With Guy Flaming having posted his latest edition of the Oilers Top 20 Prospects, I’m thinking about who the Oilers have in the system right now, and the odds each player has of making the NHL. Guy does the best prospect list available to fans, well ahead of magazines like The Hockey News and McKeen’s, and for the most part it’s bang on.
I’d strongly advise reading the whole article, but I’ve taken a closer look at five of the twenty prospects that Flaming profiles, because these were the players that I felt we’d really learned something new about or were under-/over-rated.
On Riley Nash—Flaming’s fourth-ranked prospect—he has a bunch of information on Nash that I haven’t seen previously. Nash was the third first-round pick made by Edmonton in the 2007 Draft (Sam Gagner and Alex Plante were the other two) and has looked like a prescient selection ever since. He’s got a good shot at the Under-20 World Junior Team this year as a checker, and apparently played both wing and centre at the team’s summer camp, something that could improve his odds of playing in Edmonton.
Flaming also suggests that Nash will probably play at just under 200lbs, and has already been described as “ridiculously hard to knock off the puck.” He’s a big-time forechecker and energy player (Pierre McGuire described him as a “super-pest”) and Flaming projects him to turn professional in 2009–10. Nash is one of my favourite prospects in the system and projects as the kind of player who can play in any situation, but probably will be most effective as a checking-line forward.
On Cody Wild—Wild is a good skater with all kinds of offensive talent (although he was stuck playing for Providence College, a team which is almost comically inept at scoring) and average size. Flaming says that “knowing when to attack and when to hold back and play defence has been Wild’s biggest flaw to this point,” something that sets alarm bells off. There’s a place for average sized offensive defencemen who have trouble with their decision-making—Switzerland. Given that the Oilers have all kinds of puck-moving defensive prospects, this season shapes up as a critical one for Wild.
On Ryan Potulny—Flaming describes him as a “jack-of-all-trades,” and a player who “would gladly accept a fourth-line role and try to advance up the depth chart from there.” Those are exactly the kind of things I like hearing about youngish players who are clearly on the bubble—and I imagine it’s what Craig MacTavish wants to hear as well.
On Ryan O’Marra—Flaming mentions “rumours of tension” between O’Marra and the Oilers, which I suppose is unsurprising, given O’Marra spent good chunks of last season in the ECHL. Flaming mentions that O’Marra can also play right wing and is a natural face-off man, two qualities that improve his odds at an NHL career.
O’Marra is ranked 11th on the Top-20 list, and I have difficulty seeing why. He’s a prospect who had a nice, bright future after being selected in the first round by the New York Islanders (typical NYI first-round pick career progression: develop nicely, get traded for shiny veteran bauble who underperforms, emerge as a superior player to the acquired veteran with new team). He’s done not much ever since. He never improved on his draft-year totals in two subsequent seasons in the OHL, has struggled through injuries, and last season spent large portions of the year in the ECHL after only scoring two goals in 31 AHL games.
The thing with O’Marra is that he does things that are overvalued: he has nice size, and throws big hits, and every so often looks like he could be a scorer. He has yet to show any ability to be a better shutdown player than, say, Tim Sestito, and is basically getting cut slack because of his draft pedigree. Beyond his size and that draft pedigree, there isn’t much reason to be optimistic about this player
On Alex Plante—After mentioning that “there aren’t a lot of believers in Alex Plante” after an injury-devastated season, Flaming tells us that Plante is fully recovered from his injury woes and is stronger than ever after spending a month in California with Chad Moreau.
Now, I was critical of the Plante selection, but I think this is a guy who should round into a second or third pairing physical defender. He’s got size, and he also has a nice shot, but his offensive skills are almost entirely dependant on power-play time, as we saw last season. I think he’ll be a nice player, if nothing to get excited about.