Each June and December, I post a Top 20 prospects list. Since this is the midway point between the two lists, I thought it might be an idea to see how they’re progressing.
- Taylor Hall: Since draft day he’s devoted himself to making the 10-11 Edmonton Oilers. His Desjardins NHL equivalencies are very close to recent rookie phenoms Stamkos and Tavares. We shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves–there are going to be struggles–but this young man has done everything expected and more in his first weeks of pro hockey. His final performance of TC gave him and fans a chance to see what happens when even a gifted rookie faces a wall of veteran defense. He’ll adjust.
- Magnus Pääjärvi: The young man has stolen the show this TC. 216 days older than Hall, his SEL experience has been extremely beneficial this fall. The kid is a bullet, and despite a gangly frame you can see he’ll eventually be an absolute load flying down the wing. A ridiculous talent.
- Jordan Eberle: Right on track. I’ve been impressed by Renney’s handling of Eberle, he apparently sees a more complete player than you’d see in an average 20-year old prospect. He’s also performed very well offensively and hasn’t let the play die on his stick often. Fine young prospect.
- Tyler Pitlick: A very impressive training camp has Oiler fans thinking the organization may have acquired that most rare of all things: an effective 2-way center with size. Pitlick is 3gp, 1-0-1 -1 in junior (Medicine Hat, WHL) , plus he’s 6.02, 194 and won’t turn 20 until November 2011.
- Chris Vande Velde: Big college center who won a lot of faceoffs in the NCAA had an impressive main camp. VV has a nice range of skills, including better footspeed than expected and nice touch around the net. He also displays defensive awareness and the ability to impact a play without taking a penalty or botching it altogether. We should remember this name.
- Theo Peckham: The top 5 on my list have strong (bold!) arrows going in the right direction this fall. Peckham entered camp with a job to lose and he may have done just that with an uneven performance. I still think he’s a solid NHL prospect, and there are rumors that he won’t clear waivers, but based on this camp it seems pretty clear the Oilers have some other attractive options.
- Linus Omark: If I were Omark I’d fire my agent. If the young man had come over to camp a year ago, Omark would likely be a lock for this roster. As it is, he’s "Ringo Starr" and the other members of the fab four are getting all of the attention. Omark has displayed unreal puck skills and a surprising amount of grit and tenacity. Is it enough? It sure as hell would have been a year ago.
- Anton Lander: Playing in the SEL (6gp, 0-3-3) and performing a third line role, Lander continues to play enormous minutes for Timra. Lander is once again getting 18 minutes a night (they played him 19 minutes a night in the playoffs last spring) and appears to be among the top 3 in TOI for Timra forwards so far this season.
- Martin Marincin: The young man has had an immediate impact in the WHL. His stats line (4gp, 2-1-3 Even) is very impressive for a defender, and his 15PIMS suggest obstreperous and defiant aggressiveness (looking for new ways to say truculence). This fellow is having a very impressive start.
- Devan Dubnyk: His pre-season has been solid and it looks like the big man has won a roster spot. Dubnyk has outplayed JDD so far (SP edge is .906 to .888 in a small sample size) in a race that has been more tortoise than hair. I hope he wins the job, have been cheering for him over many years.
- Alex Plante: Solid training camp, he needs more time to mature and get rid of a need to adlib. When he plays it straight, Plante has a lot of things an NHL team can find useful. Strong young man, his development may make it easier for the club to risk waivers on Peckham.
- Jeff Petry: Quality TC gave Oilers fans a chance to see what the organization was excited about over the last couple of seasons. His foot speed is already major league, and he has some grit, so the Oilers are waiting on improvement in his decision making and for him to get comfortable with the major leap from NCAA to AHL. Taylor Chorney taught us all its a gap.
- Teemu Hartikainen: A solid TC has him in the mix for a callup this season. My guess is that Hartikainen’s skating will keep him in the minors for most of the season and he may be looking at a 4th line role when he does arrive in the NHL. However, he’s a good bet to have a career, and based on his draft pedigree that’s a win for everyone.
- Ryan Martindale: A slower start in the OHL (3gp, 0-2-2 -1) has Martindale getting fewer minutes (based on reports),but it is a long season and he’s just getting started. Considered a leader on the 67’s.
- Curtis Hamilton: A nice start to the season (4gp, 1-3-4 -2) and he’s healthy. Hamilton is a very interesting prospect, in that he’s already a physical presence (listed at 6.03, 202) and playing on a skill line. Although I have him listed 15th, his skill set is very valuable. If he stays healthy, this guy could be a big part of the future.
- Olivier Roy: After serving notice that he’s a legit "#1G of the future" calibre prospect, Roy returned to the QMJHL and has played in only 1 game (gave up 4 goals). Acadie-Bathurst appears to be riding a less proven goalie, so I wonder if Roy had an injury after TC. An aside: I don’t know who is responsible for the mess that is the CHL website fiasco, but the man at the top of that decision should be fired. rfn.
- Johan Motin: Slowly but surely, he’s being passed by everyone. Seriously. Motin was about even with Alex Plante a year ago (both playing depth minutes in the AHL) and since then Plante and others have passed him. Motin’s decision making seems to be the problem, as his physical attributes (6.02, 202) are certainly in the range for pro defensemen. If he does become an NHL regular, it is likely to be later than sooner.
- Taylor Chorney: When a young prospect is at a career crossroads this early, it usually means the organization has made a mistake in moving him up the ladder. This is certainly the case for Chorney, who doesn’t look big enough to impact (let alone win) a puck battle with NHL forwards. Finesse Dmen can play in the NHL, but he needs time to learn the position.
- Jeremie Blain: Has played in only 2 of his team’s 8 QMJHL games, going 2gp, 0-1-1 E. We’ll need more information on him, but he seems to be a prospect worth following.
- Toni Rajala: Impressive start for Ilves Tampere (SM-Liiga) with 4gp, 1-2-3 -1. Appears to be safely in the top 6 for the club, it’ll be interesting to see if he can post a better number than Rita or Salmelainen in the same league, same age. Looks good so far.
The number of prospects with arrows in the right direction is impressive. The entire top 5 are hammering on full throttle, and impressive starts for Marincin and others gives the entire list a look of exceptional quality. Not all of these young men will be NHL players 5 years from now; injuries will impact, and some of them won’t developed as hoped. However, there aren’t many tweeners in the group, and the defensemen are mostly big, strong kids learning the game.
Disappointments? It’s early. However, Theo Peckham has struggled in main camp, Motin doesn’t appear to have another gear. Worries? Why isn’t Roy playing more?Overall, things are breaking well for Oilers prospects early on.