The Edmonton Oilers have graduated some incredible talent to the NHL in the last 2 seasons, and there’s another crew ready to step right up. How many of these young men will make the grade? How many should we expect to hang around the NHL long enough to make an impression?

The Oilers have about 30 legit prospects currently. I define a ‘prospect’ as any player drafted by the team or on the 50-man list who has not yet played 50 NHL games. The eligible list includes a player from 2005’s draft (Chris VandeVelde) and free agent signings like Antti Tyrvainen and Tanner House.

  • #20 Taylor Fedun: He’s a little undersized, but is a good puck mover and can play defense. I have been hesitant to include him on a prospect list because we really haven’t seen him much as an Oiler. Having said that, I’m including him on the list based on the amount of hard work he’s done to get to this point one year after the injury. Betting against a guy who wants it that badly is always a poor bet.
  • #19 Brandon Davidson: Puck moving defender who plays with intelligence. We used to call these guys ‘savvy’ defensemen but that word doesn’t get used much anymore. Played a season of junior at 20, but he started late and that shouldn’t hinder his adjustment to pro. A long shot for an NHL career, I’m cheering like hell for him.
  • #18 D Erik Gustafsson: We didn’t know much about him draft day, but he marches up the board as we find out more about Gustafsson. Corey Pronman: “I was able to catch a game of Oilers 2012 draft pick defenseman Erik Gustafsson in a recent European Trophy game. I did not comment on him at the draft or in Edmonton’s organizational write-up due to lack of notes. Mind you it was only one match, but from what one can gather from a singular game, I understand why Edmonton used a fourth round pick on him. Gustafsson, who was in his third draft eligible season, certainly has a fair amount of skill and mobility. Several times he showed the ability to be an effective puck carrier who can make impressive plays and be a starting point for offense. He’s a little undersized which won’t help him, but considering that I thought he defended at an ok level as his reads were fine..”
  • #17 L Curtis Hamilton: A strong junior career had Oiler fans hoping Hamilton could transition smoothly to the pro game. However, a slow start and then injury derailed his season. Hamilton is a throwback winger, 2-way player with intelligence and the ability to score enough to play with skill. This will be a massive season for him.
  • #16 L Jujhar Khaira: Fascinating prospect. Khaira is a big kid who plays with an edge. Oilers stated on draft day that he was a longer term, raw prospect who would take a couple of years (at least) to develop. Off to Michigan Tech and should be closely watched. Has the tool kit to be that big PF/Coke Machine every team seeks.
  • #15 D Dillon Simpson: Hard to get a read on Simpson, as he’s much younger than most of his NCAA competition. Having said that, he is playing well against men much older than him and plays an increasingly important role on the UND blueline. A little undersized, good passer but there are some skating issues.
  • #14 L Mitchell Moroz: I can tell you that there were a number of people who contacted me after my draft day profile of Moroz to set the record straight. Kirk Luedeke and others pointed out that Moroz was a ‘trending’ prospect based on his improved play through the WHL championship and Memorial Cup. Oilers no doubt were aware of that when drafting him early in the second round. Fans should watch his OK season closely, there’s every chance he’ll play extended minutes on the skill lines. A big, strong and fast winger who can enforce and score some too.
  • #13 D Colten Teubert: A tough, physical defender, he can play effectively in the AHL but clearly has some way to go (as seen in his NHL play). Another season in Okla City is likely, but we shouldn’t forget about this guy. Coach Nelson mentioned a few times how much they missed his presence after he was lost to injury.
  • #12 D David Musil: Very developed defensive defender who may end up being the first of the kids drafted 2009-11 to play as a regular D in the NHL. Does not possess the offensive ability of the defensemen ahead of him on this list, but is dominant in his age group defensively. A pretty safe bet to have an NHL career.
  • #11 G Olivier Roy: Had a strong pro debut season with Stockton (ECHL). One might conclude he is not a top level prospect based on spending time in a second tier pro league as a rookie, but Dubnyk was brought along the same way. Roy was one of the best goalies in the ECHL in 11-12, and was outstanding in a stint with the Barons in the AHL.


  • #10 R Tyler Pitlick: Big W with a solid work ethic, good speed and a plus shot. He received solid reviews in conversations with both Todd Nelson and Jim Byers during the season despite not delivering offensively. Oilers fans will be paying close attention to his performance this coming season. He could see some NHL time this winter.
  • #9 L Daniil Zharkov: Another big man who can skate, Zharkov is also an impressive offensive prospect. Aggressive in the offensive zone and a player who gets multiple scoring chances on the same shift, Zharkov scored 23 goals in 50 OHL games and could score 30+ this coming season.
  • #8 G Tyler Bunz: Finished 2nd in the WHL in save percentage (.921) and is tracking equal/ahead of Dubnyk at the same age. Concussions a concern but there’s a lot to like. An indication of this would be the Oilers discussing both Olivier Roy and Bunz as AHL options this season. The trad move for Oilers would be Bunz in Stockton.
  • #7 R Tobias Rieder: Emerging prospect from the depths of the draft. Billy Moores says he works hard and doesn’t give up anything defensively, and also felt his game was “getting complete.” Rieder’s reputation is as an undersized skill player, terrific playmaker and a basic nightmare for opposition defenders. We looked at him here
  • #6 L Teemu Hartikainen: The second best F prospect in the system, Hartikainen is similar to Justin Schultz in that he’s a perfect fit for team needs. Strong on the puck, he’s physical and effective when driving to the net. Hartikainen has an excellent opportunity this fall, but another season is OKC is possible. Foot speed is still an issue, but he’s improved.
  • #5 D Martin Gernat: Gernat took some big steps forward this past season, but still has some ways to go in order to be on the same level as Marincin (who is up next). Impressive size and speed combination, he’s creative with the puck and improved defensively. It’ll be interesting to see where he plays on the Oil Kings depth chart this coming season.
  • #4 D Martin Marincin: Has a nice range of skills, he is tracking to get a major NHL shot; it is just a matter of when he arrives. Jim Byers told me they were impressed in OKC (6, 0-1-1 +4) when he got into action at the end of the year. 6, 1-2-3 +2 at the World Juniors for Slovakia and has a nice range of skills. 6.05, 200 now.
  • #3 D Oscar Klefbom: A quality defender who can handle the puck, Klefbom is destined to play the tough minutes should he maximize potential. Klefbom’s strengths: size, skating, puck movement–should get him to the NHL but his ability to read and react may mean some time in the AHL.
  • #2 D Justin Schultz: Manna from heaven for the Oilers, his signing represents a perfect fit for team needs. We have discussed his offensive potential, but digging deeper shows he is well regard for his defensive ability, too. His Desjardins NHL equivalency is 82, 15-25-40 so he could have an immediate impact.
  • #1 F Nail Yakupov: Dynamic player who will be in the NHL the moment the regular season begins. Exceptional skill level and a player who should push his way onto one of the top 2lines in Edmonton this fall. Along with Hall and Nuge before him, Yakupov could be a strong Calder candidate.


History tells us that the Oilers won’t go 20 for 20 on the list above. Some will get hurt, some will peak in the minors, others will do crazy things–we’ll call that the Tom Edur group. Oiler fans should expect Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz to have successful NHL careers. Yakupov was a #1 overall pick and Schultz has developed a great deal since he was drafted. After that? Well, lets have a look at history.

The Oilers top 20 in 2003 summer looked like this (with current NHL GP in brackets)

  1. Jarret Stoll (593)
  2. Jani Rita (66)
  3. Marc-Antoine Pouliot (192)
  4. Raffi Torres (591)
  5. Jesse Niinimaki
  6. Jeff Drouin Deslauriers (62)
  7. Doug Lynch (2)
  8. Kenny Smith
  9. Matt Greene (461)
  10. Mikael Joukov
  11. Ivan Koltsov
  12. Brock Radunske
  13. Colin McDonald (7)
  14. MA Bergeron (465)
  15. Ty Conklin (215)
  16. Fredrik Johansson
  17. JF Jacques (166)
  18. Dwight Helminen (27)
  19. Tony Salmelainen (70)
  20. Kalle Olsson

Summing up the totals:

  • Actual NHL players: 5 (Stoll, Torres, Greene, Bergeron, Conklin) 
  • 100-200 games: 2 (Pouliot, Jacques)
  • Cups of coffee: 6 (Rita, Deslauriers, Lynch, McDonald, Helminen, Salmelainen)
  • Never made the NHL: 7 (Niinimaki, Smith, Joukov, Koltsov, Radusnke, Johansson, Olsson)


The 2003 list isn’t as strong as the current one, but it does give us an indication about how some high picks vanish and other low picks/minor league free agents find a way. I would guess the 2012 list has as many as 7 ‘actual NHL players’, those being Yakupov, Schultz, Klefbom, Marincin, Gernat, Bunz and Musil.

This is the third year in a row the Oiler list would have to be considered beyond ridiculous. I mean real, real gone.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Your review of the prospects has burst the bubble of the naysayers. I think I like the last pictures more than I should. I must have some “bubble gum” fetish I was previously unaware of.

    How much better would Simpson look if his skating improved? You would think that is something that could be improved more than game sense, instinctual offensive ability and decision making, which this kid has in spades.

  • Lowetide

    soup: tough to say with simpson. He’s so young–even now–that just surviving is victory. I could be undervaluing him.

    Spydyr: First time I’ve ranked Fedun, so he’s heading in a good direction from my pov.

    • The Soup Fascist

      I agree 100%. One has to wonder why young Dillon was rushed to UND as a 17 year old to face 1) competition almost exclusively 2 to 6 years older than he and 2) Start the grind that is the life of a NCAA student athlete.

      I realize that was a personal / family decision that should not be debated here and Craig knows the issues better than most having played NCAA.

      However I wonder if generally it would not be better for the young stars in the Jr A ranks to wait until 19, like their US counterparts. Would it be so bad for them to be a dominant AJHL / BCJHL player for a year or two before getting thrown to the wolves?

  • No surprise to see Fedun so low, IMO.

    On the other hand: wow are you big on Zharkov. 15 goals in his first 18 games of 2011-12, eight over the last 32 – and five of those on the power play.

    Let’s just say I’m skeptical about the “other” Russian.

    • Lowetide

      I like Zharkov plenty. 4th among rookies in goals in a very good junior league, he did not play for a powerhouse club.

      Size, speed and skill and a plus shot. I’ll take that all day long.

    • Lowetide

      They open camp Sept 27 I believe, don’t know about pre-season games but Oct 12 or 13 regular season starts.

      As for who players where? Well, none of the CHL kids can play in OKC, and Yakupov plus Klefbom won’t play there.

      Schultz should, Marincin will.


  • Lowetide

    I like your list of 7, though i would think at least a couple others on the list should surprise, and become an NHL player somewhere.

    Who though, is anybody’s guess.

  • Lowetide

    soup: the other thing is we don’t really get a chance to see him against his age group. Many of the things that have us excited about Marincin, Gernat and Musil have to do with WJ performance.

    Simpson doesn’t have that showcase.

    • Lowetide

      I like Hartikainen a lot, but he does have some issues. We don’t know for a certainty that he’ll score enough, and there are footspeed concerns.

      and this is on a team with a ridiculous amount of talent–two #1 overalls plus Eberle and Hemsky are the wingers!

      That’s insane. Truly.

      I do think Hartikainen will play north of 200 games and has an excellent shot at an NHL career. But the other 7 have (imo) a better chance.

      If Hartikainen grades out and becomes a 20-goaln man with size on a skill line, he’ll more valuable than some of the guys I’ve suggested are better bets, however.

  • Lowetide

    Can’t believe that you have Pitlick that low and behind Zharkov!

    Pitlick will be an NHL player, bottom six at worst, with a long shot at being a 2nd line player.

    Zharkov is a massive crapshoot at this point.

    I predict Pitlick cracks the top five in December.

  • Lowetide

    Fedun and Teubert are Top 10 in that bunch. Hartikainen is Nyet. Same for Simpson. If his last name were say… Mitchell he’d never even have been drafted.

  • Tony Montana

    Kind of funny that prior to the draft our top 3 non NHL prospects were D-Men and yet some were making a case for passing on the consensus best player available to draft another prospect D-man.

    I am quite excited about the top 5 or 6 on that list and am hopeful that a few of the people further down that list (especially the power forward type players) can develop into quality NHL hockey players.

    The short term may still see us outside looking in come April, but the cupboard looks pretty good long term.

  • Tony Montana


    Two things:
    1) It would be great if you could get one of those European scouts on your radio show sometime just to discuss those prospects we don’t see very often.
    2) Great list great article, the only problem with the list IMHO is a lack of centers…lots of D. Lots of wingers…I’d like the list more if it included a couple of big offensive centers.

      • DSF

        Vancouver has just a few prospects…the price of finishing high in the standings every season. Tanev, Connaugton, Lack and Jensen all look pretty good though.

        Florida, however, has the best prospect pool in hockey, easily finishing above Minnesota who also are loaded to the gills.

        The Oilers group is very nice but after finishing out of the playoffs for 6 years in a row, it would be criminal if it wasn’t.

    • Lowetide

      I think he put himself back in the conversation for sure. I have a bunch of guys (Plante, Lalaggia, Cornet, Perhonen) in a cluster. I think that his footspeed is going to hold him back.

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    Yaaaayyy!!! Top 20 prospects list! My favorite blog of the whole year!

    Great reading LT, although if someone has been following your blog for the past couple years a guy pretty much knows how it’s going to roll out. Still though, loved it. Thanks.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Lowetide…my man.
    Why oh why are you so high on Klefbom.
    He has very little offensive production and to date has had a minimal role on his team. He has limited success on the Swedish U20 team.
    Not much of a resume!
    I would not rank him nearly so high until he has has shown a lot more.
    Just look at Paarvii and Lander…lots of work needed for them to become good NHLers yet.
    I suggest you move Klefbom down the prospect list…you have way to rosy an outlook on him.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      Limited success at the U20? He was a first team all-star as an 18 year old. Granted he is somewhat of an unknown compared to others seeing as how he plays in Sweden, but by all accounts he has all the tools to be a very solid nhler. And this year he should have a much more prominent role on his team with some of the veterans leaving, so we’ll have a better read on him.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    I think we will see a trend towards bigger skill players now,we will be a hard lineup to crack without great wheels and great skill level,so as we seem to have those things well covered a guy busting in needs to have an impact greater than the man he plans on replaceing right?So he needs to be a bigger version of what we already have or he will not make it,Omark is a great example,he will make us pay one day in the playoffs I just know it.

    I think Kharkov might be a blackhorse[20 goals–a meaner Jones?},and Tuebert was laying a lot of hits out there so I like him as well.Kevin Lowe style if he tones it down??

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    First off I think more of these players arrive in the NHL but not with the Oilers. Both Bunz & Roy will make it .Schultz & Yakapov are Oilers for sure . Klefbom , Maracin & Musil make it but not all with the oil.Gernat , Hartkinianen and Pitlick make it but some with other teams . Thats ten I think make the NHL .I will throw in Fedun , Moroz & Simpson in the NHL but not oilers . This maybe the best group in years but my guess is only 5 or 6 with the oil.

  • Woogie63

    I like Plante on this list, he has a track record as a pro. Most of this list is filled with good junior players. Plante has improved every years as a pro. He is the big rugged dman we are struggling to find. He needs to out perform Sutton and Peckham to play this year, that seems reasonble in the short term.

  • Reg Dunlop

    Wow, optimitic on Zharkov for sure. Be nice if he delivers, but wow, that’s a high ranking.

    Simpson doesn’t have the EV offense to be an offensive d-man and isn’t big enough or physical enough to pass someone like Musil. He’s a non-factor in my view.

    Nice to see Bunz (and Roy) getting some respect after a strong 2011/12.

  • WinterNightSky

    Lots to look forward to . Is Martindale on that list ? What’s the outcome if season scrapped ? What is Oilers Nation plan if lockout (long or short) develops , as well as media talk shows , etc.? How will it effect T.V., etc.? Spinoff jobs in jeopardy , and what might they be ?

  • DSF

    If Florida’s prospect pool is better than ours, it is only because Hall and Nuge were such studs that they went straight to the NHL, ceasing to be prospects anymore. We own any team in the league for talent under 25.

  • DSF

    If Florida’s prospect pool is better than ours, it is only because Hall and Nuge were such studs that they went straight to the NHL, ceasing to be prospects anymore. We own any team in the league for talent under 25.