As per the Oilers’ official website, prospect Kristians Pelss has agreed to terms with the team on a three-year entry-level deal.
The Oilers were looking at a June 1 deadline to get Pelss under contract, otherwise they would have lost his rights and he would have been eligible to re-enter the NHL Draft. Last month, The Pipeline Show’s Guy Flaming argued that signing the player was the right thing to do:
Pelss is one of the fastest players in the entire WHL and I have no problems suggesting that he can skate at an NHL level right now. He’s shown deadly accuracy and an uncanny ability to score in creative ways; he struck for a goal against Swift Current a month ago by releasing a quick wrist shot while in the middle of a toe drag around a defenceman… The Latvian is also a character player. Chosen by his teammates to be captain of Team Latvia during the recent 2012 WJC in Alberta, Pelss stepped into that role with ease. What Pelss doesn’t have yet is the physical ability to perform and succeed at the next level. At 5’11 and 187 lbs, he’s of average size and the strength isn’t there yet but with another season in the WHL a possibility, I think it’s worth taking the chance.
The Oilers apparently saw enough to agree with Flaming and add Pelss to their 50-man contract list.
I’ve got a soft spot for Pelss. Latvia doesn’t produce a lot of high-level hockey players – off the top of my head, the unforgettable Arturs Irbe, ex-Oiler Sergei Zholtok, and puck-moving defender Sandis Ozolinsh – and Pelss’s road to the pros has been an odd one. He played in the Belarussian league in his draft year, recording nine points in 46 games, but performed well for the Latvian side at the under-18’s and ended up on the Oilers’ draft list.
Pelss has been a serviceable, if unexceptional junior player for the Edmonton Oil Kings, and at 19 years of age he’s a fixture on Latvian junior teams and stands a good chance of being a fixture on their international teams for decades to come. As Flaming points out he skates well, and despite his size there’s a bit of an edge to his play too.
I’m fine with the decision – mostly because I have a soft spot for Pelss – but it isn’t one I would have been comfortable making.
Pelss’ level of offense simply isn’t where it needs to be. On a team with room for additional contracts, he’d absolutely be worth a flyer. The problem is the Oilers don’t have many slots left, and gambling on a 50-point WHL’er is going to leave them short somewhere else.
The Oilers still have picks from 2010 to get under contract – guys like Jeremie Blain and Brandon Davidson (I’m betting the Pelss signing means that they pass on Drew Czerwonka). There’s another (big) set of prospects to make a decision on next year when it comes time to sign the 2011 picks. Then too, the possibility exists that the Oilers might like to add some players at the professional level.
As I’ve said, I like Pelss and I don’t mind the decision. Somewhere along the way, though, the Oilers aren’t going to have room to sign anybody else.
This week by Jonathan Willis at the Nation Network
- Report: KHL club trying to poach Jets’ Alexander Burmistrov
- Should the next coach of the Oilers be young?
- Free agents: Alexander Semin, Washington Capitals
- Playoff picks: Round 2
- Why an amnesty clause makes sense
- Kevin Lowe: "It’s a business first"
- Justin Schultz would solve a lot of problems for the Oilers
- The Oilers should sign Josh Harding this summer
- Roberto Luongo asks for a trade
- Red Wings’ G.M. Ken Holland on player development
- Team Canada takes shape – and is looking pretty good