The Organizational Depth Chart

What is the Oilers’ current status at all positions? The finalization of Oklahoma’s roster gives us some clues as to where the various depth players stand. After the jump, my take on the Oilers’ depth chart in all positions.

Players are ranked by expected NHL ice-time per game.

Left Wing

1. Taylor Hall. Duh.

2. Ryan Smyth. Thanks to play in multiple situations, my expectation is that the veteran gets more minutes than the next guy on the list.

3. Nail Yakupov. Dynamic first overall pick is a natural right wing expected to start on the left side in Edmonton.

4. Ben Eager. Tough fourth-liner is a legitimate NHL player.

5. Magnus Paajarvi. Despite his fall from grace last season, Paajarvi’s the guy in this slot. He’s starting the year with Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle in Oklahoma, and could easily find himself in the number two role on the NHL team if he plays well (with Smyth at 3 and Yakupov at right wing).

6. Lennart Petrell. Utility player can line up anywhere at forward and will likely be on the NHL roster despite modest skill level. Having a nice goal-scoring run in Finland, with five goals in six games.

7. Teemu Hartikainen. Slow start appears to be costing him again, as he may begin Oklahoma’s season on the third line.

8. Curtis Hamilton. He’s been usurped by Ryan Martindale in training camp but based on last year probably still deserves to be ranked here.

9. Antti Tyrvainen. Energy player was injured in the pre-season, and while unlikely to have an NHL career could probably move on to a fourth line immediately for at least a short stint.

10. Philippe Cornet. After a great goal-scoring outburst a year ago and an NHL recall, Cornet was cut out of training camp and is now in the ECHL. He’s in the final year of his entry-level deal and needs to make a splash right now if he’s to earn another NHL contract.


1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Nugent-Hopkins averaged roughly 2:00 less than Edmonton’s top center last year (Shawn Horcoff) but with a reduction in Horcoff’s role and more time on the power play and at evens, Nugent-Hopkins should be Edmonton’s top center this season.

2. Shawn Horcoff. At even-strength, expect Horcoff to take on a third line role, but he will be killing penalties and unless he’s completely bumped off the power play this is probably where he slots in.

3. Sam Gagner. Gagner actually led Oilers centers in even-strength TOI last year, but due to a lack of penalty-killing work will probably fit third in total ice-time in 2012-13.

4. Eric Belanger. Belanger started last season on the second line (Gagner was hurt) but there’s little doubt of where he starts now.

5. Anton Lander. Made the team out of camp last year but wasn’t ready for it; he’s a good call-up option.

6. Chris VandeVelde. VandeVelde has 17 NHL games under his belt and is a minor-league defensive specialist; he’s good for a cup of coffee if needed.

7. Ryan Martindale. Left for dead in the ECHL a year ago, he’s had a great camp and should start the year on Oklahoma’s second line. Could revive his career prospects in a hurry with a good season. I originally listed Martindale on the left side; he’s actually playing center and Josh Green – on an AHL contract – has been moved out of the middle. Sorry for the error. JW

8. Tanner House. Defensive forward is unlikely to get an NHL call-up.

Right Wing

1. Jordan Eberle. Average one second per game less than Ales Hemsky last year and will almost certainly eclipse him in ice-time in 2012-13.

2. Ales Hemsky. Competent first line player will take a supporting role for the first time since his early NHL seasons – something that’s probably just as well, given his injury track record of the last few seasons.

3. Ryan Jones. He probably shouldn’t get another shot with Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle, but barring a return of Yakupov to the right side he should start the year in the top-nine.

4. Darcy Hordichuk. Enforcer.

5. Tyler Pitlick. Pitlick’s getting a push from the OKC coaching staff, and his physical game means that he will likely get some NHL ice-time in 2012-13 – as long as he can stay on a scoring line in the minors.

6. Dane Byers. Veteran minor-leaguer adds physical punch and decent scoring; he has 14 NHL games on his career.

7. Mark Arcobello. Diminutive scorer can also play center. He probably won’t get an AHL call-up but he did lead the Barons in post-season scoring last year and finished second during the season.

8. Kristians Pelss. Surprised by getting an entry-level contract, and then again by winning a job on the AHL team in camp. Lacks offence but plays well in other areas.

9. Cameron Abney. Backup enforcer.

10. Toni Rajala. Another small scoring line forward; despite his skill level the bulk of his career is almost certainly going to be in Europe.

Left Defence

1. Ladislav Smid. Tough defenceman has established himself as a legitimate shutdown guy.

2. Nick Schultz. Veteran rearguard plays a safe, stay at home game.

3. Andy Sutton. Massive defenceman wasn’t an everyday player last year and probably won’t be this year, but he’s tough and has surprising puck skills.

4. Theo Peckham. Needs a bounce-back season.

5. Martin Marincin. 6’4” Slovakian is a first-year professional but might get a call-up.

6. Brandon Davidson. Davidson has decent size and has improved along the way; he’s still an NHL longshot but this season represents an opportunity to establish himself as a legitimate prospect before other prospects turn pro/come to North America.

7. David Musil. If Musil weren’t still in junior, I’d slot him in front of Marincin. The Oilers have the option to recall him when the lockout ends, but it’s more likely he won’t turn professional until next season. If that happens, he’s a possible emergency call-up (like Sebastien Bisaillon a few years back) but that’s an unlikely scenario.

8. Oscar Klefbom. If he were in North America this season and the NHL was in session, he might be as high as the #3 spot on the list. He’ll likely jump directly from the SEL to NHL next season. For this year, though, he’s out of the Oilers’ reach.

Right Defence

1. Jeff Petry. Found chemistry on the top-pairing late last season with Ladislav Smid.

2. Ryan Whitney. If he’s a fully armed and operational defenceman this year, he’s probably going to lead the Oilers’ D in total ice-time. For now, I’m only counting on him as a top-four, rather than top-pairing, defenceman.

3. Justin Schultz. One of the ways that the lockout is a blessing in disguise is for this young player. This way, he gets to start his professional career in the AHL rather than jumping directly to the majors.

4. Corey Potter. Utility defenceman seems like a stop-gap until the younger prospects can take over.

5. Colten Teubert. Tough, stay at home rearguard was out of his depth in 24 NHL games last season.

6. Alex Plante. Big defenceman isn’t anything particularly special, but he can play NHL minutes in a pinch if needed.

7. Taylor Fedun. Something of a wildcard. He had a great pre-season last year, with the possibility of making the Oilers, before he spent a year on the shelf. He could be ahead of Potter by the end of the season but for now caution is a good idea.


1. Devan Dubnyk. Much more secure in the starter’s role today than he was one year ago.

2. Nikolai Khabibulin. This might end up being his final NHL season.

3. Yann Danis. The AHL’s reigning goalie of the year compares favourably to any #3 in the league; perhaps even favourably to Khabibulin, depending on the observer.

4. Olivier Roy. He’ll split AHL minutes with Danis this season after a solid professional debut, but he needs to keep up his strong play.

5. Tyler Bunz. Bunz inherits Roy’s job in the ECHL; the next few years will tell us which if the two figures more prominently in the Oilers’ long-term plans.

Mileage may vary, but that’s how I see the depth chart at present.

  • 24% body fat

    Please tell me horcoff will not be on the pp. I know he did ok last year but that was his line mates. RNH, Hall, Eberle, Gagner, Yakupov and Smyth there is no reason for horcoff on the PP. I know they like him for the draw but Gagners numbers were not far behind him last year and ten seconds less on the pp with him or yak is better than horcoff out there for a minute and a half.

      • John Chambers

        You could argue the goaltending depth is the most alarming. They are literally one injury away from drafting Nathan McKinnon.

        Although in fairness most teams are a starting goalie injury away from lotto territory.

        • DSF

          Yeah, you could certainly make that argument.

          But imagine a season ending injury to Hopkins.

          Centre depth:

          Horcoff (421st in the league last season for ES +- Diff and one year older.)

          Sam Wellwood

          35 year old Eric Belanger (coming off a dreadful season and one year older)

          Anton (AHL) Lander

          Chris VV.


          • DSF


            Burrows has 10G and 18P in 30 playoff games over the past two seasons.

            If you were to project that to 82 games, you would be looking at 28 goals and 50 points.

          • The Soup Fascist

            A first liner projecting 50 points in an 82 game regular season! Wow!

            18 points in 30 playoff games! How did he not win the Conn Smythe?

            Sorry for being snarky DSF. First of many “no NHL days”. Heck I would even watch the Canucks.

          • DSF

            You know it’s hard to score in the playoffs, right?

            BTW, the Chicago Wolves have 52 of their games broadcast on network TV so, if you need a fix, I’ll send you the links.

          • The Soup Fascist

            I do. Which is why I was surprised you chose to make that projection.

            Just send me the links to the Wolves games vs. OKC, please. Will be fun to get into the mode of watching the Baby Oil making bytches of the Wolves. Good precursor if/when the NHL gets going. 😉

          • The Soup Fascist

            The Kesler of two-three years ago, maybe could hit 35-40, but he is coming off of wrist and shoulder surgeries from this past season. Looking at the effect that has had on other NHLers, as well as baseball players, we will see if he regains his previous form. Nucks fans had better hope this is not the case with Kesler going forward based on his injury history the past two years……to be honest, would he even hold up for a full year of first line abuse? Kesler’s slight build is similar to Hemsky (Kesler is 2 inches taller but only 3 lbs heavier) and we have seen how that works out with frontline wear and tear over time.

            As for the Horcoff of today, maybe 15-20 since he whiffs on so many chances. However, with a healthy Hemsky and a motivated Penner, Horcoff was on pace for close to that the year he buggered up his shoulder at a similar age……

            On the other hand, as much as it pains me to say this as I do not think highly of him, Gagner would probably score more with the other Sedin and Burrows than Kesler would. Sure, Kesler brings more to the table overall, but from a scoring perspective Sam would is more effective. Gag, Ack, puke, done with the Sam platitudes for the next year.

      • I must agree. The depth at C is pretty horrible. Its why I cringe whenever I hear somebody suggest that the Oilers trade Gagner.

        Why? So Horcoff can play more? No thanks.

        I mean, the Oilers C prospect with even a remote shot at having a 2C upside is Martindale. That should scare everybody.

      • The Soup Fascist

        Comparing Oilers depth to Vancouver depth (as per Hockey News) at center:

        1. RNH – Sedin
        2. Kesler – Gagner
        3. Lapierre – Horcoff
        4. Malhotra – Belanger
        5. Ebbett – Lander
        6. Jordan Schroeder – Van de Velde
        7. Alex Friesen – Martindale
        8. Brendan Gaunce – Josh Green

        Let’s discuss each matchup

        1. Give Sedin a slight edge – this year. RNH is very good and is going to be a special player. As an 18 year old RNH scored at a 0.84 ppg clip. Sedin was 25 before he accomplished that feat.

        2. Kesler (49 points) does more than Gagner (47 points). Off year for Kesler coming off injury but he is a superior option.

        3. Horcoff (34 points) does a lot of little things better than Maxi (19 points) – other than diving and pissing off teammates. In that regard, “Lappy” is world class.

        4. Malhotra (18 points / 32 years old) vs. Belanger (16 points). Both good face off men. Belanger was atrocious offensively last year but so was Manny. Two times nothing. Draw.

        5. Lander to me is a much better option and has more upside than the soon to be 30 year old small centerman, Ebbett.

        6. Schroeder is another little guy – 0nly 22 years old 44 AHL points last year. Vande is a big center who scored 23 points last year, limited NHL exp. Meh – sure you can have Schroeder. Neither guy is an NHLer.

        7. Friesen is a smallish 21 year old center who scored 71 points in the OHL last year (obviously as a 20 year old). Martindale is a 20 year old who scored 83 points as a 19 year old in the OHL and has a year of pro hockey. 6’3″ 207. Me likey.

        8. Brendan Gaunce is a big ppg center in the OHL. Good pedigree. Obviously a totally different player than Josh Green. Will be a very nice pro in a couple of years.

        My point is other than Kesler (who was sub par last year but I assume will get back to his regular level of tough #2 center) where is the huge advantage at center? I am not saying the Oilers are great far from it, but Vancouver does not wow me with their depth. I am fine with Horcoff (salary notwithstanding) and Belanger over Lapierre and Malhotra – who could sadly be done. Is Gaunce an infinitely better prospect than Martindale who appears to be bringing a work ethic and edge that previously were not part of his game?

  • Spydyr

    Just curious, why do you have Martindale at left wing instead of Center? I believe he’s slotted in the 2C role in OKC right now and has been playing center. I could be wrong, but I’ve only seen him listed as a C. That being said, I’d suggest he’d move into the 7C position and knock House down to 8.

    Center looks like the least deep position to me, especially when consider the players in Junior/overseas yet to be signed to an ELC.

    • My understanding was that he’d been slotted in at wing on L2 with Josh Green at center and Pitlick at RW, but of course Green has played wing before so it could well be that Martindale’s currently centering that line.

      I was torn as to where to list him, but settled for wing because his known defensive weaknesses made it seem more likely that that’s where he’d get minutes in an NHL call-up situation.

      Certainly, he’s spent more time up the middle.

  • Peterborough

    Exceleent work as usual JW. I can’t get enough pospect evaluations and this year more than any other its really all we’ve got.

    Keep ’em commin’!!!

  • Dipstick

    I think I suggested this before. Why not convert
    Paajarvi to play the Middle.? Speed, size, good defensively. If he could pick up the face off part of the game, could be a good NHL center man.
    Would not converting him make more sense than Hall. [ whom I am sure could do the job as well]/

  • Dipstick

    Even though I’m a big fan of Smitty, I doubt that his motor will last more than 40 – 50 games. If the lockout ends soon, I see him a couple of slots down on the chart by March.

  • RE: Center Depth

    Okay, let’s pretend RNH goes down and he’s out for the season. If you were coach Krueger, what would you do?

    Option A: Run Gagner/Horcoff/Belanger as your top three centers.

    Option B: Move Hall to the middle. That leaves you Smyth, Yakupov and one of Paajarvi/Hartikainen on your wings.

    I don’t think the center depth is especially good, but it’s hardly cataclysmic. Particularly since a lot of teams look bad when you just scratch their top center for a season. Not every team can be Pittsburgh.

    • DSF

      1) Seppuku.

      2) Vancouver – Sedin-Kesler-Malhotra-Weise-Ebbet and likely Arnott

      3) Minnesota – Koivu-Granlund-Brodziak-Mitchell-Konopka-Coyle-Phillips-Powe-Cullen- and some more

      4) San Jose – Thornton-Marleau-Couture-Pavelski-Handzus-Moore

      5) Chicago – Toewes-Kane-Bolland-Krueger

      6) Detroit – Datsyuk-Zetterburg-Fillpulla-Helm

      7) Colorado – O’Reilly-Duchene-Stasny-McLement

      8) LA – Kopitar-Richards-Carter-Stoll-Nolan-Fraser-Lweis-Loktionov

      Should I keep going?

      Hell, Gagner, Horcoff and Belanger wouldn’t be able to even make any one of those teams.

      • The Goalie 1976

        Well Marleau, and Kane aren’t center men. And colorado’s doesn’t really impress me. Sam Gagner has been a good #2A center so far. He’s only 23 and I think poised to elevate his game to a solid second line center. Horcoff is a decent third line center and Belanger is fine at four. Plus if you’re taking out the Nuge who is amazing then you have to take out the other teams number one which makes many of those other teams look much less impressive.

        • DSF

          Actually, both Marleau and Kane ARE centres.

          Both often play wing although Kane spent a lot of time last season centring the second line. (he took 569 faceoffs last season)

          Patrick Sharp is also a natural centre who plays wing in Chicago.

          I wonder by what measure you call Sam Gagner a “good #2A centre” when his competition in the WC is Kesler, Couture, Richards, Fillpulla, Kane, Statsny, Koivu, Hudler, etc.

          Horcoff, was absolutely murdered at ES last season recoding almost the worst +- Diff in the entire league. I guess if that is what you call decent, you have pretty low expectations.

          While I agree lopping off any teams #1C makes them a worse team, it’s the #2 and #3 behind them that makes all the difference.

      • Not a center: Weise, Mitchell, Powe, Filpulla, Nolan

        Not presently playing center: Pavelski, Carter, Lewis

        Not currently on the team you think they’re on: Arnott, Moore, McClement

        Have yet to plan an NHL game: Granlund, Coyle, Phillips

        Likely to be playing wing in 2012-13: Cullen

        Generated trade rumours for almost all of last year because of their inability to do a satisfactory job up the middle: Kane

        So that’s 16 players on your list who aren’t centers, aren’t on the team you list them with, are playing poorly up the middle or are likely to be moved to the wing, or haven’t played an NHL game.

        By all means, please continue.

        • The Goalie 1976

          LOL Thank you Willis. I found the list quite suspect as well, but since I am at work I don’t have the time to do the research to disprove it.

          That list is like Oilers fans claiming Lander is a current NHL center quality LOL

  • The Goalie 1976

    I disagree with those who think the goaltending depth is a problem. Look at it this way:

    1. Young #1, looks ready to have a pretty decent year

    2. Grizzled backup, cup winner, best days clearly behind him, but has played well in short spurts recently

    3. AHL allstar, could easily replace #2 with little to no drop off in performance

    4/5. Two good young prospects that most teams lack. Probable serviceable players in a few seasons.

    I don’t have any problem with this list. Habby can play well in a short term (5-10 games) injury relief. Danis can come up as one of the best #3 options in the league. The prospects can hold the fort down in Danis absence.

    Look at the team down the highway. They are 1 injury to Kipper from never winning a game ever! This is better depth than I can remember in many years.

  • vetinari

    The weakest part of our depth chart is on defence and in goal… at those positions, I keep running down the list saying, “if” this player stays healthy and “if” that player doesn’t have a meltdown, and frankly, almost all of the players have an “if” or some sort beside their names.

    • The Goalie 1976

      I think your comment applies to every non-playoff team IMO. That’s the difference between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots.’

      I think if you compare our goaltending depth to other non-playoff teams, and even some playoff teams it looks alright.

      At least they got a great #3, and are not relying on Habby to start 55 games. That in itself is a huge improvement.

      As far as the defense goes, yah it’s a injury away from ugly. It should be a much better scenario in 2 years when those kids are pushing for jobs, but in the meantime I am pissed Tamby hasn’t brought in a real NHL depth defenseman.

  • 24% body fat

    Firstly, Yakupov should get the start on the second line right side. Why shift the young gun away from what’s given him so much success? Move Hemsky to the left. I’m praying that Gagner gets more time than Horcoff, and Yakupov and Hemsky more than Smyth. Got to love Smyth but when the Smyth, Horcoff, and Belanger line were carrying the puck up the ice last year… I just knew that wasn’t going to result in a goal. Gagner will break out once the NHL gets going again. And I really like our Goaltending depth.

  • 24% body fat

    I believe the most important position of the Oilers organizational depth chart, is the management. As long as Steve Tambellini is the GM and Horcoff’s still on the books, I’m looking for small improvements. However, in 3 years when Yakupov switches to no. 10 and Hall’s jersey has a ‘C’ on it, I will be severely disappointed if the Oilers are not a legitimate threat.

  • PutzStew

    He remember when the Oilers won with Horcoff, Smyth and Hemsky???

    Probably not because they didn’t win with those three.

    I’d rather run with Gagner, Yakapov, PRV and Harti then those other three. At least they have a future and aren’t just at the end of a losing career.

  • DSF

    I think you should look again. I would take the Oilers D over many other teams. They will mature and be in there prime within 2 years. About the same time as the forwards will be dominating the league.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Left Wing – Oil are loaded with 2 No.1 picks. If MPS gets his groove they would have the best set of LW in the league. Which is why trying Hall at center might be worthe a try.

    Center – RNH will need to be a legit No1 and not be able to be protected as he was, at times, last year. Samwise: a second line center on weeks team will be the footnote on his career. If Samwise is pulling 2nd line minutes your team isn’t very good. Horcoff and Belanger – see definition of 3rd and 4th line centers.

    Right Wing – Eberle – $ in the bank. Hemsky is one of the keys to the Oil this season ( if there is a season). If he is the Hemsky of 3 years ago great, or have his shoulder injuries shortened his NHL career? Ryan Jones – defintion of 3rd line winger. Hordichuk is the 13th forward who will only dress in games when Krueger think they need some “edginess”

    Left Defence: Solid but unspectacular.

    Right Defence; A real weakness if Whitrney doesn’t perform. The performance of Hmesky and Whitny will be crucial to any success the Oil migth have.

    Goal – All about DD. Yan Denis is a nice insurance policy to have around.