Ten Points: Special “off the rails” edition

There is some high-end talent in the Edmonton Oilers’ system, and guys like Justin Schultz and Nail Yakupov are enjoying stunning 2012-13 campaigns – in fact, late last week I made the argument that those two players were the best drafted prospects in the league. After those two, however, the news for Oilers prospects as a group has been decidedly disappointing. Injuries have knocked out guys like Oscar Klefbom and Martin Gernat, while many others have simply struggled to perform as expected this season.

The following list helps demonstrate how badly some of the team’s auxiliary prospects have faltered this year.

1. Anton Lander (AHL: 22GP – 2G – 2A – 4PTS). Lander spent most of last season in the NHL, but he’s looked like anything but a superior player at the AHL level. He picked up his first point on November 25 after going 13 games to start the season without a point; quality linemates (first Teemu Hartikainen and Magnus Paajarvi; later Taylor Hall in place of Hartikainen) are helping to drag the offence out of him but even so he’s not done nearly enough in a feature role this season.

2. Tyler Pitlick (AHL: 19GP – 0G – 2A – 2PTS). Pitlick got a push early in the season on scoring lines, but failed to deliver anything resembling offense. He hasn’t recorded a point in almost two months, he isn’t shooting regularly, and now the coach is talking publicly about his physical game being underwhelming. After an impressive playoffs last year, this was supposed to be a breakthrough campaign.

3. Tyler Bunz (ECHL: 17GP, 0.861 SV%). An 8-5-2 record doesn’t sound so bad, but the fact that Bunz has posted a sub-0.900 save percentage in 11 of his 17 games does. Bunz was expected to copy Olivier Roy’s rookie season last year with a strong performance; instead he’s been terrible.

4. Tobias Rieder (OHL: 27GP – 9G – 14A – 23PTS). Last season, Rieder scored 42 goals in 60 games and was nearly a goal-per-game guy in the playoffs. His pace this year translates to less than half that total. To top things off, the smallish forward hasn’t skated in December thanks to a fractured foot.

5. Alex Plante (AHL: 19GP – 0G – 1A – 1PTS). An AHL all-star last year, Alex Plante has been a third-pairing liability and regular healthy scratch this season. His minus-3 rating is an accurate reflection of his play. Foot speed and decision-making have been serious weaknesses.

6. Daniil Zharkov (OHL: 30GP – 8G – 3A – 11PTS). With two goals in his last four games, Zharkov’s offence is on the upswing after he recorded just a lone assist over a 12 game stretch in the heart of November. He’s actually stagnating from underwhelming numbers last year, and that’s the kiss of death for a player whose greatest skill is supposed to be offence.

7. Philippe Cornet (ECHL: 14GP – 8G- 11A – 19PTS). Cornet enjoyed a strong start for Stockton but has been invisible since being recalled – he has no points and a minus-2 rating over eight AHL contests. An AHL all-star last year, the influx of NHL stars and limited long-term upside meant that he was cut by the Barons out of training camp.

8. Curtis Hamilton (AHL: 22GP – 2G- 2A – 4PTS). Hamilton’s been defensively competent at the AHL level, and even impressed at times on the penalty kill. His minus-3 rating has improved dramatically since being put on a line with Jordan Eberle and Mark Arcobello but is still one of the worst marks on the team, he has barely scored at all and he really doesn’t look like a fit for an “energy” role in the NHL, though, so any praise is at this point muted praise.

9. John McCarron (NCAA: 10GP – 0G – 2A – 2PTS). A nice run last year with Cornell got McCarron drafted as an over-ager; he has pro-level size at 6’3”, 215 pounds. But with two assists in 10 games, he’s nowhere near the pace he needs to be at to be a legitimate prospect.

10. Kellen Jones (NCAA: 17GP – 2G – 4A – 6PTS). When the Oilers drafted him in 2010, he was the tiny BCHL forward who could score. Then he became the tiny NCAA forward who could score. He’s the longest of longshots when he is scoring; this year he’s not even doing that.

Bonus: Cameron Abney (AHL: 4GP – 0G – 0A – 0PTS). Abney’s played a total of ten games this season, four of them at the AHL level. That’s off last year’s 43-game pace and while he’s not the kind of player who will ever fail/succeed based on his hockey ability the fact that he isn’t a regular fourth-line guy in Stockton is less than ideal.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

  • RyanMurray2012

    3/4s of these guys aren’t were never going to be top 6 guys at the next level anyway. Is it really detrimental that guys like Reider and Hamliton aren’t scoring, when all we need out of them is 3rd/4th line and PK?

    • Yes.

      The hope with Tobias Rieder was that he was going to develop into a useful two-way player (and I mean a legitimate two-way player, not a defensive specialist). He scored 40 goals last year for crying out loud. Now he’s in freefall.

      As for Curtis Hamilton: if he’s a sub-20 point guy in the AHL, why on Earth would any NHL team ever consider sticking him on the fourth line? Particularly given that he’s only competent defensively and has *almost* the same physical game God gave Sam Gagner?

      These guys need to score. The vast majority of NHL fourth-liners (goons excepted) were scorers in the AHL. Heck, Jean-Francois Jacques was a scorer in the AHL.

      • DSF

        Exactly.

        Third and fourth lines all over the NHL are littered with players who could score in junior but couldn’t translate that scoring to the NHL.

        Drafting, and spending years developing, players who can’t cut it in junior is a waste of minor league contracts and development resources.

        The prototypical third line player is much like Jannik Hansen who scored 64 points in 64 games with the Portland Winterhawks.

        • The other thing is this: for the most part, ‘scoring’ is the best general measure we have of forwards in junior and the minors for ‘being good at hockey’.

          When a guy can’t score in the minors, it means he’s either a) cheating for defense, giving him a shot at a defensive specialist role in the majors or (as is far more likely) that b) he’s just not good enough to score in the minors, and probably not good enough for anything in the majors.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      i only care about Tyler Bunz really. he and Olivier Roy are the only hope for the near future for us if Dubnyk just turns out average.i have noticed that the rest of the above players have been less than spectacular this year and don’t really care about any of them.

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    Was Brodziak dominant in the AHL? seems to me he is the perfect 4 line forward.

    I wonder if there is something telling in a guy like Brodziak, Zetterberg or Tim Thomas that indicates that they will, one day, go out and be better than their peers, seemingly out of nowhere.

    • Brodziak took a while, which likely has to do with both development and role – as a longshot, he had to work his way up the lineup to an extent that a guy like Tyler Pitlick or Curtis Hamilton never did.

      He was always a decent AHL player but only emerged as a ~point/game guy around the age of 22.

  • Makes you think what the hell the Oiler were thinking when they drafted Moroz over Jenner?

    This is what the Oiler were suppose to stop doing.

    Bunz is the biggest suprise here for me, I really thought he would be lights out good.

    Looks like Klefbom might be the only one who see’s true NHL time here.

  • John Chambers

    It’s hard to make a defense for these guys, however Hall, Ebs, and Nuge have been eating up tons of minutes, especially on the PP.

    It doesn’t totally excuse Pitlick, Lander, Cornet, or Hamilton’s ineptitude, but the AHL data is skewed until the NHL regulars suit up again in the bigs.

    • To a certain degree I’m in agreement.

      But watching these guys play… Pitlick and Lander both got the push out of the gate; they haven’t been suffering.

      Cornet has, but he’s also been awfully lousy since being recalled.

    • Time Travelling Sean

      Been thinking this since the lockout began and agree 100%. It’s hard to make a strong evaluation until all these guys are in their true roles at the minor league level.

      A couple games with elevated minutes or different linemates is not a “push” when your confidence is completely shot. Until the lockout ends, why not leave Rajala and Cornet in OKC and rotate some of these guys to Stockton to see if they can get some confidence back? I know the optics of it won’t look good to fans (or the prospect themselves), but what’s more important, development or appearances?

      These guys are stagnating with no place to go. It’s like the three headed monster affiliate years where there weren’t enough spots for our prospects. There’s 16 frickin forwards in OKC and another 3 or 4 in Stockton.

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    What are you trying to do me, Willis? Is this a retaliation to Gregor’s Positive Friday?

    I’m already in despair with the Lockout. Now the “bottom 6” of the sky is falling? Come on, man!

  • 24% body fat

    settle down everyone, these guys are playing in a defacto NHL right now. This is not your typical AHL. Hamilton and Pitlick are projects and we still have two years to worry.

    Lander ok, time to start treading water.

    Reider, late round pick. We got over excited. If he doesnt turn out it is not that big of a deal.

    Bunz is a goalie, no worrying until he is 23 or 24.

    8,9,10 are all projects and late picks.

    If hamilton can start playing physically than we have a fourth line player. We do not and will not need even 10 goals out of him if our fab 5 continue like this.

  • Time Travelling Sean

    When viewing Rieder’s boxcars, I think it’s important to note that he plays on a defense-first team and without the linemates he had last year. He sees time with Matt Puempel on the PP but at even strength he has to carry his line, and he is better suited in a support role I think. The good thing about him is that his overall game is very good and I would bet for him to have an NHL career of some degree as a 3rd liner.

    I’m much less optimistic on the rest of the list. Lander and Bunz could certainly turn it around and I can imagine a scenario where Curtis Hamilton is your 13th forward, but that’s about it. Pitlick doesn’t even look good defensively — he’s all speed and size but doesn’t seem to be using either to any noticeably positive effect.

    If all the stars plus Lander and Rieder turn out as 2/3 of your third line, I think that’s still good. You only need a few of the B-level prospects to turn out, the odds are against them all.

    • Yeah, I haven’t seen any Rangers games this year but I’ve been reading the lineups at Rangers report and the coach hasn’t done Rieder any favours at all. Plus he has other skills. Even so, the output is disappointing.

      At this point, though, I can’t think of a single guy in the system who I like as a potential third-liner. I’ve got higher hopes for Khaira; other depth guys don’t look like they have the ceiling. Maybe Rieder though size has always been an issue; for Moroz, Pitlick, Hamilton, and Lander I just don’t see the offence.

  • Time Travelling Sean

    Exactly Mr Willis. This crop of picks were greatly over hyped by excited Oiler fans.

    As you correctly pointed out, at least J.F. Jacques was big, strong, fast, and put up big numbers in the AHL. These guys do not look good at all. Its time to close the book on a couple of them.

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    I don’t mean to hijack the “thread” but let’s heat things up!

    I’m starting to understand where the PA is coming from. I (used to) side with the Owners during this Lockout. And probably still kinda do. But I’m slowly seeing what the PA and Players are doing.

    1. It’s not about the money to the Players. People often argue how much money the Players are losing and that they’re never going to get that money back, despite the deal they get in the end.

    Don’t for a second think Fehr forgot to mention to the Players what they stand to lose this year. He and the PA are establishing a code of conduct, so to speak, between them and the Owners going forward. The Owners are going to more carefully consider the handling of the next CBA expiry, and hopefully (in the PA’s eyes) will look for internal changes before approaching the Players.

    2. Another oft argument I read/hear is the Players won’t get a better deal every time they decline one. I don’t believe that’s true.

    NHL’s offers have improved with time. And although lost salaries are piling up, the effect of bargaining (for long term) will likely offset that. I challenge anyone to prove to me that short term losses won’t equate to long term gains for the PA as a whole.

    Yes, individually the players will lose money. But remember, it’s not about the money. And certainly not about individuals.

    For the two reasons above, I think the Players are doing what they have to. I can’t blame them for that. And as Willis wrote in the past, the two sides will get what they get.

    The only questions is when. TSN’s piece today re-enforced my belief on that – before this season is lost. 30 major venues across North America can’t wait for a lengthy lawsuit.

    Link to the TSN article: http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=411804

  • RexLibris

    This begs the question: are the Oilers best to pull an Anthopoulos and try to trade some of these prospects to other teams while they still retain at least some value?

    I’m not suggesting there is a Florida Marlins option out there, Mike Milbury isn’t a GM anymore after all, but perhaps the conversation could begin.

  • Time Travelling Sean

    Hey any news on Jughir Kharia? Besides Eberle ( allbeit in the first round) are there any players outside of the first overall pick, we can be excited about?

    We seem to have no luck in the second and later rounds selecting players who produce consistently.

  • DSF

    Who are we trying upgrade on thr 3/4 line

    Smyth ….last year
    Horcoff … With that contract he is not going anywhere
    Jones …

    Eager ….
    Belanger …. Need to replace the strong work on the dot
    Petrall…

    If our farm system can’t up grade that group, we are in trouble