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.
THE TOP TEN
- #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.
WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT?
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)
- Jarret Stoll (593)
- Jani Rita (66)
- Marc-Antoine Pouliot (192)
- Raffi Torres (591)
- Jesse Niinimaki
- Jeff Drouin Deslauriers (62)
- Doug Lynch (2)
- Kenny Smith
- Matt Greene (461)
- Mikael Joukov
- Ivan Koltsov
- Brock Radunske
- Colin McDonald (7)
- MA Bergeron (465)
- Ty Conklin (215)
- Fredrik Johansson
- JF Jacques (166)
- Dwight Helminen (27)
- Tony Salmelainen (70)
- 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)
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
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.