OILERS TOP 20 PROSPECTS, SPRING 2013

The graduation of Nail Yakupov, Justin Schultz and Teemu Hartikainen from "prospect" status means the Edmonton Oilers top 20 list undergoes an enormous change heading into the draft. Who’s #1?

Despite a season shortened by injury–and some legit concerns about an increasing list of injuries that could impact development, Oscar Klefbom is the top prospect in the system as we head toward draft day.

One quick note before the list: I use 50 NHL games as the line in the sand for the list, and Yak City/Schultz graduate despite being a few games short of that number. They played complete seasons in the NHL, so it makes sense to have them move off the list now. Teemu Hartikainen also graduates, as he has now played 52 NHL games,

Number in brackets represents their ranking late last summer ( September 2012 top 20 is here).

  1. (#3) D Oscar Klefbom: Remember when Craig MacTavish talked about defensemen getting to the puck and then moving it in the right direction quickly? Klefbom should be part of the solution, although patience is a virtue when it comes to blue (as we discussed yesterday). 11, 0-3-3 in the SEL before his season ended with a shoulder injury. It was a pretty severe injury, costing him a large amount of development time. Among the defensive prospects in the Oilers pipeline, Oscar Klefbom offers the best combination of size, skill and mobility. 
  2. (#4) D Martin Marincin: Had a strong pro debut and remained healthy. Even more impressive, he recovered after a down period around Christmas and is now relied upon during the Barons playoff run. Marincin’s health, development timeline and range of skills put him in a very good position to have an NHL career with the Oilers. He has some work to do, but this has been a season of good arrows for him.
  3. (#5) D Martin Gernat: Lost much of the season to surgery and recovery and looked a little rusty when he first came back. Now? Gernat has been exceptional and a big part of the Oil Kings success again this year. Stu MacGregor back when they took him: "watched Gernat a lot. He’s a big guy, skates extremely well, 6’4″, still quite slim, passes the puck very well. Really quite excited about what he might be able to bring. “  You’ll often hear about Stu MacGregor’s failures at the draft table–my own feeling is that 5 years of observation and tracking should be required before making the call–but if we’re going to dump on the scouts for failures two years in, it’s only fair to point out Gernat’s selection in round 5 has to be ranked as a potentially outstanding selection.
  4. (#16) C Jujhar Khaira: For NCAA freshman, even getting ice time is an issue, but Khaira got  plenty and in all kinds of situations. He’s 6.03, 195, playing center, has some bite in his game and took only two weeks to move all the way up the depth chart at Michigan Tech. He is currently the top ranked forward prospect on my list, although that is likely to change in the coming months. 
  5. (NR) L Toni Rajala: Look, I know he’s undersized and we’ve seen this before from small skilled guys, but Toni Rajala has been all world for months. Began the year in the ECHL because Oilers invaded OKC, and went 29, 18-20-38 in Stockton. When the lockout ended he moved up to Oklahoma City and forced his way up the depth chart. 52, 19-35-54 regular season/playoff combined in the AHL, and frankly I don’t know how you keep him down on the farm. He’ll make training camp interesting. 
  6. (#15) Dillon Simpson: A player who is developing well in North Dakota. Simpson has moved up the depth chart and at this point we should consider him just below the group of defense prospects that starts with Klefbom and ends with Gernat: Simpson is trending and appears to have a wider range of skills than implied on draft day. Foot speed is the only thing I’ve read as an issue, and it is less pronounced (according to reports) than it was a couple of years ago. 
  7. (#9) L Daniil Zharkov: Big forward 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 25 goals during the regular season after a poor start (he was 30, 8-3-11 -3 before New Year’s and 29, 17-15-32 +21 after January 1). 6.04, 212 now.
  8. (#12) D David Musil: He can play defense–he makes very good decisions and it’s clear the defensive aspects of the game are natural to him–but mobility is going to be an issue. Musil is a solid defender in the WHL, and has been a big part of the success enjoyed by the Oil Kings in the playoffs this spring. However, you can also see the footspeed issue and that could keep him outside the NHL. It’ll be very interesting to see where he lands on the OKC depth chart this fall.
  9. (#14) L Mitchell Moroz: He can make plays, but consistency isn’t there and his passing/taking a pass ability need improvement if he’s going to play with skill at the next level. Discipline is a problem, and I do wonder about the way he’s been handled since the Oilers drafted him. Credit to the organization, there’s been very little effort (that I’ve seen) to push him into more of an offensive role–and that was certainly discussed as a possibility last fall among the fanbase–and the Oil Kings appear satisfied with Moroz on a shutdown line. He has been effective in that role.
  10. (#20) D Taylor Fedun: He is playing a feature role with the Barons this year and has been top pairing D for much of the action. I don’t know where he fits long term, but he’s going to get some callup games in the next few seasons and I suspect he could grab a foothold on a job during one of them.
  11. (#11) G Olivier Roy: Built on a strong ECHL season in 11-12 with some nice work in the AHL behind Yann Danis, but eventually was sent back to Stockton because of struggles there. Roy found his groove–especially in the playoffs–and ripped through the league with a monstrous .961 playoff save percentage. He’ll no doubt be front and center for the Kelly Cup finals later in May.
  12. (#10) R Tyler Pitlick: A crazy year for the 2010 draft pick, but things appear to be looking up–a little–and that’s news after what has been a very difficult season. A knee injury in the middle of a poor sophomore AHL season looked like it might bury him as a prospect; however, he has recovered enough to be a regular in the top 9F during OKC’s playoff run–and he’s 6, 2-1-3 with 12 shots in the post-season. Next year will be a big one for him, but the fact that he’s at least in the lineup is great news considering how the early portion of the season (and the knee injury) impacted him.
  13. (#18) D Erik Gustafsson: 49, 7-16-23 +12 in the Allsvenskan (league below SEL). Swedish puck mover had a terrific start and then fell off offensively. Then he caught fire again and went 22, 4-11-15 to end the year–Corey Pronman was impressed with him, saying "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..”
  14. (NR) L Kristians Pelss: Pelss was part of the ECHL invasion of the Barons roster after the lockout ended, and then impacted the game physically (with some offense) when given an opportunity. Todd Nelson: “He’s way more responsible defensively that I gave him credit for. He has tremendous speed but part of his game that I didn’t know he had was his grit. He has to play and get the minutes but I think he has an opportunity to be a third- or fourth-line penalty-kill role player in the NHL.” He’s been suspended and injured this season, but there are some  nice arrows.
  15. (#19) D Brandon Davidson: A crazy year for the two way defender. He was less than one month into his pro career when diagnosed with with testicular cancer that required immediate treatment. He underwent successful surgery and chemotherapy, and began skating with the Barons again in January, then made his return to the lineup on Feb. 8. Davidson emerged as an AHL regular with the Barons on their run to the playoffs and is one of their top 6D as wek speak–an amazing year. He was awarded the Fred Hunt Memorial Award this spring. 
  16. (NR) D Joey Laleggia: Undersized skill D who plays for U. Denver, Laleggia’s numbers were off this past season but there’s little doubt he’s an exceptional offensive weapon on the PP. The big question for Laleggia will be how well he can play defense (he’s 5.09, 180) and he’s in the ‘longshot’ area of the top 20 because of it.
  17. (NR) C Andrew Miller: Yale C signed as a college free agent this spring. Corey Pronman: The 24 year old center is a classic small, skilled college player. Miller displays above-average qualities in terms of his speed, puck skills and overall offensive instincts. In his Senior season especially he showed the ability to consistently create scoring chances and keep the play flowing in the right direction."
  18. (NR) G Frans Tuohimaa: The tall, lean Finnish goalie (6.02, 180) went 13, 2.29 .912 in the SM-Liiga this year and was exceptional in a brief period in the playoffs (2, 0.77 .960). Tuohimaa’s signing by the organization is obviously a clear indication they hold him in some esteem.
  19. (NR) L Kale Kessy: Big forward with toughness and an ability to agitate/fight. Oilers got him this spring in a deal for Tobias Rieder. Kirk Luedeke had a nice profile of Kessy in his draft year, including a quote from a scout that went like this: "this is a kid who’s legitimately tough. Last year, he’d blast people and then turn around, looking for someone to take him on. And, he fought some guys older than him and more than held his own. He can go."
  20. (NR) R John McCarron: NCAA power winger (6.02, 225) hasn’t found his offensive game but plays a physical style and should adjust well to the pro game. Oilers have two more years (he was a sophomore at Cornell this winter) to make a decision on him.

ANOTHER FIVE

  1. (NR) C Travis Ewanyk: He has struggled with injuries during his junior career, and I don’t think he’s going to score enough to play above the 4line in pro hockey. It may not matter; the Oilers have liked him since drafting him and with the organization poised to add toughness and turn over a mountain of role players it’s my guess Ewanyk will get every opportunity to impress.
  2. (#13)  D Colten Teubert: He’s going the wrong way this season and at this point I wonder if the organization will move him out over the summer. When an NHL team hires a coach to develop talent–as they did with Todd Nelson–and the coach chooses to play 26-year old ECHL callups in front of a highly touted former first round pick–they’re either sending a message or they’ve decided to cut him loose at the next stop. Unless he’s hurt–and he’s apparently healthy–Colten Teubert is in a lot of trouble as an NHL prospect.
  3. (#8) G Tyler Bunz: First year pro has been very poor (.886SP in Stockton, ECHL). In the time Edmonton has been sending kids to Stockton I don’t recall these kinds of numbers even on the guys who fail to make it as AHL regulars. Since we know he was a quality G in junior, we’re left to wonder about the concussions, maturity and the other things that derail hockey players. Disappointing year doesn’t begin to describe his season.
  4. (#17) L Curtis Hamilton: The bad news got worse for Hamilton when it was announced he suffered a knee injury during practice (readying himself for the Charlotte Checkers) and be behind for next season because of surgery and recovery. No good arrows for this player.
  5. (NR) D Kyle Bigos: Oilers have to make a decision on him, and rumor has it they’ll pass on signing him this summer and maybe bring him to camp on an AHL deal if no one else signs him. I expect the reason for the organization passing on adding Bigos is a renewed commitment to acquiring defensemen with mobility and puck passing ability.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

The Oilers have been gradating talent at an historic clip since fall 2000, and with Hall, Eberle, Paajarvi, Nuge, Yak, Schultz, Petry and others at the NHL level it’s little wonder the cupboard looks a little bare this spring in front of the draft.

The Oilers have the following selections:

  • 1st rd pick #7 overall
  • 2nd rd pick
  • 2nd rd pick (Anaheim’s)
  • 5th rd pick
  • 6th rd pick
  • 7th rd pick

Oilers traded their 3rd round selection for Mark Fistric and their 4th rounder left at the deadline for Jarred Smithson. I would suggest Edmonton is deep in defense prospects, has a nice center with size (Khaira) off in the distance and developing, another small forward with ridiculous skill in Rajala and some tough, physical wingers on the way.

As always, there’s a lot to address. One thing Edmonton won’t need for some time? Skill wingers. With Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov and Jordan Eberle on the team and at the beginning of their careers, the Oilers won’t need much in that department for a long time.

However, ‘best player available’ will be the mantra this coming draft day; it’s always been that way. It comes down to your definition of bpa. I suspect that has been tweaked since MacT arrived and we’ll see more skill added this draft day.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    So you’re the guy responsible for the disturbance in the force these last few minutes on ON.

    Nailed your moms earliest fears on how you’d turn out when you grew up, eh?

    wow, that almost didn’t come out right.

  • Lowetide

    Even though the Oil were.flush with defensive prospects I hope.we.get.a look ay Bigos.

    What do you think.the chances are.the Oilers.grab a goalie early with one of their first two second round picks. I think the need to get a goalie with some pedigree a player who’s on.the radar to play alot and have a chance to play in the WJC. Then I would like them to take Kerby Rychel. If he has half the heart of his old man and a better set of mitts, he might fit a depth role.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Devils have to surrender their first this summer or next. Any difference between surrendering that 9th to the Oil, rather than the NHL? Only makes sense, since we’re without the first overall. Maybe we could get Eric Tillman to help us out with one of his 3 am trade calls, no?

    The happier Canadian hockey fans are, the better off the NHL is. that works for me.

  • GVBlackhawk

    “I’m not, nor am I ever going to be a finesse player,” said Kessy. “My focus is to work hard every night, on and off the ice. It’s a cliche, but if I can keep it simple, get pucks deep and get in hard on the forecheck, I can be really effective at wearing other teams’ defenders down and opening up some space for my linemates.”

    “I’m not going to try and change my game to be all fancy, because that doesn’t give me success. I want to be good in the dirty areas, down low and along the boards. In doing that, my linemates have done an excellent job in finding me in those areas. In our first-round series (vs. Victoria), I think I had six wide-open net tap-ins as a result of our chemistry that way.” Kale Kessy.

    Some one pass these quotes onto Harti

  • Klima's Mullet

    I hope Moroz plays top six next year…hard not like his attitude and size. The Oilers reached big time to take him but I think there is a player in there somewhere.

    • Citizen David

      After Klefbom, the most intriguing prospect here. He may toatally bomb but if he keeps developing could be a 4rth or even 3rd line force. He was worth a gamble imo.

        • Cheap Shot Charlie

          I know what you are saying but the Oil have drafted so much high end skill the past 3 years that they need a scary guy who can also play. The 2nd round may have been a bit early but they were in a position after so many high picks to take this risk. It may be a poor one but these types of players develop a bit slower so he may turn in to something.

  • Jujhar Khaira is the only 1994-born player on Michigan Tech. He was 3rd in scoring this year on that team. The two guys ahead of him are two years older. As I understand the team lost twice as many games as they won.

    P.S. Khaira led the team in PIMS

    *rubs hands*

    I am trying to contain my excitement!

    • Lowetide

      Unless the Oilers go wildly off the board at #7, I’d say that pick will be the better than Klefbom. Certainly all of Jones, Drouin, MacKinnon, Barkov, Lindholm, Nichushkin, Monahan.

  • Citizen David

    I don’t have a lot of hope for Ewanyk or Moroz, I do have some for Kessy but regardless, I hope those three form a line in the AHL in a couple years. That line would strike terror into all opposing teams.

    I’m very interested in Rajala. Wouldn’t mind seeing him with the Oil next year. Could improve depth scoring.

    • Cheap Shot Charlie

      I’d agree that Moroz was likely a wasted pick. After watching him 6 times this season he didn’t impress and I’d be surprized if he gets to the show.

  • horndog77

    So lowetide BPA in the draft come the 7th overall pick would be better than Klefbom? Not sure I agree. Talent might be better as we are comparing a 7th verses a 15th but doesn’t a player that is a little older have some merit? What is your three players that Edmonton will have available to them come the draft? And is there a chance Edmonton will trade up to get one of those centers?

    • Lowetide

      My guess is Edmonton wants Monahan. If you’re going to build up the middle–and God knows MacT will–and you already have Nuge at C, then adding a guy like Monahan (whose scouting report sounds like a doppelganger for MacT)fits the bill.

      If he’s not there, I think they deal down to about 12-15.

      • Citizen David

        LT

        I haven’t watched Rajala play. How is he defensively? Is he strong on the puck?

        His number’s are almost identical to Omark’s AHL numbers. Watching Omark play in the NHL I thought he definately had NHL quality offense. He was just judged as a massive liability. In your mind would it be ridiculous to think Rajala could play 2nd-3rd line on the Oilers next year and not be out of place? Omark was small but strong on the puck. Maybe Rajala couldn’t handle it physically. But if MacT wants a bottom six that can be a threat to score, Rajala would fit the bill in my mind.

        Cheering like crazy for him.

        • Lowetide

          Great questions, and I don’t know the answers. Rajala is doing this at a younger age, and I do think Omark gave up more going the other way than the other 10-11 rookies.

          But I can’t really say how Rajala compares.

  • bwar

    So when we talk about Edmonton needing a center are we assuming that Gagner isn’t part of the long term plan? Because if he is part of the long term plan we are pushing for the Oilers to use the #7 pick on a 3rd line center. I guess he could be moved to the wing but then that forces probably Hemsky down to a third line winger.

    Honestly I would like to see the Oilers try and use one or both of the 2nd rounders to move up and get the player they feel can immediately step into and improve our lineup. Drouin seemed to have a certain level of chemistry with the Nuge at the World juniors. Maybe they feel Barkov or MacKinnon are the best player in the draft. In my eyes this draft (and offseason) is about acquiring the last one or two pieces to push the club to the next level. I’m not sold on trading away Gagner and Hemsky for a chance at a good player but I am all for using our picks to move up and get someone the Oilers brass feels will be a great addition to the club right now.

    Really crucial offseason as things are looking like none of the prospects are ready to make the jump to the NHL.

  • DSF

    Draft, Shmaft.

    How bout them Leafs.

    Looks like Burke was right.

    Youngest team in the league.

    Giving Boston all they can handle.

    No 7 year rebuild here.

    For those keeping score.

    Kessel: 3G 1A 4P

    Seguin: 0G 0A 0P

    Gardiner: 1G 3A 4P

    Hamilton: 0G 0A 0P

    Toronto: 8P

    Boston: 0P

    Anyone still want to argue Burke lost that trade?

    If the Leafs ever find an actual #1C (and they have the defensive depth to do it) they’ll make Kevin (6 rings) Lowe look like a chimp.

    Oh wait, they already did.

    • Cheap Shot Charlie

      Haha, senile old man!! We’re talking about the Oilers not the Leafs. If laughing at geriatrics wasn’t so wrong, I’d sit and talk to you all day. You kill me!

      I love you, man! *gentle HUG* (I wouldn’t want to break you)

      • DSF

        Yeah, there’s nothing like a prospect list that contains 4-5 bottom pairing defensemen…if they develop properly.

        My geriatric heart can barely contain the excitement.

        • Cheap Shot Charlie

          Good One! And there’s nothing like drawing in a topic that has no barring on what is going on like someone who’s only half there any more! This is why we keep you around…and the inheritance!

          I love you, man! *HUG*

          p.s. Nation, I have dibs on the wheel chair!!!

        • Citizen David

          Klefbom barring more injuries (which really scares me) and properly developed will be a #2-3.

          Marincin will be a #3-4.

          We have Schultz who will be a #2-3

          Gernat’s defense is a bit suspect and Musil is as slow as a brick. But seeing as they are both in Junior I will be patient with them.

          Simpson is intriguing.

          If Monahan is gone I wouldn’t mind one bit if the Oilers get Ristolainen, or Nurse, or Zadorov, or Pulock.

          The problem with the Oilers Defense isn’t the pipeline. It’s the present. If we want playoffs here next season there has to be massive improvement on the defense.

    • The Soup Fascist

      Jumping onto the leafs bandwagon now I see. Used to be Tallon, but um well Panthers were last place, so on to Gillis and the oh so reliable Canucks, oh wait, first round exit….yawn…again. Now the leafs are hot so Burke is the man now? Frankly I don’t give a flying —k who won the trade between leafs and bruins. IF they ever find a 1C lol, big if just ask iginla and the flamers.

  • Lowetide

    Seguin scored 6 pts in first 2 playoff GP. Then he has scored 4 pts in the past 24 playoff games since. While one can say that he has 10 more playoff pts than Hall, it would be deluding oneself to think that Hall wouldn’t be ripping it up in the playoffs when he eventually gets there. Or, at the very least, it would be extremely hard for him to be as inept as Seguin has been. Taylor > Tyler is not even questionable at present, and if Taylor was playing in Tyler’s place, Toronto would have been packing it up after game 4-5.

  • Citizen David

    Perry no goals in the playoffs. He’s making how much again? As important it is for the Oilers to keep bringing up talent, avoiding paying them too much is equally important. We need good value on contracts.

  • How bout that Derek Brassard? Traded away as a filler in the Nash trade and boooom leads the NYR in playoff scoring. Drafted 6th by CLB overall in 2006. Who do we know was drafted 6th overall in 2007 and many are wishing we could trade away?

  • NewfoundlandOil

    LT, just curious about where you would have slotted Rieder on this list?

    I like that the top 3 are defense and there seems to be some size within the prospect pool.

    • Lowetide

      I’d have him around #8 or so. Rieder has a nice range of skills, PP, PK, EV, and despite being a little undersized he can play.

      Really like Rieder.

      719: I don’t have Cornet on the list. Could have put him on the bonus portion but he looks to be a ‘tweener’ in that he’s certainly capable in the AHL but not an NHL option.

  • Lowetide

    20 feet: As with Cornet, Arcobello would have been part of the bonus 5 but I decided to point out some different guys. Great year, heckuva year, but I don’t think MacT is looking for his player type this summer.

    • GVBlackhawk

      Don’t kid yourself Quicksilver….he’s always here and will read what we wrote. Any person who makes so many bold (often outlandish) prognosticatory claims, opens themselves up for criticism. A person who trolls a fansite to make inflammatory statements deserves to be needled when they are wrong — it is a reminder to the readership that he has a distinct lack of credibility.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Looks like all the talk has Curtis Lazar moving down, perhaps even into the second round. The ” Russian Factor”, has Nichuskin moving down ……..not sure where he goes?

    Calgary has their eyes on Monahan, and will take him just to spite Edmonton. I was wondering if we could package our 2nd round picks and move up to potentially take Lazar……..as he seems a good shot after a couple of years to play a third line or second line role?

    LT…….I would love to hear your thoughts of moving up in the draft and who you would target based on need?

    • The Soup Fascist

      Which “talk” are you refering to? Anything I have read had Lazar as a mid-first rounder. If there is something more recent I would not mind reading it.

      Not sure he had a fantastic playoffs, but looked very good at times. I would be shocked if he was available much past 20.

      Calgary would not take a pick – just to “spite Edmonton”. I agree they could well take Monahan, but it would be because they think he is the best player for them, not to piss off Edmonton.

  • The Soup Fascist

    I like Lazar. I went to a few games last year and a few this year. He seemed more dynamic to me last year. This year, a good smart, strong player. Man, he can move when he turns on the jets.

    This morning the 1260 group was talking 13-18 and I heard he would likely be slotted as a winger at the nhl level. A good 3rd liner. I think I’d be good with them trading down to get him, as long as they got a good player back to fill a need right now.