2011 Grads (C, L, R)

As the rebuilding Oilers continue to gather young assets, difficult decisions will have to be made by management and the coaching staff. Some of those decisions, especially at center, may arrive this summer.


  • Oilers: Shawn Horcoff is signed through 2015 summer, so he’ll be part of the lineup in the fall. After that, Steve Tambellini has to decide how he’s going to set up the roster at center. Sam Gagner is signed for another season and has the most natural talent, but coach Renney has found Andrew Cogliano to be a useful player on the PK. It is unlikely the club will be this small down the middle when they’re ready to contend, and Sean Couturier is available at the draft this summer. Options include trading Gagner or Cogliano, or moving one of them to the wing. 4th line C Colin Fraser is signed for another year but will have to show more in 11-12 in order to avoid waivers and Oklahoma.
  • Barons: The club’s top center is Brad Moran, and he’s a free agent this summer. Ryan O’Marra is RFA and I’d think the Oilers will give him another contract. Two AHL rookies this year are under contract for next season–Chris Vande Velde and Milan Kytnar. Vande Velde was the more highly touted player at the beginning of the season, but Kytnar’s performance has been better overall. Reports from OKC suggest Vande Velde has improved over the season and his FO ability has been mentioned in a few places (without actually posting the FO percentage).
  • Thunder: Oilers share affiliation with San Jose. I don’t think there’s a center in Stockton that has any link to the Oilers organization.
  • GraduatingAnton Lander has been on the radar of Oilers Nation for two years now and he’s a likely signing this summer. Lander’s reputation is as a 2-way center, and he improved offensively in the SEL this year. I’d guess he’ll start in OKC. Tyler Pitlick played RW with Medicine Hat (WHL) this season and posted solid numbers (56gp, 27-35-62) before losing the rest of the year to injury. He could return to the dub in the fall but is also eligible to turn pro. Ryan Martindale is likely to turn pro this fall, having played 4 complete OHL seasons at the end of this year’s schedule. He’s enjoyed some terrific linemates and posted very good boxcars.
  • Current 11-12 depth chart: Horcoff-Gagner-Cogliano-Fraser in the NHL; O’Marra-Kytnar-Vande Velde in OKC. The Oilers need help everywhere at this position and the skils missing read like a laundry list: size, faceoff and PK ability, foot speed, scoring ability. I think that’s why Couturier is such an attractive prospect for the Oilers: IF he emerges as a guy who can play on the top line with Hall (while giving that line size and a defensive conscience) then it’s going to be very hard to pass on selecting him.


  • Oilers: Taylor Hall and Magnus Pääjärvi should form a strong 1-2 punch on the portside rolling out over the rest of the decade (unless one of them is moved to center). Ryan Jones is a UFA this summer but one suspects the Oilers will throw more money at him before July 1 (they’ve already offered him a contract). Liam Reddox is an RFA this summer and surely has finally shown enough to earn some security (a one-way deal with a decent raise). JF Jacques is an RFA and performance suggests he will not get a one-way deal but we’ve been wrong about this player before. My guess is that Teemu Hartikainen gives Jacques more than he can handle in the 4line contest at this fall’s TC.
  • Barons: Alex Giroux is a UFA but is a candidate to retun. The recent NHL exposure is a nice audition for both player and team when it comes to 11-12 planning. Teemu Hartikainen has done everything asked at the AHL level and should be considered a strong candidate for full-time NHL employment as early as opening night 11-12. Matt Marquardt is RFA and based on the boxcars isn’t a strong candidate for return; Philippe Cornet had a nice January but hasn’t shown much in other months. He might get pushed to Stockton for 10-11. Gregory Stewart is a free agent this summer, I have no idea if he’ll return.
  • Thunder: Garet Hunt and Jesse Gimblett have spent time in the Oilers system. Gimblett played 2 games with the OKC Barons this season, I have no idea if either player is in the future plans of the Barons or the parent organization.
  • Graduating: Curtis Hamilton has a December 1991 birthday but has played 4 full WHL seasons (minus injury time) so will probably sign and turn pro. A decent guess is that he plays at least one full season in OKC. Hamilton is a talented player but is very likely to need development time in the AHL. Robby Dee has completed his NCAA career and will be in search of a pro contract. It isn’t clear that the Oilers have him on the radar. Drew Czerwonka has another year in junior.
  • Current 11-12 depth chart: Hall-Pääjärvi-Reddox-Jacques in the NHL; Hartikainen-Marquardt-Cornet in OKC. Jones is likely to re-sign with the Oilers and I think Hartikainen pushes Jacques to the AHL. Hamilton and possibly Dee join the OKC Barons.


  • Oilers: Ales Hemsky is signed for one more season and a lot of this summer will be about him. If the Oilers and Hemsky can agree on a long term deal then the Oilers should be set up very well at this position moving forward. Jordan Eberle (despite recent struggles) is playing beyond his years and both Linus Omark and Gilbert Brule (who can play LW and C, respectively) bring some offensive ability. Steve MacIntyre is a UFA, I don’t know what they’re doing with him.
  • Barons: Zack Stortini is in a spot of bother. My understanding of the CBA is that the Oilers will have to offer him a one-way deal in order to retain his rights. Based on this season, I doubt it happens. Colin McDonald is not technically a member of the Oilers organization, but he may have earned the contract with the big club that he lost one year ago. McDonald has had an impressive year. Ben Ondrus is a veteran AHL player (UFA) and if he doesn’t return the organization will need to replace him with a similar talent. OKC property Mark Arcobello is also a player of interest for 11-12.
  • Thunder: Arcobello had a strong season in Stockton before being called to OKC. He’s an interesting young player, 5.09, 165 and 22 years old but clearly a talented hockey player. You never know.
  • GraduatingToni Rajala signed his entry level deal a year ago and then played well at IIves Tampere (SM-Liiga) as a teenager. Based on that performance (at that level) I’d suggest the young Finn will get 550 at-bats with the Barons next winter. He’s a prospect worth watching. Cameron Abney is eligible to turn pro in the fall and will likely begin his pro career in California. Kristians Pelss is very likely to play another WHL season. Kellen Jones turns 21 this summer, but has three more NCAA seasons of eligibility and there doesn’t seem to be any hurry.
  • Current 11-12 depth chart: Hemsky-Eberle-Brule-Omark for the Oilers. Stortini-McDonald-Arcobello at OKC. Rajala would appear to be an overwhelming favorite to play pro hockey in Oklahoma this fall and my bet is that the Oilers will send Abney California dreaming.

Last season’s list of signings (March-August) included Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Pääjärvi, Jeff Petry, Chris Vande Velde, Linus Omark, Philippe Cornet and Teemu Hartikainen. That my friends is a watershed and we shoudn’t expect that again for many years.

From the group eligible to sign with the Oilers this fall, I believe C’s Anton Lander, Tyler Pitlck, Ryan Martindale, LW Curtis Hamilton and RW Toni Rajala (who is already signed) are locks. They join G Olivier Roy and D’s Martin Marincin and Brandon Davidson from my look at G and D here. Kyle Bigos, Robby Dee, Cameron Abney, Kristian Pelss and Kellen Jones are less likely, but possible. I count Troy Hesketh as the one player in the organizational umbrella that is unlikely to turn pro. We should also be mindful that the lottery pick is a strong candidate to sign and that the Oilers have two more picks that will be in the top 35 at the entry draft.

One final note: the Oilers procurement department is producing quality prospects at a rapid rate. We shouldn’t be surprised if the club begins to offload players deemed trailing in the race for major league jobs. Candidates might include Taylor Chorney, Alexandre Plante, Chris Vande Velde, Liam Reddox and Gilbert Brule.

  • Ender

    I knew we were short at center, but seeing it in black & white like that is really painful. When you toss in the fact that a lot of us believed Cogs would already be long gone by now, well, it will be pretty tough indeed for SMB not to draft a center this summer.

    As I write that, I realize that our depth at defense is nothing to stand up and crow about either, but I still see Couturier as a better add than Larsson.

    Interestingly enough, in two separate articles TSN now seems to place centers JONATHAN HUBERDEAU and/or RYAN STROME ahead of Couturier. I wonder . . . is Sean really playing that badly, or are the other guys on fire, or is the writer (Craig Button) just on crack?

    • John Chambers

      Jay McClement, Jarrett Stoll, and Jiri Hudler, all C’s, are UFA’s at the end of ’11-’12. If I were in charge, as I often daydream, that would be the time to go shopping …

      … that’s of course assuming we don’t land Brad Richards this summer.

      • Ender

        I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing Stoll back in town. Expectations are going to have to be tempered, though; Stoll’s 39 points this season with LA looks pretty decent when compared to the current Oilers crop, but I think most of us are going to raise the bar in the next couple of years about what kind of point range we expect our top-nine forwards to be scoring in. Stoll’s a good guy and would bring a lot of the tools to Edmonton that we are sorely lacking right now, but I don’t know if I’d pencil him in to repeat his 68-point season from 05-06 again any time soon.

        • John Chambers

          Agreed. I think Stoll’s breakout year did a lot to distort expectations. Of the afforementioned C’s, they all bring PK specialization and faceoff prowess to the table. I wouldn’t suggest that these guys sign for any other reason.

          I got to watch game 1 of the SCFs in Chicago last year. I noticed Dave Bolland go out to take key draws in the hawks own end, and score on a breakway where the D turned the puck over to him at the blueline. That’s the kind of player the Oilers are missing – whether or not they exceed the 40-point plateau is immaterial – we’ve got other guys earmarked to do that.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Can we get a refund on a couple of those Oilers center guys please. Feel a little bad for Fraser, there’s nothing ahead of him on that depthchart that allows the Oilers to use him effectively.

    We’ll keep that Couturier guy on your list there LT.

  • John Chambers

    The prospect pool is filling up nicely. Given our early season struggles on the PK, the shortage of veteran leadership throughout the lineup, and our late season attrition, I’d like to see us sign a couple of veteran wingers or a depth centre to push the kids and make us appear like, you know, a professional hockey team.

    What this team has in young talent, it severely lacks in professional game-ready personnel. This is going to have to be addressed, at least on a short-term basis, if we want to maximize the development of our budding talents.

  • Woogie

    Very nice overview. I believe they will need to go outside the organization and visit the RFA pool to deal with the size and physical play issues up front. Players like Konopka, Upshall, Sutherby, and Rupp have things we need such as PK, face off skill, hard nosed play and the ability to scrap if necessary. I don’t want to watch another season where our physical play needs to come from guys 5’10” and 180 lbs. Renney obviously has no place for guys that can’t skate to his standard and these guys can play a bit.

    They are also going to have to go outside the organization for at least one D man while guys like Marincin and Teubert develop. Overall it is sure nice to see some depth being built in this organization, it has been a long time coming.

    • Ender

      That’s going to be a painful decision for me to watch. On the one hand, I’ve been cheering for Rudy for the past two or three seasons to get a shot at the big leagues; I felt that he’d earned it on the strength of work ethic alone. On the other hand, now that he’s made it I worry that he’s not talented enough to help us win the Cup in 12-13.

      If we sign Reddox, I hope it’s on a decent 1-year contract and then we move him for something at the trade deadline next season. I really want the guy to have success at the NHL level because, good grief, the guy has worked his bag off to get it. I’m just not sure he’s a lock for the Oilers when they’re legitimately chasing the Grail.

      • fuck off

        The moniker is ‘Ginger Beef’ not Rudy.

        Also, if Ginger Beef is having such a hard time selling his sizzle here in the celler dweller capital; what the hell makes him good enough for any other roster in the league!?!?

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    So what exactly happens with Pitlick? Does he go back to C? What was the reasoning to moving him to the wing?

    And how freaky is it that there is a Deven Dubyk playing goal behind Bunz?

    • Lowetide

      My guess is he moves back to center. In a recent EJ article, Jim Matheson had this quote from Tambellini:

      “Pitlick’s a horse. I see him as a second- to third-line centre. Hamilton is smart, a big guy with the hockey sense to play with good players. And Marancin is a really good puck-mover. He’s been the leading scorer or close to it for defencemen for most of the year. He’s a six-foot-four kid.”

      That article is here


      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        So was Pitlick on RW because of Etem? Seems like going to RW for a year is a waste of a year. The kid came to the WHL to work on his game, but plays a different position then the Oil wanted? I have to question if the Oilers knew that this was the plan that maybe they would’ve played him in OKC instead, although I don’t know that he was ready for that just yet.

      • Lowetide

        I agree on all except Vandermeer, he’s been solid when he has played. I say keep him and move Foster, what a piece of crap he has been. He’s softer than Gilbert!! Plus for big physical D-man Vandermeer can move the puck and he has a hard ass shot as well.

    • Lowetide

      Oilers have lots of room, ST took care of that last summer. The Oilers have a large number of UFA’s this summer, including Ryan Jones, Alex Giroux, Steve MacIntyre, Jim Vandermeer and Jason Strudwick from the NHL team.

      Jeff Deslauriers, Richard Petiot, Gregory Stewart, Ben Ondrus, Brad Moran and Martin Gerber are also UFA.

      THEN they have to make decisions on people like Zack Stortini. However, they have about a dozen guys coming off the books this summer and were (I believe) at 48/50 this season.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Continuance of last place play warrants the concept that no player on the current roster is untouchable. Rebuilding also means changing the good parts for better parts. Very few of the roster have value in the mrket, the Oilers should use the equity wisely.
    The coaching staff is included.

  • OilLeak

    Oh God that is absolutely brutal! If the Oilers go with the same roster for the 2011-12 season it will make this season look like lollipops and rainbows in comparison.

    We need some veteran NHL players! Lowe? Tambellini? Can you hear me? We need some legitimate NHL players to hold this team above water!

    Better off watching the Los Angeles OilKIngs next season.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Awsome article LT

    Im hoping Steve-o will trade LAs pick or the 2nd rounder to help shore up the D more, not a Tom Gilbert dman but a dude with some “crust”, the Oilers have enough prospects coming along lets get some vetran help.

    Think your right LT, #1 pick=Couturier

    This is most likely a pipe dream but I wonder if Tambolini might go after Weber in Nashville like Klowe did with Penner.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    As far as developing players, I sure appreciate the path they took with Eberle. (Playing 2 years junior after his draft year). The results have been good.
    I don’t know where Martindale, Marincin, Hamilton and Pitlick are in comparison to Eberle’s situation, but in general, slow/patience is good for me.

  • Scuba Steve

    As ugly as that center depth is, the wings actually look pretty good.

    Hall – PRV – Jones – Hartikainen

    Hemsky – Eberle – Omark – Brule

    Not bad, especially if you look 2 seasons down the road.

    So just, Center, Defense and Goal to worry about………………….

    I just got a little sad…

      • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

        Oh man, WORST. PLAYERS. EVER!

        As far as I’m concerned the list from best to worst goes like this: Crosby, Ovechkin, every other person to step foot on NHL ice this year (including intermission contestants, anthem singers, and zamboni drivers), THEN Fraser and Foster in a complete heap (of sh*t), and lastly of course the entire Flames roster.

        Pretty sure the pro scouting department was asleep behind the wheel on this one.

  • Jiri Dopita


    I’ve had the opportunity to watch Martindale a few times this year. He’s definitely an important contributor to his line and deserves equal credit with his line-mates for their impressive play this season. He has a big league shot, seems to be relied-on quite a bit for key face-offs and is used on a lot on the PK. Although he’s not overly physical, he’s big, shields puck well and makes the most of his long reach. That said, I’m not convinced he’ll be an NHLer. His line gets huge minutes and premium time on the PP. His defensive play seems lackluster at times and he often holds onto puck too long in the office zone resulting in frequent Spezza-like turnovers just inside the offensive blue line. I’m not ready to write him off, because he’s clearly got lots of offensive gifts, but if those don’t translate at the NHL level, I’m not sure there’s a place for him outside of your top six forwards.

    By way of comparison, the 67’s played Kitchener a couple weeks ago and I followed Landeskog’s play quite closely. He’s not as slick offensively as Martindale, but he plays such a complete game that there’s no doubt he could contribute to an NHL team in a variety of roles. I guess that’s to be expected from a probable top-5 pick though, so it’s not really a fair comparison.

  • Lowetide

    Jiri Dopita: Good stuff, thanks. I think that’s one reason (speeds mentioned this a week ago) to have him turn pro: he’s proven everything he can in junior.

  • Jiri Dopita

    The Oilers have no centers and no defense. Otherwise they are alright. Dont count on any free agents coming here. especially ones that have played here before (once bitten, twice shy)
    Weber: you cant be serious.(Pronger all over again)

  • 24% body fat

    We have the worst d in the league right now. with peckham and whitney back in the line up we might be up to 2nd or 3rd worst.

    Couturier dropping is crazy, the ohl is the highest scoring league in the chl this year. And across the chl Couturier is the highest ppg player. I understand Landeskog has an all around game and it would be nice to have hibe, but how does he get ranked at number 1 when he is well below the top ppg games like Strome, RNH, Hubedreau and Couterier.

    When was the last time an all around guy went first over a top dman or top point getter.

    Also with a big skilled centerman on the team do you not think Gagner would have less pressure on him and get to new levels.

  • Hemmertime

    What do the centre and defense prospects look like in the 2012 draft?

    I don’t think the Oilers can afford to pass up on Larsson, when there isn’t a consensus #1 forward in this weak draft.

    If there were even a Tavares-quality center in this draft, I’d be all for upgrading the position.

    But there just isn’t and the Oilers shouldn’t draft a guy 1 or 2 primarly due to secondary skills like PK and faceoff when there’s a potential franchise defenseman on the board.

  • 24% body fat

    I would like to introduce to you all the Oilers starting 4th line for 2011/12…. @ centre Zenon Konopka,@ RW #22 Jordan TooToo and @ LW what ever # he wants Ben Eager! Skate, Hit, Fight! Good night!

  • a lg dubl dubl

    If anybody gets a chance check out Principes video on the Penguins new arena…..sure would be nice to go watch the Oilers in an arena like that….BUILD IT NOOOOWWWW!!!!