The Graduates

Former US President George Bush put it so well many moons ago when he asked "is our children learning?" The answer appears to be a resounding "yes" based on this season’s OKC results. 

The Edmonton Oilers cut corners in the 2000’s when it came to their AHL farm club. There were times when the organization ran without a team, instead lending out their top end pro prospects so they could be used (or misused) by other teams. Jeff Deslauriers development looks like a dog’s breakfast and if there was a way to sue for mismanagement of career then I expect JDD might be first in line.

Under Daryl Katz ownership, the organization has decided to build from the ground up. So, despite the decision to run three first rounders at the NHL level (and thus having them skip the AHL altogether) this season’s results have been very impressive. I think coach Todd Nelson and his staff should get a lot of credit, along with the scouting department. As always, most of the credit goes to the player. The guys who have shone this season don’t have tremendous draft pedigree but do like like they have NHL futures. Are the days of Michel Riesen gone forever? Or at least for a time?

The 20 year olds

Teemu Hartikainen (66gp, 17-25-42 -1) has a nice range of skills and delivered a quality season with OKC Barons. His recall this week meant most of us got our first look at the player. One showing is never a good idea, we jump to conclusions. Let’s agree that Hartikainen looked as good as his scouting reports, with his size and determination in full view. Colten Teubert is just getting started in OKC but early returns have been positive and the math (so far) suggests he might have been caught in a numbers game with the Kings’ AHL team. Johan Motin (34gp, 1-3-4 -7) was forced down the depth chart this season (the Barons were a far better group than the Oilers had put together in the past) but he’s young and has defensive ability.

The 21 year olds

Milan Kytnar (67gp, 7-11-18 E) surprised with his range of abilities and the truth is the young man passed other more heralded prospects at least in math class. He’s not a flashy prospect but certainly a player to follow. Alex Plante (62gp, 1-13-14 +7) has had an uneven season and the acquisition of Teubert may indicate the organization isn’t sold on him, but the coaching staff appears to be pleased with his overall performance this year.

The 22 year olds

Jeff Petry (41gp, 7-17-24 -6) has a nice range of skills, something that is badly lacking throughout the organizational depth chart. He has performed well in his NHL auditions and many of us believe he won’t return to Oklahoma City–that he’s here to stay.

Ther 23 year olds

Linus Omark (28gp, 14-17-31 +7) ripped through Oklahoma and found his way to the NHL in a quick hurry. I’m not certain anyone knows where he fits on the Oilers depth chart in the future, but he’s impossible to ignore and brings exceptional skill and a motor that won’t quit. Ryan O’Marra (53gp, 2-20-22 +9) took the long and winding road on the prospect trail but does appear to have turned a corner in the last couple of years. O’Marra built on what he accomplished this season and things have never looked better for him as a pro. Taylor Chorney (46gp, 3-13-16 -1) did what he needed to do: spend the season in OKC and prove he could compete at that level. He was injured on callup but his arrows are headed in a much better direction than they were a year ago. Chris Vande Velde (67gp, 12-4-16 -17) struggled early but turned things around about Christmastime and his recall this week indicates the organization sees something in him.

Ten prospects (and there are more) with progress this season, and many of them have played in the show during 2010-11. The Oilers had an exceptional rookie crop this season, mostly from the 1st rounders (Hall, Pääjärvi, Eberle, Dubnyk); the kicker looks strong too, with Jeff Petry and Linus Omark contributing.

The Oilers will pick in the lottery this summer and come to training camp with another elite level prospect. It’s very important to remember that the AHL club is ready (once again) to bear fruit and those players (Hartikainen, Teubert, Plante, Vande Velde) will give the Oilers the kind of depth we haven’t seen in many years.

Nation Radio hits the airwaves at noon today on Team 1260. Jonathan Willis from Oilers Nation will be in studio with us at 1pm and we’ll have EJ McGuire from Central Scouting to kick of the show at noon. Tom Awad from Hockey Prospectus, Todd Nelson from the OKC Barons and Marty Williamson from the Niagra Ice Dogs are also scheduled to appear. We’re getting a lot of emails each week and they’re top drawer. Please send them this morning to and we’ll get as many of them to air as possible.

  • Loved watching Hartikainen, VanDe Velde and O’Marra the other night. It was nice to see what a few bigger bodies + effortcould produce. I hope that these guys can continue to grow into supporting roles like the Bollands/Versteegs that fill out rosters of Cup winners and contenders of the last few years.

    • Lowetide

      I think the amateur scouting department has a plan and I also believe that this Nelson fellow may be a coach to watch.

      At the big league level, I think it’s an open question:

      Will Daryl Katz tire of losing before Steve Tambellini and Kevin Lowe can build a winner?

      And, after the Penner trade I have a second question:

      When this thing gets good again, how long can they keep it?

      Taylor Hall is a free agent at 25. Clock is ticking with no current plans to compete in 11-12 or possibly 12-13. He’ll be finished his entry level deal in 2013 summer, and Taylor Hall might not have been in a playoff game.

      Is he going to sign here with that kind of track record? Lots of teams lose their franchise players just this way.

      • I think after his ELC is done the Oil offer Hall a contract in the 10-12 year range. The only way they go for less is if the League puts a cap on the length of contracts. They wont let him leave at 25. I just dont see it happening unless Hall knows he wants out when his current contract is done.

        • Steve Smith

          Well, they don’t really have a choice about letting him leave at 25; that’s kind of the point about unrestricted free agency.

          Unless you mean that they’ll offer him a ludicrous overpay (in terms of cap hit, since the 10-12 year contract at 21 doesn’t take him out of his productive years), in which case maybe we could make him stay, but at the expense of FUBAR-ing our cap hit.

          Of course, if he *wants* to stay (or at least is sufficiently non-adverse to staying that he’d accept a fair market contract), this could all turn out fine. But that’s his call, not the Oilers’.

          • Yes, the massive contract is what I’m getting at. I think they make his second contract a whale. I think the only way Hall has a contract that ends when he’s 25 is if his camp is negotiating with the goal to get out as soon as possible.

            I dont know how FUBAR the cap will be. The Cap hasnt stopped Pittsburgh or Washington from fielding competitive teams and they have players with huge Cap hits.

            That doesnt even take into account the massive amount of space the Oil already have and the fact that the Cap hasnt stopped climbing since it was implemented. Signing Hall to a massive contract (assuming he deserves it) wont hurt the Oil one bit. It’s also inevitable if Hall is going to be an Oiler long term.

          • Steve Smith

            Well, depends what kind of an overpay you’re talking about. Crosby’s getting $8.7 million. Hall’s unlikely to be as good as Crosby (which is faint criticism indeed), but do you see him signing a 10-12 year deal with Edmonton for that cap hit, especially considering the rising cap? He might, but I’d be surprised: that would mean that, as a presumably elite talent in 2021-2022, he’d be making $8.7 million, which is likely to be much less than he’d make that season if he went UFA at 25 (or 26 or 27 or whatever). There’s obviously a certain tradeoff to be made for security, but I’m not sure how much it is for a 21 year old with a ludicrously promising career ahead of him.

            The long-term contract is usually designed to even out cap hit between prime years and past-prime years, but a 10-12 year deal for Hall at the end of his ELC wouldn’t accomplish that, since it would expire during his prime playing years, so there’d be no discount there. It wouldn’t surprise me if a 10-12 year post-ELC deal for Hall would cost $10 million per year, though I’m obviously just guessing. But in making these guesses, we have to bear in mind the likely asking price of an elite talent in 2023-2024 – not that that will be what Hall will cost, but that we need to bear it in mind.

          • Oh, I have no doubts that Hall could be commanding Crosby money for a long term deal that takes him into his early 30s. I think, though, that the Oilers would rather pay Hall big dollars than lose him at 25.

            Assuming he doesnt collapse (doubtful after what I’ve seen so far) he’s going to be rolling in Katz’s money after his 21st summer.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            That’s the exact kind of deal AO and Richards signed, and baring some type of injury or motivation disapearing both will be great bargins in 2-3 years.

            To give an example of what I think we could get all at for say 12 years, would be somewhere betwen AO and Richards (as he’s likely to fall somewhere between the two in caliber of play) adjusted for inflation. Ballpark I could see him at something like 100 million for 12 years.

          • Peterborough

            Not sure the cap is rising league revenue is going down teams maybe relocating so the long term is what will sign him as hedge against injury. Holding out till 25 is pretty dumb if your career ends at 24. Hockey players are run by accountants now its a biz.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            Where on earth did you hear revenue was going down?

            We look to be on the backside of the worst economic climate in 80 years, while revenues only went down +/-5% during the very worst year.

      • book¡e

        I think that the Penner trade may have been partially the result of the attitude the Oilers management want in the dressing room. Hemsky seemed much more untouchable than Penner.

        I think the misery in the dressing room last year and the year before really raised the profile of ‘player attitude’ as a key factor in how ST decides which players come and go.

        I know that ST indicated that he always had to ‘listen to offers’ on players like Hemsky and this has been read into as Hemsky being ‘shopped’ and that the team does not want to compete next year, but it could also just be that ST is honest with his players. No player is untouchable if the return is high enough.

        Now, the comments about ‘competing in 6 years’ by Lowe are concerning, so who knows.

        However, I think a lot of people have overreacted to the Penner trade and have read too much into it. It seemed to be the camel ‘straw’ for many people and I am not convinced it should have been.

          • book¡e

            It depends what you mean by 5 year rebuild. I think the plan might be to compete for the cup in 4-5 years. That does not mean necessarily that next year is scorched earth (a conclusion that people have adopted after the Penner trade). That might be the case, but I think we need to wait to see what happens this summer with any UFA signings or trades before we can draw that conclusion.

          • book¡e

            I don’t know that Penner has a bad attitude. What I am saying is that we have indications from Carlyle, MacT and now Murray that Penner may have some motivation problems.

            If Tambellini is ranking ‘attitude’ as a major factor in his decision making regarding personnel, then we need to consider this in evaluating the decision to trade Penner. So, the conclusion that trading Penner is the start of a scorched earth policy for next year might not be accurate. It could be for other reasons. We will have to wait to see how aggressive the team is in sighing mid-level free agents this summer.

            EDIT: That was supposed to read “signing free agents” but perhaps “sighing free agents” is more accurate so I will leave it as is.

          • Perhaps.

            I feel like the failure to acquire an NHL player in return screams “scorched earth” but I’ve given up trying to infer anything from Tambellini’s actions because it is starting to seem just as likely that he has no idea why he’s doing something either.

      • Crash

        Hence part of the reason that the Oilers brought all of these young guys in at the same time…just another possible reason for them wanting to stay and sign on beyond age 25. Bring them along all together helping the friendship bond to build that much stronger.

        I know there’s no guarantees but I think it’s all part of a plan to be a higher end team in the future and to sustain it thru a period of time.

        Read the article in the Hockey News Future Watch magazine. The plan is in there. Never a guarantee but there is a plan. And it’s one that has been done before by other teams.

          • Crash

            Words from Tambellini are in the article and some of the moves that the organization has made internally with prospects have been laid out. It’s all been compared to similar successful things done by other franchises including very recent ones. The Oilers are ranked number one in the NHL by THN with regards to prospects in the org and players on the roster under the age of 22. The result was based on the opinions of 18 NHL head scouts and directors of player personnel across the league

            I don’t believe there’s much chance the author just went ahead and decided to write his own take on the whole thing. But no, it doesn’t come right out and say in the article, here’s the plan as laid out by the Oilers. My best advice for those that really want to know is to go and pay the 7 bucks and get the magazine or borrow a copy from someone who has one. There are other good things in the magazine as well all around prospects for every club.

            I picked up a copy of it at the 7-11

  • book¡e

    Three picks in the top 31 as well. The Oilers almost certainly get a player with the #1 or #2 and there is a reasonable chance that player turns into a star.

    Hopefully the LA Kings pick turns into a player and with some magnificant bastard luck, perhaps we see a player like Eberle.

    As per pick #31, well magic beans and all of that, but lets hope.

    So, the solid core of youth is here. The AHL affiliate and development system seems fixed and the ‘culture’ in the room is fixed (anyone see Reddox’s comments about how bad the room was last year – and how great it is this year).

    Time to fix the holes in the roster Steve. Looking forward to ST4.0 signing some serviceable vets this summer to take faceoffs, kill penalties, move bodies from in front of our goalie. Hopefully he doesn’t disappoint.

      • fuck off

        Here is the EJ story where Ginger Beef is quoted to saying,

        “This year has been different,” Reddox continued, “with the group welcoming me in.

        “I don’t feel as much like ‘That call-up’ from the minors. Usually, when you get called up, you have that label. It kind of sucks. But everyone has been good.

        “It has been a really nice change to years previous.”

        Clearly there has been an attitude change towards guys coming into the room from OKC and you don’t have to look any further than the list of players who no longer don the Oiler silks. Obvious list: Moreau, Pisani, Souray, Staios, POS, Nilson.

  • Just as an FYI, Kyle Woodlief’s Red Line Report has their current top-10 list for this years NHL draft. Interesting to note: they seem to have the top end as the big 3 (Landeskog, Nugent-Hopkins & Larsson), while Couturier’s stock has fallen down to #8.

    1 Gabriel Landeskog RW 6-1, 201 Left 11/23/1992 Kitchener

    2 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins C 6-0, 163 Left 4/12/1993 Red Deer

    3 Adam Larsson D 6-3, 220 Right 11/12/1992 Skelleftea

    4 Dougie Hamilton D 6-4, 193 Right 6/17/1993 Niagara

    5 Jonathan Huberdeau LW 6-1, 165 Left 6/4/1993 Saint John

    6 Ryan Murphy D 5-11, 176 Right 3/31/1993 Kitchener

    7 Ryan Strome C 6-0, 183 Right 7/11/1993 Niagara

    8 Sean Couturier C 6-4, 193 Left 12/7/1992 Drummondville

    9 Alex Khokhlachev C 5-10, 172 Left 5/9/1993 Windsor

    10 Brandon Saad LW 6-2, 200 Left 10/27/1992 Saginaw

    • Very interesting. I think if the Oil take Landeskog then the writing is on the wall for a Hemsky trade. You cant have 5 wingers in your top 6.

      Renney had every opportunity to try Hall at Centre again before he was injured and it didnt happen. I dont see TR converting the kid to C, so it only makes sense that somebody from the right side needs to go in that scenario.

      • In a perfect world, I’d trade Hemsky for a C or D and take Landeskog (that’s consistent with my stance before the deadline). BUT, coming off another injury and the possibility he’s not 100% healthy to start next season, its kind of hard to trade him… at least at the full expected value. I know hindsight is 20/20, but the fact they didn’t deal him at the deadline could bite them in the ass – his trade value won’t likely be any higher than it was then (at least for the remainder of this contract).

        • Yeah, it would have to be a deadline 2012 deal, not a summer deal.

          I know people were saying that it was EITHER Penner OR Hemsky, but I can plainly see many scenarios where Hesmky is gone as well. I’m not saying that would be my perfect world scenario, but it could happen very easily.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Oilers won’t be taking Landeskog unless they land another top 5 pick so don’t waste your breath. Hemsky’s untradeable now, the Oilers are his only/best bet now for his next contract.

  • Buchburgler

    So I went to the Red Deer Rebels/Oil Kings game last night and just some observations:

    Was watching RNH all night and was not impressed at all. Based off of this one game (I know, not a good idea) I would not want this kid on my team even though he had a sick snipe and a nice assist and was +1.

    He is a center and floats around the middle of his own ice, he doesn’t really pick up a man or help out his D in the corners … he seems to cheat on every play looking to turn it into offense and as a result a couple of times their line was pinned in their own end for a couple of shifts.
    He does not move his feet, he floats around the ice around the perimeter of the play. However, once he does get the puck or smell a chance for a goal his first two steps are pretty good and he gets moving for a short while.
    One big thing is he just did not create anything at all 5 on 5, his linemates did most of the work and then gave him the puck. Once he has the puck you can see he has skills though. Lots of quick hand movement, nice vision, nice passing and on his goal he ripped a nice shot top right corner from the slot that the goalie had no chance on.
    The kid also seems (for lack of a better word) to be kind of a little bitch. There was one play where he kind of left his feet and jumped to hit an oil kings player and layed him out pretty good. Another Oil Kings player came up to him to fight him (obviously RNH is not going to fight, I have no problem with that), but then RNH’s teammate came in to defend him. Once the other two players started to fight RNH two handed the Oil Kings player in the back of the ankle with his stick while he was fighting another player. He was pulling stuff like this all game and the refs seemed to be looking the other way.

    I’m not a great writer so hopefully these ramblings are semi-coherent (if anyone cares). I went to the game pretty excited to see a top prospect and was a little disappointed. He seems kind of lazy, and didnt appear to have that ‘drive’ that lots of top players have when they have the puck. When he got hit he gave up the puck easy and got outworked several times in the corners.

    I was also watching Abney, he skates pretty well for a big guy and does not seem to have stone hands. He busted out for a stretch pass – breakaway before eventually shooting it right at the goalie. Was taking passes off his skates onto his stick, was efficent at getting the puck out of his own end. As well, the Oil Kings were down by a goal and the coach had him out with two minutes left. So not bad, although his ceiling is probably a 4th line player.

    The player I was most impressed with was Alexander Petrovic. Apparentley he is a Florida prospect but he was the best player on the ice. Physical, a great skater, pretty good shot. He got involved in the rush alot and had a great stick busting up some odd man rushes.

    *Wow thank god marathon post is over*

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Interesting thoughts Bucky, i’d hate to base him on one evenings performance though. Was this the only time you seen him play this year? The after the whistle stuff, was it dirty chippy, or just a kid who’s willing to do anything to help his team win?

      In your opinion, does he make that step to the NHL next year, or is one more year in junior instore for him?

    • fuck off

      Hey, did you check out that crazy D/winger 16 y/o #24 Matt Dumba?? I PVR’d the Sunday Red Deer vs Calgary game and he looked better than the Nuge to me! Although RNH did stand out and looked like a talented prospect; he also looked like he’s clueless in his own zone. Nuge truly seems defensively daft and that showed up by the coach not trusting him to be out on the PK (at all) or on the ice in the last 2 minutes. That alone spoke volumes to me. Any coach who isn’t willing or doesn’t trust an “elite” player to be on the ice in key situations tells me that he doesn’t have the responsibility down and is a prospect who is going to require a couple years of development ala Kyle Turris.

    • K-UGER Industrial Smoothing

      Really interesting post. Based on what I’ve heard about Landeskog- you will never see him cheat himself short of anything.. ultimate competitor. He’s who I wouldn’t mind seeing as an Oiler. Even though on a need basis Larsson seems like the way the Oil will head… Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  • Steve Smith

    RNH. End of story. You don’t draft Larsson and wait 7 years for him to becomes an elite defenceman. You don’t take Courtier and hope he is as good as Arnott. Who by the way played for all of 3 years for us before he whinned his way out of town. Landeskog. If I don’t have Hemsky. The BPA is RNH and thats it. Last I looked Larsson does not play center. Hall and Eberle need someone better than Sam Gagne or Andrew Cogliano in the middle.Or God forbid. Shawn Horcoff. Don’t you think?Stu knows he needs some bacon to go with the toast and eggs. And RNH will bring the sizzle.

  • Peterborough

    We need a number one D man as well. We’ll have a lottery pick next year to get that C. He’s just not there this year.

    BTW how long did Hedman take to start leading the Bolts in TOI?

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      Ya they might change the whole structure, I guess that’s possible (though if they try don’t be at all suprised if theirs another strike). But under the current structure theirs really nothing to suggest the cap is going anywhere but up.

  • Crash

    @ OB1 – F.S.T.N.F and Steve Smith

    Wow I’m glad you guys aren’t gm’s. Really $100 million for 12 years for Hall? $10 million a season?Come on people Hall is not that good. In his rookie season he looked good but not nearly that good. He would have maybe 50-55 point with 25-30 goals in a complete season. Crosby and AO had 100 point seasons in their rookie season. AO had at least 50 goals in his first 3 seasons. These are the elite players or our time and Crosby is making $8.7 and I think AO is around $10 million per season. Are you really going to give Hall that kind of money? If you are signing Hall for 10 years it would be for $55-$65 million max, for a cap hit of $5.5-$6.5 per season. I see Hall as a ppg player which is good in today’s NHL. Let’s be a little more realistic here.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      Well we are talking 3 years from now, so I’d be looking at +/- 70 million cap. So take what you think is resonable today and tack 15% on that. (so if in todays dollars he’s a 6 million dollar guy when his contract is up, you’d be looking at more like 7 million with the higher cap).

      Also the trick of the long term deal is that Hall will be giving up $$$ on the contract he’d be signing at 27/28 (or whatever) when he would probably be a 11 – 14 million dollar player, for security of a LT contract.

  • Crash

    @OB1 – F.S.T.N.F

    My point is that Hall isn’t going to be an elite player in 2 years time and I doubt he is worth more than a $60 million 10 contract in 2 years. My point was more about the fact that Hall is being overated then anything else.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      The whole conversation is based around Hall becoming and elite player, obviously if he puts up 30/60 the last year of his ELC their wont be any 100 million dollar contracts on the table.

      However, based on what we’ve seen from Hall, and what we’ve seen from other recent top draft picks I think it’s resonable to think that Hall just may be a 45/90 guy by the end of his ELC, and if that’s the case then a 100 million contract may be a reality.