EYES WIDE OPEN

Justin Schultz is the latest Oiler prospect to create mania in the fanbase. After watching Hall, Ebs and the Nuge, we were all stoked for the Russian. Looks like we’ll have to make room for more impact youth.

Early in September, I listed the Oilers top 20 prospects. This list is very strong, despite the fact the Oilers have graduated not only Hall, Eberle and the Nuge in the last couple of seasons, but also Jeff Petry, Devan Dubnyk and others. The impact of all those last place finishes has been a strong prospect list for three years running.

The great thing about the current list is that it addresses blue. Incredibly well. Let me show you what I mean.

  1. Nail Yakupov: 8, 5-2-7 -1 in the current best league on the planet, he’s also shooting (27 shots) and getting himself into good offensive situations. We compared Yakupov to other great Russian teenagers of recent vintage here, and so far he’s covering the bet. Incredible. Andrey Osadchenko is quickly becoming the authority on this young player and is always a good read.
  2. Justin Schultz 3, 3-2-5 +5 and 13 shots in 3 games! He’s tied for 3rd overall in AHL points and is the league leader in points by a defenseman and points by a rookie. He’s tied for 12th in shots on goal and his 2 SH goals give him the league lead there too. Remember in summer when we were discussing NHL equivalencies? Schultz had an NHLE of 82, 15-25-40. Folks, early returns suggest he’s all that.
  3. Oscar Klefbom 11, 0-3-3 +7 in another quality European league. Klefbom has a down arrow in that he’s injured, but the early part of the season was no less than outstanding. Don’t let the boxcars fool you–the Oilers have a player in Klefbom who is extremely close to NHL ready. He’ll push for an NHL job fall 2013 if he’s healthy, and I wouldn’t bet against him. 
  4. Martin Marincin 3, 2-0-2 +6 and that plus minus number leads the league this morning. In all the excitement over Schultz and the quick start from Klefbom, it was perhaps easy to forget about the lanky Slovakian. However, he’s been a quality defender in early games and is partnered with Schultz on the top duo. I didn’t think it would work, but coach Todd Nelson’s hunch is paying dividends. A rookie pairing can work if they’re good enough. Who knew?
  5. Martin Gernat DNP. Gernat serves as a cautionary tale for those of us (me) who get too excited about all of the good arrows. This young man looked like an enormous draft steal as late as this past summer, but a major injury (and vague reports about progress) have him in prospect limbo. Gernat was supposed to join the team this weekend, but that timeline has been moved back to early November. What will we hear in early November? I don’t know who is advising this young man, but there appears to be a disconnect between player and team on basic things like timeline for return. It is at this point a major concern, and this is a player who is not signed.

The rest of that top 20 is worth looking at too, especially close to ready men like Teemu Hartikainen.

SO WHAT?

So what? I think we’re at a point now where there’s just too much young talent developing in the system for the big club to fail beyond this coming (maybe) season. At the NHL level, there is Hall, Ebs, Nuge, Petry, Gagner, Dubnyk and others. Bubbling under? Yakupov, Schultz, Kelfbom, Marincin and others, added to the ‘tweeners’ who may still emerge like Paajarvi and Lander. 

Too much. Too deep. Too many. And now: a flood of blue.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

If there’s an NHL season in 12-13, I don’t think Oilers Nation can expect the playoffs–this is still a young and developing team, and management hasn’t done enough in goal or on the NHL blue to make the second season a certainty.

Based on the young NHL men, the OKC kids, the Euros and the junior/college men already in the system, I think it is fair to say the rebuild is done the moment kids like Schultz and Klefbom show they can play at the NHL level. Based on what we’ve seen, a reasonable ETA is exactly one fall from now.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Not much standing in Justins path on the Oilers blueline, he’s likely to be one of the top 2-3 blueliners by Christmas, if there is hockey in Edmonton this season.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Speaking of the pre-injured. Nothing to do in this town right now LT. Thinking of jumping the fench out at Elk Island and wrangle some of those buffalo. You into some buffalo tip’en this afternoon?

    Not getting our usual diet of controlled violence at Rexall has me feeling the need to throw somthing around with this lockout and such.

  • Czar

    LT
    What’s up with klefbom? All I could find was he caught a rut,thought of the Nuge right away,and injured his shoulder? Any idea the extent or how long he’s out?

  • geoilersgist

    When I was reading how the Barons game went last night and then looking at the Boxscore I was/wasn’t surprised that Schultz was the ice for every goal the Barons scored. This kid is going to be amazing!

    • John Chambers

      Thank god Schultz focuses on the wrister,so did a certain Hall of Famer named Coffey.

      The slap shot sucks and isnt used properly most times,watch Gretzky use it and learn,defensemen dont need to use it like they do,its just that they often have more time,and to waste it on a slapper is regressive when you could use that time to better your position and shooting lane with your head up watching the play.

      Slappers are hard to read for the goalie they arent supposed to just overpower him ,again watch the greatest player to ever lace up skates.Slappers are sucessfully used in the shootout on the fly,this drives the point home that the shot is hard to read and not designed to overpower tenders.Like a wrister,with a slapper accuracy is paramount not power and velocity.Ask Penner and Souray about that philosophy.ha ha ha.

  • 24% body fat

    Lowetide, all this depth on D in the future, and some decent but lacking top 2 on oilers right now. What do you see our D like in three years with no trades being made.

    Heres how i see it

    Smid-Petry
    Klefbom-J Schultz
    Maranicin-Musil
    Tuebert-Davidson

    That being said, the oilers would have to clear out, Whitney, N Schultz, Peckham, Plante, Fedun. The problem here is that you want to keep some veterans around but the young guys are or hopefully should just be clearly better.

    These guys would be close to expendable, Simpson (still young yes), Gernat, Bigos,

    Dont forget to Add Seth Jones as he is likely who we will draf tif there is a season.

  • Lowetide

    2 Girls: I believe the Oilers MUST sign Smid long term, and moving forward (after this year) the foundation should be Smid, Petry, Schultz the elder, Schultz the younger. Add in Klefbom next fall, maybe Marincin middle of 13-14.

    However, as you put very well, the club will need to decide when to offload Whitney (suspect that is in the summer unless he shows very well), Peckham, Sutton, etc.

    Injuries of course are a wild card.

  • RexLibris

    Whitney’s contract may be a short-term one. I’d wager that the seven defencemen for 13-14 are, in no particular order, Whitney, Smid, J. Schultz, N. Schultz, Petry, Klefbom and Teubert. Marincin might spend another year on the farm or be moved up once space is made via injury or trade (please dear God let it be the latter for a change). Keeping Marincin back a year might also help with Gernat’s period of adjustment.

    Either way, the defensive pairings are going to start getting really tricky, in a good way, a year or two from now.

    • John Chambers

      Still think we need to add a veteran top-pair Dman to that mix to join the top third of the conference and have Marincin and Klefbom come along at a bit of a slower pace.

      The question will of course be, from now on, can we afford this man?

      • RexLibris

        If the season gets cancelled altogether, I think we’ll be able to add that defenseman. There will be a significant re-shuffling of rosters, as well as a number of free agents on the market.

        The tricky part will be retaining two of the more interesting free-agent blueliners, Smid and Whitney, while trying to nab a third, though I don’t think we can realistically expect him to be a #1 or #2.

        I think we’ll be able to afford that new defenseman. Even taking Khabibulin’s $4 million off the books and assigning that to a blueliner gets you a pretty good player and doesn’t move the team that much closer to the (projected) cap.

        I think Marincin spends another season, after this one, in OKC. He’ll be valuable to help Gernat transition to the pro ranks. Klefbom, on the other hand, could start next season here on the lower rotation and move up.

        • John Chambers

          I’m pretty much with you here. To begin ’12-’13 the D should look like:

          Smid (new contract) – Petry

          Schultz-Schultz

          Top Pair Stud – Whitney (or veteran replacement)

          Klefbom would be the #7, playing regularly in the bottom pair assuming injuries, while Teubert is the #8 guy.

          Going into this past summer I would’ve been satisfied with the defense as long as Andy Sutton was our #7. Instead he’s still our #6, and if there’s any chance at the playoffs we need another guy who can responsibly play 18-20 minutes.

  • Dipstick

    Teddy Peckman might surprise this year. Even with his crappy season, Teubert did not look better than him last season. He could be around for a year or two more.