This is my ranking of Oilers prospects; every single prospect of note is included somewhere on this list. It differs significantly from similar efforts by The Hockey News and Hockey’s Future – I’m much less concerned with draft position than I am in where the prospects are right now.
I use statistics a lot in my rankings, but I also take into account scouting reports and what I’ve seen of each individual prospect. The one exception I will make is that I don’t place a ton of emphasis on Kevin Prendergast’s public statements – sometimes they’re blatantly wrong, often they contradict what he said in the not too distant past. Without further ado, here’s the list:
1. Theo Peckham – Peckham has limited offensive upside at the NHL level, but he’s got size and plays a mean game. More than that, he was an outstanding shut-down defenseman in Springfield this season, constantly playing the toughest minutes, and didn’t look out of place in 15 NHL games.
2. Riley Nash – Nash has good offensive upside and plays a two-way game; unfortunately for the Oilers his development may be stagnating in Cornell and he still needs to add size.
3. Jordan Eberle – A natural goal-scorer, Eberle took a modest step forward in the WHL this year and starred for Canada at the World Juniors. He showed an ability to translate his offense to the AHL as well, scoring nine points in nine games. Will need more time before being NHL ready.
4. Linus Omark – The best offensive talent in the system right now, Omark had a phenomenal year in Sweden but is small and has never played in North America.
5. Devan Dubnyk – Dubnyk’s AHL numbers aren’t impressive, but he was playing for an absolutely abysmal team and lost more than twice as many games as he won. He was not part of the problem this season.
6. Gilbert Brule – His grit and offensive ability are undeniable; he is however both undersized and was injured (again) this season. Brule was rushed into the NHL and won’t ever be the player he was projected as in his draft year.
7. Teemu Hartikainen – The gritty Finn was one of the youngest players in his country’s top league and still managed 17 goals. His skating is still reportedly not very good and his -8 on a good team is cause for concern. Overall, he looks like a mid-round steal by the scouting staff at this point.
8. Philippe Cornet – Another pick that looks like a steal, Cornet actually put up more points than Eberle this season. He has a reputation as a smart, two-way player.
9. Ryan Potulny – Potulny’s track record just screams “tweener” to me, but he was far and away the best forward in Springfield and scoring 38 goals was an incredible accomplishment in that environment. Looked good during his NHL recall.
10. Chris Vande Velde – Vande Velde has size and faceoff ability and has put up decent point totals in college hockey. At this point he seems like a decent bet to have a future as a checking forward.
11. Alexandre Plante – The massive defenseman bounced back from a poor 2007-08 and added an edge to his game. On the other hand, Calgary was such a dominant squad that it’s questionable whether much of his offense will make it to the NHL.
12. Cody Wild – It was a strange season for Wild, who played a half dozen games in the ECHL this season and had trouble staying in the lineup under Jeff Truitt, but he was one of the few bright spots in Springfield.
13. Taylor Chorney – Kevin Prendergast swears that Chorney’s a better player than Wild, but the fact is that he played similar competition, posted vastly inferior numbers and is smaller to boot. His -29 was the worst on the team, and his defense partners (notably Roy and Wild) were vastly better without him than with him.
14. Jeff Petry – The two-way defenseman’s numbers dropped off this year as Michigan State was outscored nearly 2:1 by their opponents. That said, Petry’s -31 was easily the worst on the team.
15. Liam Reddox – The dependable defensive player doesn’t bring size to the NHL but he does bring willingness and smarts. He’s been a coach’s favourite everywhere he’s been, but the change in coaches may mean he ends up back in the AHL.
16. Jean-Francois Jacques – Jacques finally notched an NHL point after being a dependable AHL scorer for years. He’s a brilliant AHL player and adds size and energy to the lineup; if he’s finally figured out how to translate his game to the NHL he could be a force.
17. Milan Kytnar – Displayed offensive capability this season in Saskatoon and reportedly plays a well-rounded game.
18. Tyler Spurgeon – Was tremendous in a defensive role in Springfield this season; his -4 was one of the best marks on the team and Spurgeon was consistently used against tough opponents. Injuries are still a major concern.
19. Rob Schremp – Schremp’s season was an absolute disaster. He should have been on the cusp of NHL duty, but wasn’t even a leader in Springfield this season. His -26 was the worst mark among forwards despite the fact that he was playing some of the softest minutes on the team. Still, this is rock bottom and he’ll get at least one more year to try and turn things around.
20. Johan Motin – A big defenseman who was used sparingly in the Elitserien, Motin may not be developing as hoped. He would likely benefit from coming over to North America.
21. Ryan Stone – May have a career as an energy forward. Stone has never had a high-end offensive game but adds size and is a tough customer.
22. Colin McDonald – Played tough-minutes this season and showed some offensive talent down the stretch, where Rob Daum leaned on him heavily. He’s a big man with a good shot who may end up having a career as a 4th-liner.
23. Vyacheslav Trukhno – For the second year in a row, Trukhno has failed to translate his junior offense to the professional game. He doesn’t do enough other things well if he isn’t scoring to make the jump to the NHL.
24. Andrew Perugini – The Oilers signed Perugini to a minor-league contract, and he responded by outplaying draft pick Bryan Pitton and stealing the starting job with Stockton. That said, his numbers aren’t good enough at this point.
25. Josef Hrabal – This season went very poorly for Hrabal, who will be at Oilers training camp next fall. He was supposed to be one of Springfield’s top defensemen but was injured early and then used badly by Jeff Truitt. On his third trip to Stockton he left for Europe where he had six poor games in Sweden. He needs to show something this year or I think he’s done.
26. Alexei Mikhnov – Incredibly, Mikhnov’s still in the conversation. The Oilers have been in contact with him and he’s still interested in coming over, but likely only on a one-way deal. He would be ranked higher if I thought the Oilers were inclined to give him one.
27. Bryan Lerg – Lerg was injured this season, but comments from the Oilers have not been encouraging and it very much sounds like he may not be in the plans. A well-rounded player with a good NCAA career, Lerg is undersized and had a disappointing professional debut. As an undrafted player, he also gets less benefit of the doubt from the team.
28. Guillaume Lefebvre – Lefebvre, rather shockingly, led the Falcons in difficulty of competition and also contributed as the team’s resident tough guy. He’s getting older, but a fourth line job may yet be his.
29. Glenn Fisher – This player simply refuses to die. After being drafted he had lousy years with the University of Denver before blowing the doors off in his final NCAA season. Edmonton signed him; he responded with a middling ECHL year. He was signed to an AHL/ECHL deal and seldom used as Devan Dubnyk’s backup, but when the acquisition of Dany Sabourin forced a move he posted phenomenal numbers with Las Vegas of the ECHL. He’ll be 26 this week and is a bit of an enigma.
30. Tim Sestito – The organization’s love for this player is baffling; he must be a heck of a character guy because he doesn’t contribute at all offensively and isn’t blessed with size either. He’s a hardnosed guy who handles AHL tough minutes, but even a regular fourth-line job is probably not a realistic possibility.
31. Sebastien Bisaillon – Smallish, injury-prone defenseman showed a high-level offensive game in junior, but doesn’t bring enough offense as a pro to justify his other deficiencies.
32. Ryan O’Marra – O’Marra has size and is still young. He managed one goal on the season in the AHL and is rapidly running out of time with the organization.
33. Mathieu Roy – At one point Roy looked like a good bet for a career as a #6/#7 defenseman, but injuries have taken a toll. He has size, some offense, and a nasty disposition, but I think he’s already played the bulk of his NHL career.
34. Bryan Young – Big hitter has only average size and doesn’t contribute at all offensively. He plays a safe reliable game against soft AHL competition and isn’t a prospect of interest at this point.
35. Bjorn Bjurling – Bjurling had an off year, and will be thirty before next season. He doesn’t seem to be in the organization’s long-term plans.
36. Jake Taylor – Veteran minor-leaguer probably deserves to be ranked higher, but despite having size and playing a gritty game he’s at the age where NHL teams stop looking.
37. Bryan Pitton – Had a disastrous professional debut in the ECHL, losing his starting job to Andrew Perugini. He got a second chance when Perugini was injured in game one of the playoffs, but imploded so badly that Parker Van Buskirk, coming off a middling season in junior, replaced him as Stockton’s starter. Still has two years on his NHL deal, so he has time to rebound.
38. Jordan Bendfeld – A nasty defenseman with size and toughness, Bendfeld’s an ECHL player at this point.
39. Geoff Paukovich – Has size and occasionally injures people by hitting them from behind. Not a prospect of note.
40. Stephane Goulet – A 50-goal scorer in junior, Goulet’s a tall, lanky winger who has had three bad professional seasons and is probably done with the organization.
41. Charles Linglet – The undrafted 26-year old looked good in 21 games with Springfield and has some size but is realistically a career minor-leaguer at this point.
42. Alexander Bumagin – The 22-year old Russian seems to have peaked in his draft year.
43. William Quist – Quist hasn’t followed the Oilers’ recommendations and had a poor season with Nybro in Sweden’s second-best league. The 6’5” enigma is not likely to ever where an Oilers’ uniform.
44. Robby Dee – A part-time player with the University of Maine, it’s very doubtful that Dee gets a contract offer when he finishes school.
45. Matt Glasser – The smallish Glasser has had three uneventful seasons with the University of Denver and is in much the same position as Dee.
46. Robbie Bina – Had a lousy professional debut and was outmatched at every level. The undersized defenseman is already one of the older prospects in the system.
47. Parker Van Buskirk – Undrafted goaltender has been OK as Stockton’s starter in the ECHL playoffs but in all likelihood is only a stop-gap.
48. Mikahil Zhukov – Scored a career-high 5 goals in the KHL this past season. Not a player of interest at this point.
49. Jeff Lee – Big winger was rewarded for a fine season with the Oil Kings by being signed to a professional tryout; he was pointless in two AHL games.
50. David Rohlfs – Sometimes a forward, sometimes a defenseman, Rohlfs is almost always an ECHL player.
There were undoubtedly a few surprises on this list, so I’m just going to comment on those and a few other points. There are a couple of places where there is a real drop-off between players. I think Peckham has some space in the number one slot and is easily the surest bet in the system. Devan Dubnyk may be an elite AHL goaltender; with the quality of Springfield this season it’s hard to be sure based on the numbers. I’d say there’s a bit of a drop-off from Dubnyk in the number five spot to Brule at number six.
I have Jeff Petry rated quite low; THN ranks him as the second-best prospect in the system and Hockey’s Future has him in the number three slot. He hasn’t shown NHL-level offense during his NCAA career and his defensive numbers, both this year and last haven’t been inspiring either.
Rob Schremp also fares badly on my list; THN has him ranked 10th overall and Hockey’s Future slots him in the #6 spot. I tend to ascribe this to a difference in how we view probability – other outlets like him because he probably won’t be an NHL’er, but he has a shot at putting up big points if he does make it. Personally, I rate that behind a guy like Tyler Spurgeon, who has a better chance at an NHL career but probably won’t be a particularly special player if he does make it.
The other thing that I do is draw extensively on my AHL Quality of Competition rankings, which give us a better idea of which low-offense types are being elite AHL checkers and which ones are just being AHL grinders. For instance, Ryan O’Marra, who Prendergast tossed under a bus in his interview the other day, was frequently praised during the year as a shut-down player by Oilers’ brass when it was obvious from his QualComp numbers that he was playing on the fourth line.
There are two more big drop-offs at about the #17 and #25 slots. Players below #17 are real long-shots, and players below #25 are probably write-offs at this point although one or two may surprise.