2011-2012 season, the NHL made 3 billion. Which means each team would have had roughly a 50 million cap for the 2013 lockout shortened season.

The growth during the lockout shortened season coincides nicely with the 10% growth rate a year.

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#67 Devolution
September 06 2013, 04:33AM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

Maybe now that there's a new chief in Calgary, all Oil/Flames history could be out the window.

Monahan probably won't be making the Flames this season now. What would the Oilers have to give up to get their hands on Monahan afterall.....Gags and N.Schultz, since we're a couple yrs from making the post season anyways.

Burke will be all about making a significant impact his first year in Calgary. He could do something silly.

I don't understand the constant desire to trade a bird in hand for two in the bush. How many 23 years olds have done what 89 has done, let along an 18 year old who was drafted a few month ago. The road from draft pick to bonafide NHL player is long and perilous. Once you reach the end with one player, why restart with another?

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#68 Czar
September 06 2013, 08:08AM
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otter2233 wrote:

Hey Czar, not sure if anyone else has commented on your post but the Oilers website is live streaming the Flames-Oilers rookie game tonight. Not sure aboot the other games but I imagine they will stream those too.

Thanks Dude, appreciated the heads up.

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#69 Tikkanese
September 06 2013, 09:01AM
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EHH Team wrote:

If they turned down Seguin for #6, that was a mistake IMO.

Yes for sure a mistake. As well I assume they turned down Corey Schneider for the same pick as Schneider was traded for a lower pick from NJ, though there are no reports of that happening.

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