An Offer I Couldn’t Refuse
I recently had a chance to talk a little about the Nations with a friend who is also a regular reader. I don’t usually get face time with readers so I took the opportunity to ask him if there were any topics he’d like to see covered that otherwise get overlooked.
His request was right up my alley.
He wanted to know who might be some worthy players to watch for the Oilers drafting in the later rounds, hence the title of this article. I love this kind of stuff.
Now there are a lot of these articles posted each year. Lowetide and the guys at Coming Down the Pipe do a terrific job of reviewing junior age players every year and they are both far more connected than I. LT even recently put up a series looking into the draft eligible players on each World Junior squad. It was some solid work and worth a read.
That being said, there will be miles of pixels devoted to Seth Jones, Nathan McKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, Hunter Shinkaruk, and all the rest of the big shiny first-round players between now and the June draft. So how about a look at the rest of the guys down the line?
We often see some surprises in the later rounds of the draft (the Red Wings have been making hay in the selection’s back nine for over a decade now), and I have argued in past articles that the true value of a scouting department isn’t entirely what they do on day one but perhaps more what they do on day two, when most of the tv cameras are turned off and the media glare has dimmed.
As things stand today, the Oilers have their 1st round pick, two 2nd round picks, a 3rd, a 4th, a 5th, a 6th and a 7th for 2013. Eight picks in all.
I’m going to stop here to say that, in my opinion, this draft is absolutely crucial to the long-term health of this team. The Oilers have a collection of core players, and those drafted and being developed currently are anywhere from two to six years away from being NHL ready. This draft crop will have the luxury of time in order to play behind a deep range of prospects, and leapfrog any who fall by the wayside. This is a draft that separates the Detroits from the Chicagos, the teams that can build and maintain versus those that build, peak, and then struggle to retain complementary talent.
Some of the players listed are currently ranked in the bottom of the top 30 and could easily slide lower by June. I’ve omitted any players that look to be climbing and are likely to be ranked higher than 20th by the final listings. Any ranking I put in is from the most recent ISS listing.
Artturi Lehkonen (LW) was 13th, fell to 21st in ISS Dec rankings. Small forward, decent hands, appears to be willing to play skill or with an edge. Might fall into the Teuvo Teravainen-type but with a lower talent ceiling.
Kerby Rychel (LW) fell to 23rd from 20th. Mid-sized winger, has to fill out his frame. Good points totals in the OHL his first two seasons, though slowing this year. In 165 games in the OHL he has 127 pts and 171 penalty minutes. Might be a good depth center with some edge to his game.
Keaton Thompson (LD) 24th from 22nd. 6.1" and only 165 lbs, as a defenseman. His points totals are what keep him this high in the rankings, and concern over size will mean that any dip in production will have a significant impact on his draft standing. He is currently playing in USHL.
Ryan Kujawinski (C) 25th from 23rd. Plays for a mediocre Frontenacs team. Mid-sized center. Decent points total, averaging just above .6 ppg over his OHL career. Had a great end to his season last year with the Frontenacs going at a nice 15-15-30 pace over 30 games. Former 4th overall pick by the Sarnia Sting in the OHL draft.
Hudson Fasching (pictured) (C) 27th from 24th. This is a winger that scouts often dream about as a falling prospect. Fasching has that one thing that we so often hear is uncoachable: size. He’s a RW/C standing 6’3" and 215 lbs. At the U17 last year he finished with 4-2-6 over 5 games. 2 PIMs and even. He’s committed to the U of Minnesota for next season. I suspect that, if he doesn’t rise in the standings as scouts start to become attracted to his size and reasonable points ratio (hovering around .5 to .6 pg in the USHL and USDP, to 1.65 over 52 gp in the USHS) then he will be considered the sleeper pick by day two.
Shea Theodore (RD) 28th and holding. Defenseman for the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL. The Thunderbirds are in the bottom third of the standings and bleed goals against. For Theodore, the offense is there, and he has improved from -36 in his first year to -2, with a slight drop in point totals so the defensive game is coming along. Size might be an issue. Theodore is 6’2" and only 154 lbs. I think there might be a player here. He strikes me as a player in the Martin Gernat range.
Samuel Morin (LD) 30th and holding. Meet Jamie Oleksiak v.2.0. This kid is already 6’7" and 200 lbs. He’s only in his second year of major junior, playing for the Rimouski Oceanic, but where his points totals aren’t anything spectacular (10 pts this year over 32 games) his penalty minutes (84) and +8 suggest that he is being used as a shutdown defender. Penalties at that size could just be the result of a behemoth leaning on flyweight forwards. Without seeing him play, and working only off of other’s scouting reports, it would appear that this would be an accurate description (I tend to avoid Zdeno Chara comparisons that rely only on size). He is a mammoth and apparently grew two inches last season, his rookie QMJHL campaign, and may not yet be done. He has some skating issues, although trying to play major junior and growing two inches in a year could be a factor there. He brings a great deal of what is affectionately termed “grit” to the table. He is described as a long-term project with plenty of upside. I like this kid a lot.
I had initially included Frederik Gauthier in this list, but I suspect that his stock is going to rise considerably as the draft edges closer. He’s a left-handed center standing 6’4” and 210lbs and averaging above a 1.0 ppg pace in his first season in the QMJHL. He has the size and style to be a power forward as he develops, and the fact that he is playing center only adds to his value. As such, I suspect he could see a dramatic rise in his value, somewhat similar to the hype that surrounded Girgensons last year. I’d be amazed if he fell out of the first round, but if he is available in the 2nd round when the Oilers get to the podium, he may be hard to ignore.
Eric Comrie (G) 3rd. The Oilers love to pick the relations of alumni and Eric Comrie has that and talent to boot. He was being talked about last year during his rookie WHL campaign with Tri-City and has only managed to increase his stock since. Goalies are falling out of the first round pretty regularly now, and Comrie looks very much like one of those prospects that all scouts like, but will try to wait on to see how late they think they could pick him. If you could get Comrie in the 4th round, you’d probably be laughing. My guess is he goes somewhere between mid 2nd to the 3rd round.
Brendan Burke (G) 4th. Playing with the Portland Winterhawks hasn’t hurt anyone’s draft status lately. Burke has many of the qualities scouts look for in goalies these days, 6’3”, 175lbs, and ascending stats from the previous season. He may fall into the 5th round, or climb as high as the 2nd round, depending on his performance and that of his team.
Tristan Jarry (pictured) (G) 5th from NR. Readers will know that I have a bit of an affinity for Oil Kings prospects. I have a great deal of respect for what Bob Green and his staff have done in a very short period of time. Had the Oilers not valued Kellen Jones enough in 2010 to trade for a 7th round pick, they would have had a 6th round draft pick ahead of the Calgary Flames in 2011 and could have heeded the advice of the Oil Kings’ brass to draft Laurent Brossoit. I don’t think they make that mistake again, though based on how Jarry has been “trending” (I despise that word in relation to hockey prospects), they may not get the chance. Brossoit has returned to the Oil Kings and his play of late means that Jarry may spend a great deal of time on the bench before getting another start. This could hurt his draft status. Depending on how the 1st round breaks down, after three picks in the first two rounds, the Oilers might want to visit taking a goaltender with their 3rd rounder. It may come down to a decision between Comrie and Jarry, depending on who is available.
Juuse Saros (G) 7th from NR. He’s a Finnish goaltender who has more +.900 sv% seasons than not. While he is on the smaller side of things at only 5’10” and 180lbs, the performance stats will probably convince a team to take him. I can’t see him going any higher than the 3rd round, and perhaps more likely somewhere between the 4th and 5th rounds.
Ville Husso (G) 9th from 5th. Goaltender? Check. Finn? Check. Size? Check. International experience? Check. He may have fallen in the ISS standings, but I suspect that has more to do with the emergence of others than a necessary decline in his own play. From where I sit, he probably goes somewhere just after Saros; ahead of him only if the scouts value size or some other unmentioned mechanic which is perceived to be superior.
I’d keep an eye on Edgars Kulda as well. As I said, when it comes to Oil Kings I can be a bit of a homer, but I argued the Oilers should try and take Michael St. Croix, Henrik Samuelsson, and Laurent Brossoit and I think those would all be strong additions to their talent pool. Kulda is a Latvian prospect and we have seen the Oilers go to some interesting lengths to draft another prospect from that neck of the woods. He isn’t a finesse player. That we know. He’s not overly large at 5’11”, 181 lbs. But his style of play has some striking similarities to Kristians Pelss in that he appears to be able to function with skilled players, and hits well and willingly without being a detriment for the effort. I wouldn’t expect to see him taken any earlier than the waning rounds of the draft, rounds 6 or 7 sound about right. But if the Oil Kings invested some time and energy in selecting him and convincing him to come over to North America, you can rest assured that the Oilers share some interest in the young man.
Oliver Bjorkstrand – Tiny right-winger. All this kid does is score goals. He’s a finisher, although his point totals have balanced out this year in Portland. He might sneak into the 1st round the way Teuvo Teravainen did last year, but right now I’d place him as a 2nd to 3rd round pick. Who knows. John Gaudreau has made a host of teams look foolish for letting him fall to the 4th round.
Mason Geertsen – Big defender for the Vancouver Giants. He is likely to become what he was traded for this WHL season: David Musil. He is a large body and a solid shutdown defender. I haven’t always been impressed with how he thinks the game, and during his rookie season he was prone to the occasional roughing major that was partially being an aggressive player and partially being a man amongst boys. He’d likely be a 3rd round pick, depending on the team.
Laurent Dauphin – Smallish center (5’ 11”) playing for Chicoutimi this year. This is his first year in the Q and he is averaging over a ppg (30gp, 14-19-33). He came out of the Quebec midget leagues where he was a force and has adjusted to major junior well. He’ll need to add weight (154lbs) to succeed though.
Jonathan-Ismael Diaby – Big and mean defender. He’s playing for Victoriaville right now, standing 6’5” 220 lbs, and averaging over 2 penalty minutes per game this season. His offense is almost negligible, but he is a plus defender.
Michael Downing – Big defender for the Dubuque Fighting Saints. His skating apparently needs work, although reports have him thinking and executing the pass out of the zone well ahead of many of his peers.
Martin Bobos – Playing for Kosice’s U-18 and U-20 teams. He’s big (6’6, 223lbs), Slovakian, a defenseman, and named Martin. The Oilers are almost obligated to select him.