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).
- (#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.
- (#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.
- (#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.
- (#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.
- (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.
- (#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.
- (#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.
- (#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.
- (#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.
- (#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) 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.
- (#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.
- (#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..”
- (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.
- (#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.
- (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.
- (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."
- (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.
- (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."
- (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.
- (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.
- (#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.
- (#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.
- (#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.
- (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.