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:

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, 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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#51 Batfink
September 05 2013, 11:20AM
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The only way this could be better is if Burke was with Torterella! Still, Gillis is doing ok driving the train wreck by himself....

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#52 OilDieHard
September 05 2013, 11:24AM
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Ference is here for 4 years, J.Schultz will sign with the Oilers long term after this year (sorry Canuck fans, he's NOT signing there), and it remains to be seen if N. Schultz stays beyond this year, or even part of it. and Smid and Petry aren't a guarantee either, though you can't replace all the vets with kids, so i'd like to see Smid stay. the Oilers will make room for Klefa and Nurse, but eveyone else in the system is likely trade bait, though not all WILL be traded.

i don't know if Fedun, Simpson, Davidson, Gustafsson or Laleggia have futures here or not.

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#53 madjam
September 05 2013, 11:29AM
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Burke becomes the "mouth of the south " Should fit right in with Millions and Fester (reminds me of Addam's Family ) .

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#54 916oiler
September 05 2013, 11:53AM
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Nurse and Klefbom. Their names kinda sound like good cop bad cop. Except they'll both destroy you and your face. The Canucks will be diving from 10 feet away.

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#55 HallFever
September 05 2013, 11:57AM
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Klefbom hasn't played since last October. I'm sure he will have some rust and will start the season in OKC.

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#56 Kosmo Kraemer
September 05 2013, 11:59AM
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I fully agree about elder Schultz. It would suprise me to see him here after 2014 trade deadline. Thats when they would move Klefbom up to the Oilers. My thoughts though were who gets moved to make room for Marincin and Nurse. In 2015-16 I can fully see Ference getting moved down to third paring. I don't think thats out of line at all.

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#57 pkam
September 05 2013, 12:02PM
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DSF wrote:

Burke won't use offer sheets.

But I wouldn't be surprised if Burke and Nonis explore a trade.

That's great.

Now Lowe and MacT can offer sheet the Flames RFAs and don't have to worry about payback.

More fun when it is Burke and the Flames than any other GM and team.

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#58 pkam
September 05 2013, 12:17PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

That's basically my view - that because Schultz and Petry look like a decent bet for the 1/2 roles on the right, the fact that all the prospect D are lefties is less of a concern.

Isn't Fedun a right shooter? Couldn't he be our 3rd RD, or No. 7?

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#59 ubermiguel
September 05 2013, 12:22PM
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Burke hates RFA offer sheets...when they're used against him. Any GM in the league would use one if it's to their advantage. The loss of high picks is rarely worth it though.

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#60 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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#61 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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#62 Wax Man 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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#63 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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#64 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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#65 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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#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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