Edmonton Oilers Sign Kristians Pelss

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

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    Good signing! This guy has been fun to watch at the Rex during the incredible playoff run that the Oil Kings are on. He’s been sometimes the best player on the ice. Can score in tight and is always hustling.

  • I’d be interesting is seeing his 5v5 pts/60 before categorizing him.

    I’ve been told he doesn’t see much 5v4 time.

    Who are his line mates on the Oil Kings?

    I agree about Blain and Davidson, but given the depth of young D (Marincin, Gernat, Musil, Klefbom, Tuebert, Simpson) and next to no depth in young F (Pitlik, Hamilton……)(this assumes Lander and Harski play in EDM next year.), I can see Tambellini sacrificing some D prospects to try to find some F’s.

  • TwoSkidoos

    Not Hemsky 2.0. He’s a smaller fringe player that will likely never see ice time as an Oiler.

    Sure he’s fast, but so are many other NHLers, but it takes other attributes to make it over and above speed – face off ability, checking, defensive prowess. He has none of those and I’ve watched the Oil Kings a fair amount this year.

    Puzzling signing in my mind, unless he’s someone they see as OKC material to help that team succeed, I certainly don’t see him helping the big boys.

    • RPG

      Ah yes, the famous crystal ball prediction. Who are you to say he never sees ice time as an Oiler? That’s why they’re called prospects. You see something you like, and you hope they develop beyond that.

  • I would be disappointed if the Oilers didn’t signe Czerwonka! He is absolutely the type of player they need in their system. Big, hard working, takes the body constantly, can score when given the chance & his skating is decent!

    Both Blain & Davidson are decent prospects as well. They have size, leadership abilities & decent offensive numbers! There’s others I would trade or not re-sign in order to get these guys in the system!

  • RPG

    Here’s some stats…

    2011/2012 Regular Season Stats
    ST. CROIX, MICHAEL 72 45 60 105 40
    WRUCK, DYLAN 66 21 59 80 35
    FOSTER, T.J. 69 30 45 75 38
    MAXWELL, TYLER 66 37 34 71 32
    GERNAT, MARTIN 60 9 46 55 41
    RACHINSKI, RHETT 72 27 23 50 10
    PELSS, KRISTIANS 63 28 22 50 34
    LEGAULT, STEPHANE 58 15 24 39 22
    PYSYK, MARK 57 6 32 38 15
    REINHART, GRIFFIN 58 12 24 36 23

    Kristians Pelss Edmonton Oil Kings 10 4 3 7 2

  • TwoSkidoos

    wow that really jumbled up! Hard to read but the numbers are in there…Pelss is a 0.79 Point Per Game in regular season and so far is 0.70 Point Per Game in the playoffs.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    TwoSkidoos wrote

    Not Hemsky 2.0. He’s a smaller fringe player that will likely never see ice time as an Oiler.

    Sure he’s fast, but so are many other NHLers, but it takes other attributes to make it over and above speed – face off ability, checking, defensive prowess. He has none of those and I’ve watched the Oil Kings a fair amount this year.

    Puzzling signing in my mind, unless he’s someone they see as OKC material to help that team succeed, I certainly don’t see him helping the big boys.

    just curious, how many years have you been a scout for?

  • I haven’t seen much of Pelss – basically, what I caught at the WJC’s – but I do know this: his level of offensive production makes him an incredible long-shot for eventual NHL duty.

    Couple that with his size, and I’m not sanguine.

    • In general I agree but I wish we had time on ice numbers, because that is a very deep team.

      Edit: 37 EV points in 63 games is not outstanding but does look better than his 50 points overall. He only had 9 PP points

      Isn’t he eligible to go back to junior? At least then he won’t count against the 50.

  • RexLibris

    I’ve been watching Pelss’ play with the Kings the past two seasons. I have to say that his recent comparisons to Darren Helm are probably somewhat accurate.

    He is very fast, has an underrated shot, he is strong on the forecheck, looks to backcheck fairly well, and has scored quite a few goals from within 10 feet of the net, sometimes while crashing overtop of the netminder.

    He can maneuver on the ice as well, so he isn’t just a fast skater who gets from point A to point B but couldn’t detour.

    I don’t want the Oilers to lose out on Czerwonka, Blain or Davidson, but if I had to pick one of these four to sign, it would be Pelss. I’ve liked his competitive spirit and nose for the net. He may never be more than a good AHL winger and occasional NHL call-up, or he may be a good third-line depth scoring, forecheck winger for the Oilers in three years. Who knows. But he has progressed well in a relatively short amount of time.

    I suspect that Green, Kytnar and Rodney will be let go this summer. The Oilers certainly could use one or two more contract spaces to fully capitalize on MacGregor’s great work back in 2010.

  • Dipstick

    The OKC roster will be either very young or have a lot of career minor league players next year. There won’t be much room for veteran players on two way contracts with all of the prospects to sign.

  • I would have preferred they sign Davidson or Blain; even Bigos actually (even with his extra year of college). I know the Oil have a bunch of D that can go pro next year but the reviews on Davidson are very positive.

  • vetinari

    His speed reminds me of a bit of a young Todd Marchant. I think he’s worth a look and a gamble on developing. Besides, the Oilers will likely trade Omark and maybe a couple of other players by the draft and I’m sure they’ll be freeing up a couple of slots on the 50 man roster.

  • Truth

    Does this solidify Tambellini is staying as GM? This is definitely not a make or break signing but if Tambellini has been told he is not coming back he would’nt be signing kids. I don’t know if he would be signing players if his position was uncertain either.

  • vetinari

    JW – Players that can come off the books and no one will miss them or are destined to be moved/let go:


    That’s twelve players, minimum. The 50 contract limit discussed is a red herring with respect to the Oilers.

    • Kytnar, Rodney, Barker yes. Omark will be traded.

      I imagine Chorney will be kept on as depth and to help replace Bryan Helmer.

      You need Keller/Green or guys like them to a) serve as depth and b) offer OKC some capable veterans. These guys get two-way deals.

      I’m betting Vande Velde’s back. He can play in the NHL now if needed; Pelss can’t…

      Petrell, Hordichuk and Peckham are on the NHL roster right now. You need to keep them or sign NHL options to replace them.

      So really, of your list of 12, just four guys really are going to be let go and (possibly) not replaced. Davidson and Blain are two of those spots. Marincin, who didn’t count last year because he was in junior, is another. Bunz is a fourth.

      The 50-man limit is anything but a red herring.

  • Aitch

    I’d say either they see him as a late bloomer or as gcw_rocks suggests above, the 50-man roster is a joke to them. Perhaps the owners are pushing for larger rosters in the next CBA, with so many of ’em starting to get in on the minor league franchises too.

    • jonnyquixote

      I think of all the Oilers prospects, Pelss is most likely to be a “late-bloomer.” He hasn’t had the developmental advantages that many other prospects have, yet he keeps improving and demonstrates a lot of character in the process. It’s nice to see the Oilers rewarding a player who has performed well in less-than-ideal circumstances. There are a lot of other names on our roster that I’d cut loose before bidding adios to this kid before he gets a real shot.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    TwoSkidoos wrote:

    You don’t have to be a scout to judge talent.

    Just my opinion of him.

    Didn’t realize you couldn’t post your opinion on this website?

    who said you couldnt post your opinion? i asked a simple question with nothing attached. was there other comments that got deleted or something that i missed?

  • Quicksilver ballet

    How is assessing talent in the game of hockey, any different than the game of baseball. Those scouts sitting in a room endorsing this kid or that kid isn’t really different than a few boardies from ON getting together to make the same decisions. Even the Oiler scouts blow as many selections as a non insiders would.

    Most teams don’t have one definative guy on staff who can tell the difference from a kid who can play, and a kid who won’t. Just like in baseball, hockey is better served by the Billy Beane system of judging talent. Moneypuck must be alive and well in the NHL by now.

    • Is that sarcasm?

      If it isn’t the difference is that baseball has 162 games and hockey only has 82. And once playoffs hit you can’t go by averages because there isn’t enough games, and in order for a money ball/moneypuck situation to work out everything has to go perfect (like it did for the A’s) but how many world series have the A’s won in the last 20 years???

  • Hockeysfuture.com grades him as at 5.5C and describes him as a gritty, two-way winger. (If we can’t play armchair scout here then I might as well quote someone else.)

    Not every prospect signed within the 50 contract limit is going to be a finesse scorer or a sluggish giant. The organization has plenty of players that project to that type anyway. Looks more like a 3rd line evens / penalty killer type if he ever makes it.

      • TwoSkidoos

        I suppose that they’d rather take a flyer on somewhat of a known quantity in that they’ve had tons of opportunity to watch him.

        Maybe a “trained” eye sees something that the rest of us armchair GM’s don’t see.

        Every team needs role players I guess.

  • RexLibris

    I don’t understand the reluctance of some fans in signing Pelss. He was captain of his WJC squad (okay, it was Latvia, nevertheless it does count for something and he is a 7th round pick after all) he has matured and developed quite well to the point that the Oil Kings rely on his offense, for all that it is.

    Over the past few seasons fans here have talked about drafting and developing players internally. Building from within. Does this only apply to the top-end players or should it travel all down the roster to character players as well?

    If bottom six players are so easy to find, and if those are the same players who are so often the difference-makers on successful playoff teams, then why doesn’t every half-decent team just sign six at the start of the year and every one of them find success in the post season?

    I’m not trying to say that Pelss is going to be some playoff star or a late-round miracle prospect, but certainly adding a player with his skill set and style isn’t hurting the team.

    Numerous scouts were inquiring about Pelss’ contract status this season and had he re-entered the draft there is every likelihood that he would have been selected in the 3rd round at the earliest. For a prospect to make that kind of jump in the estimation of so many other hockey minds suggests that he is someone worth developing.

    Everybody likes to throw out the Detroit model, well this is a Detroit move.

    • There’s no way Pelss is a third-round pick.

      If he was 17 and putting up the offense he is, then yes. He’s not. He’s 19.

      Last year’s undersized third-round picks out of major junior including Vincent Trochek (62 points in 68 games, 17 years old), Joe Cramarossa (32 points in 59 GP, 17 years old), Nick Cousins (68 points in 68 games, 17 years old), Dan Catenacci (71 points in 67 games, 17 years old), Alan Quine (53 points in 69 GP, 17 years old).

      There’s just no way.

  • RexLibris


    I defer to your judgement. And to be honest the 3rd round is the highest I could see Pelss going so I was probably overstating.

    That being said, I do think that developing a player like him internally isn’t necessarily a waste of a contract, as some others have argued here.

    I know that there are some who have argued that the Oilers could just as easily sign a player to one of those slots as a free agent than spend the time and money on training one of their own. But I am left to consider the effectiveness of that approach over the past few years.

    Most would admit that the amateur scouting and prospect development departments are areas of strength for this organization currently. More so than the pro scouting department of late. Then it would stand to reason that once drafted, and properly developed, an prospect like Pelss, Rieder, or some other later round selection gradually developed, might be a better option than what could be found outside the organization.

    I had a look at some other reserve lists last night and I am led to believe that because Pelss is currently in the WHL his contract does not count as of today.

    A few months ago I also jotted down a list of players likely gone by the summer. Kytnar, Rodney, Barker, Peckham, Omark, Hordichuk, and perhaps even Danis are all players that I expect have a good chance of finding a new home this summer. Conservatively that would give the Oilers perhaps four contract spots available. Assuming internal elevation for the roster spots vacated by Omark, Peckham and Danis that would mean that players like Blain, Davidson and Czerwonka could be signed and retained.

    In fact all three of those players could be signed right now, as far as I know, because they haven’t yet to my knowledge left their respective junior clubs. If they have officially run out of junior eligibility then I stand corrected and apologize.

    I completely agree with you about the importance of the reserve list and the need to manage it carefully, especially for a team in the draft/development stage that the Oilers are in right now. But I consider that the Flames are currently running 55 contracts according to capgeek and including the addition of Roman Cervenka.