Ten Points: The 2013 Draft prospect nobody in Edmonton is talking about

Lots of stuff after the jump: looking at a top draft candidate that the Oilers organization has spent little time on publicly, the performance of some of the prospects in the minor league system, Mark Messier’s name being floated as a potential head coach in New York, and a bunch of other stuff.

1. Is Elias Lindholm a legitimate draft target for Edmonton? One name that doesn’t seem to be getting much play publicly from various people employed by the Oilers’ organization is Elias Lindholm. Lindholm’s numbers in Sweden are spectacular – with an NHL equivalency of 40 points over an 82 game season this year, he’s above where Markus Naslund and Nicklas Backstrom were at the same age and not far behind Henrik Sedin. Listed at 6’, 181 pounds, he’s not anyone’s idea of a huge centre but if the organization is looking for a guy who can be an impact player at that position Lindholm is a real possibility. The question now is whether the lack of reference to him by people like Craig MacTavish and Stu MacGregor is out of a desire to mask intent or simply out of a lack of interest.

2. Is there trade interest in Toni Rajala? Toni Rajala has had a fantastic year in Oklahoma City, and the pint-sized Finn has established himself as a player of interest from an NHL perspective. The trouble is the Oilers aren’t exactly screaming for this particular player-type, so that opportunity might need to come somewhere else. Based on Oklahoma head coach Todd Nelson’s comments in a recent Oilers Now interview, there is interest:

He’s a guy that a lot of scouts, just from talking to people, talking to scouts they’re very excited about this guy. He’s definitely on the radar of other teams right now. He’s a guy that I fell if he keeps on developing, he can play up there. For what he lacks in size he makes up with his creativity, he’s very smart, he’s faster than people think because he skates so smooth he kind of catches players off guard because he’s so smooth and so effortless with the way he skates, guys get surprised by it. Also he has a cannon for a shot, you wouldn’t think that but he can really rip the puck. All those things together, that’s what makes him very effective plus he sees the ice extremely well.

3. Colten Teubert is still in free-fall. A year ago, Colten Teubert played 24 games in the NHL. Now, with his AHL club on a deep playoff run he can’t even get into the lineup – he hasn’t played since May 1. In the same interview reference above, Nelson said that his game had taken a step backwards and that he had “guys that are quite frankly just playing better.” Nelson also referenced his need to make better plays under pressure, something he mentioned in another interview earlier in the month. It’s a recurring theme, and the longer Teubert sits the more likely it is that the Oilers opt to move him out in the summer (either by trade or simply by not re-signing him) – particularly with general manager Craig MacTavish emphasizing the need for mobile defencemen with puck skills at the NHL level.

4. Tyler Pitlick is showing signs of life. Another disappointing prospect, Tyler Pitlick, has been getting good reviews of late. David Staples has been very impressed with his performance while Lowetide has him trending upward in the post-season. Nelson’s on the same page, saying Pitlick’s playing his best hockey.

The trouble is that all of this sounds pretty familiar. Last year, after a terrible season, Pitlick turned it on in the playoffs. His 13GP – 2G – 5A – 7PTS run then looks a lot like his 11GP – 2G – 4A – 6PTS run right now. He followed it up with a regular season performance that couldn’t even reach the incredibly low standard set by his rookie year.

It’s certainly a good thing that Pitlick’s performance has improved, but right now the bulk of his professional performance says he isn’t much of a prospect. In 130 career AHL games, Pitlick has 46 points; that’s one more than Toni Rajala managed in an abbreviated rookie campaign this year. As it stands, there’s just no evidence that Pitlick can score enough to survive even in an NHL depth role.

5. A cycling fourth line? One of the NHL traditions that I’ve never really understood is employing a fourth line that crashes and bangs and doesn’t really worry about playing hockey too much. I don’t get it because they almost always match up against the same line on the other team, so it isn’t like they’re wearing down the top players on the opposition bench, and when they do take an odd shift against quality opponents they invariably spend the whole shift desperately running around their own zone trying not to get scored on.

That’s why the likely parts of the Oilers’ fourth line for next season intrigue me. Craig MacTavish says Ryan Smyth will be back, so he’s likely getting one job, and Teemu Hartikainen (who would need to clear waivers to go to the AHL) is a good bet for another. Those are two great ingredients in a fourth line built on cycling the puck. A cycling fourth line doesn’t get scored on very often, grinds down the opposition physically, and makes for a great matchup against a crash and bang opposition depth line that isn’t really worried about playing the game: not only might they score a little, but it’s hard for the opposition to land big hits on the forecheck when the line they’re playing is bent on shuffling the puck around the offensive zone.

6. Mark Messier in New York? The New York Rangers fired head coach John Tortorella yesterday, and Darren Dreger floated an interesting name as a potential replacement afterward: Mark Messier.

Personally, the idea of hiring Messier for a head coaching position (he also talked to the Oilers about coming in as coach before Pat Quinn was hired) is repellant. It’s not that I have trouble with an NHL team hiring a former NHL star; I have trouble with an NHL team hiring a guy who hasn’t had some experience coaching a team full-time beforehand. Colorado hiring Patrick Roy may or may not work out, but at least Roy has years of experience coaching a junior team to lean on besides his NHL career. Messier does not, and if he really wants to coach NHL hockey a year or two as an assistant is probably a better place to start.

7. 2013 Draft prospect Nicholas Baptiste is on the rise. One of the guys I’m watching for at the draft this year is Nick Baptiste. The right-shooting right wing climbed 44 spots on Central Scouting’s rankings, from 105th overall among North American skaters on the mid-terms to 61st overall on the final rankings. He has solid size (6’2”, 200 pounds), skates well and has some offensive tools. His numbers this season aren’t spectacular (48 points in 66 games in the OHL) but he has a late birthdate (August 4, 1995, making him one of the younger players in his draft class) and was dramatically better in the second half of the year – he picked up 19 points in his first 33 games and then 29 in the final 33. Also, as a prospect who has familiarity with shoulder injury, he seems a natural fit for Edmonton.

8. Also climbing fast: Jake Guentzel. The USHL rookie of the year moved from 114th in the midterm rankings to 80th, and it isn’t all that hard to figure out why. After recording 30 points in the first 39 games of the year, Guentzel went on a brilliant run, scoring 43 points in his final 21 games. Hockey sense gets a lot of praise; here’s how his head coach, Brett Larson, put it:

He’s smart enough to know when he needs to attack and he’s smart enough to know when he needs to create opportunities for his teammates. It’s instinct. You can’t teach that. All those top end guys have that. He reads the game and anticipates.

The down side with Guentzel is size – he’s listed at 5’9”, 153 pounds. Still, with that kind of offensive talent he might end up being a nice steal late in the draft for somebody. He’s also going the U.S. college route, bound for the University of Nebraska-Omaha when he’s finished in the USHL, meaning that he has time to fill out. He’s an ideal ‘draft and follow’ sort of selection.

9. Maxim Lapierre has yet to speak with the Canucks.

Lots of Oilers fans don’t like Lapierre, and I can certainly understand why. With that said, he checks a lot of boxes on the Oilers’ presumed want list: he’s relatively big (6’2”, 207 pounds), in his prime (just turned 28), wins faceoffs (50.6% last year, 52.1% in 2011-12), plays aggressively (led Vancouver with 116 hits in 48 games) and kills penalties (1:38 per game on the PK). More than that, in Vancouver he was trusted with heavy defensive zone responsibilities (toughest zone start on the team) and he has a pretty decent history of scoring in a fourth line role in previous years.

If the team thinks they can calm him down on the ice – he takes as many penalties as he draws, and thus needs to be more disciplined – he’d be a great fit for the Oilers.

10. Random connections. Barons coach Todd Nelson, like most coaches, has an agent – he’s represented by the Gil Scott Sports Management group, headed by Unionville, Ontario’s Gil Scott. Interestingly, Barons’ general manager Bill Scott’s father is also Gil Scott of Unionville, Ontario. Gil Scott is better known in football than hockey, but he represents a number of high-level coaches and managers, including Bruins’ GM Peter Chiarelli.


Don’t forget that it’s not too late to play StreakCred – the new playoff pool game from the Nation Network. You can win a trip for 2 to Oktoberfest in Germany among the awesome prizes up for grabs. Now it’s only $10 and a portion of the proceeds go to Edmonton Charities. Sign up here.

Recently around the Nation Network

Yesterday, Vancouver re-upped Tom Sestito on a two-year contract. From the Canucks Army take: 

There isn’t all that much to say about Tom Sestito’s Canucks tenure so far. He didn’t play that often, and got buried pretty handily when he did by the underlying data (though at least some of that is the result of his starting constantly in the defensive zone). Sestito fought five times with the Canucks last season, amassing a 1-3-1 record in the face punching competition (according to hockeyfights.com). On the positive side of the ledger at least Sestito did well to limit the minor penalties he took, and wasn’t a complete liability at five-on-five.

 Click the link above to read the whole piece, or feel free check out some of my other pieces here:

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach


    Have you read Kent Wilson’s scouting report regarding Elias Lindholm


    “First of all, eight of Lindholm’s 11 goals came on the PP, meaning he scored just 3 times at 5on5 this year. I can’t determine how much of his overall offense was garnerd on the PP nor what is the normal rate in the SEL for most forwards, but scoring just 27% of your markers at even strength is a bit of a red flag for me.

    In addition, Lindholm fired just 77 shots on net in 48 games, or just 1.6/game, which means his shooting percentage was about 14.3% on the season. That’s a low shot rate and high SH% in the NHL, suggesting Lindholm is either a very accurate Tanguay-like shooter, or a guy who saw the bounces go his way this season. Add those up and it suggests his true goal scoring talent might be a little exaggerated by his output this year.”

    Also there maybe interest in Linus Omark for the NHL new article


    • Quicksilver ballet

      I do not have them handy, but how does that compare to the Nuge in his rookie season or last year re: PP vs. 5on5?

      Size-wise, 6’1″ is about the “reported” average for NHL height now and if he can add 20lbs of muscle over the next few years from his current weight (should be doable), then he would be average “reported” weight as well.

  • Citizen David

    I think Lindholm is a much better option than Monahan. If he’s available, take him. If. Not trade down and grab Lazar or Horvat.

    Rajala is looking really good. I hope he gets a shot in the bigs somewhere.

    I love the Idea of the Oilers signing Patrick Thoreson.

  • T__Bone88

    Do you draft for need or BPA if Lindholm is considered superior than Monahan or Nurse or etc. at the 7th pick? It would be short sighted to pass over Lindholm if he is considered bpa because the oilers already have “smaller” centers in RNH and Gagner.

  • In consideration of one of the points above. Guys in limited roles that take ridiculous, selfish and suspect penalties with a regularity that is connected to A) being completely brain dead…….. B) reputation

    Ben Eager

    Max Lapierre

    Historical version… the captain ethan moreau

    For whatever upside or boxes Max may indeed fill… its hard to overlook the liability that he most certainly IS and shall remain.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    How much longer can this b/s continue for. When did I robot get into producing NHL robot players, to go along with their self propelled vacuum line.

    Kids put all they have into earning a right to be drafted, once they arrive, they’re expected to change and become systems play robots. Enough of this bull ship 2-1 style of hockey.

    Have to believe this must have alot to do with the 90%+ fail rate of kids selected in the entry draft. The Matrix appears to be alive and well in todays game. What do most teams employ now, 25 players, and nearly 50 off ice support staff, if you include coaches, specialty coaching, propaganda types and all these new b/s analytic crews. One must wonder where this game is headed when more is happening off the ice, than on it.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    If Oilers trade Linus Omark I would think their best value for him would be to add him to a draft pick to move up.

    #52 + Omark = ?

    #37 + Omark =?

    #52 + #37 + Omark = ?

  • I know I’m going to get ripped for this, but here’s a thought: This summer, instead of trading Toni Rajala, how about hanging onto him and giving him a long, long look at the training camp for the NHL team in Edmonton?

    Yes, he’s small. Yes, he’s slight.

    But what if there’s too much talent there to ignore? What if there’s a Marty St. Louis there? Or a Danny Briere?

    Yes, I know. Those are both huge leaps. But humour me.

    As small as the Oilers are now, can we honestly say that, collectively, they’re talented enough to be trading away skill-players simply because of their size? I mean, they still finished 24th overall and it can’t be completely because they were all too small.

    Full disclosure: I’ve never seen Rajala play. The little I know of him is anecdotal. So I have no idea if he’s a little sparkplug-type-of-player… or a playmaking-perimeter-type-of-player… or a find-the-quiet-places-shooter-type-of-player … or whatever.

    To me, right now, it doesn’t really matter what kind of player he is. I think that, with skill players, you should generally give them a chance to give you a reason not to keep them.

    If Toni Rajala’s really, really good then he’s gotta be worth a look by the team that drafted him because, right now, the team that drafted him isn’t really, really good.

    • GVBlackhawk

      Rajala is actually quite good. Great skater, fantastic playmaker, has a solid possession game, and plays with grit. In one game against Texas this year, he took a run at Jamie Oleksiak (6′ 7″) behind the Stars’ net. He hit Oleksiak and bounced backward about four feet (which was funny to watch), but it did not deter him. He is not afraid to play in the ‘dirty’ areas.

    • You are on the money pal.

      Watch Rajalas youtube vids and pay attention to how many ways he shoots the puck,his decisionmaking skills as he closes on the net get better as he zones in,he is elite in that department and only Gagner and Yakupov get that much better as they lose time and space.I am not sure I have seen anyone but Tikkanen shoot that many different ways,the same way he thought,ha ha ha,seriously Rajala has my 100% support for this reason.

      This kid doesnt shoot in a predictable manner at all,and he is alreadt at the NHL level with this aspect of his game,if he gets in close he dismantles the goaltender cerebrally.Also he has a really good eye for catching seams across the grain of the playaction with his shots,catching both players and tenders off guard,this is another sure sign that he understands what he needs to do to be sucessfull in the NHL,he has chosen an excellent dynamic template to follow,I wonder who he chose?

  • Oilers probably don’t have room for someone like Rajala in their top six anytime soon so if they trade him I’m ok with that, just not yet..first give the guy another year or two in the organization..bring him up for a few games to see if he’s the real deal..don’t just trade all that potential away now for a 3rd round pick..wouldn’t be smart..
    I don’t care how small he is, move a soft small player out if Rajala is the real deal..saw him many times play for the wheat kings and one thing he is not is soft.

  • Great article! The only thing I have to disagree with is the potential in signing Max Lapierre. A polarizing and undisciplined personality on a team with a lack of leadership can cause a lot of problems. Max would be fine on an older team with veteran leaders who can control him. However I don’t believe the Oilers are in such a place. If things start going bad, it’s guys like Lapierre that can cause negative rippling effects to the culture of the team.

  • MacTavish may be on record as saying “Ryan Smyth will be back!”, but at the risk of splitting a hair or two, did he really specify in what capacity?

    I don’t think it’s a slam dunk that it’ll be as a player.

    The thing with MacT is that he can be a bit slippery with his words. I don’t think he outright lies or anything, but it’s best to not take everything he says at face value.

    • As long as it’s not at center and he is basically a 12th or 13th forward type guy who may have a few bursts of production because he’s Ryan Smyth then it’s fine really. I’m not a huge fan of having him back but I’m ok with it. This is his last Hurrah though.

    • Absolutely. I would also be willing to eat 1/2 of Hemmer’s salary and throw in Omark Rajala, and Acrobello if need be.

      This would probably get us Barkov, who is a big center that in most years would be a possible 1 overall.

      • I’m not sure those players get it done.

        I like where your heads at though! Barkov is both BPA and serious need.

        I think the players would have to be Hemsky, Paajarvi, plus our second and maybe our first next year.

        Hemsky only has a year left before becoming a UFA , plus he’s injury prone.

        Two things, moving back is bad, moving up is good.

        Lindholm scares the sh*t out of me, I hope they don’t draft this guy.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Don’t trade Raj unless there’s cause and return for it. Yes the big club has some holes to fill, but is we’re really going to follow the Detroit model, then we need players to be constantly developing so our prospects can come take the place of our NHL players if and when they need to be traded, ask to be traded, or go down to injury.

    Having a constant pool of prospect to fill in spots in the line up is essentially to creating a club that is always competitive. Just look at Chicago and how many players of value they have been cranking out. Problem is they always seem to bloom their players just as they’re in line for a big pay raise. Even though he’s small, maybe we need some skill guys to fill in at some point.

    Hopefully, the Barons also get some good larger forward prospects so that we have a ton of depth throughout the organization.

  • Stack Pad Save

    As a die hard OIL fan it would kill me to see our team sign Yappiere.Youtube Dustin Brown hit on Henrick Sedin its hilarious to watch Yappy sitting on the gate while Sedin is trying to crawl to it.That should be enough reason to keep that guy far far away.

  • Rocket

    It’s good to see The Oilers have suprise prospects like Toni Rajala in their system. Hopefully it’s a trend that continues.

    @Quicksilver Ballet
    How can The Oilers afford Weber and pay for the kids as well as everyone else?

    • Quicksilver ballet

      There’s lots of room. Oilers have in excess of 16 mill available this summer. This would increase considerably if they found takers for both Hemsky and Horcoff. If the Oilers wanted to, they could have Barkov and Weiss for close to what it’ll cost to sign Gagner this summer.

      4’ish for Steven Weiss, and 950.000 for Barkov. With 83 and 10 out of the picture, MacTavish would still have close to 21 mill in cap space if they chose to spend to the cap. Money isn’t an issue here, a motivated management group is the only thing holding this team back.

      • Toro

        I have to agree that with the compliance buy outs, UFA’s, our number 7 pick, and potential players available for trade, there should be little excuse for our management team to get anything less than the team they are looking to build.

        I mean, we’re not getting Crosby or anything, but we’re not exactly looking for him either. The pieces this team needs are attainable, and attainable without giving up one of our future stars.

        Mac T just has to go out and get it done.

  • Toro

    I’m actually hoping the Oilers do draft Elias Lindholm , after watching video of the top 10 prospects he almost impressed me the most. He seems very defensively responsible and has some offense to his game could be a perfect second line center for us. Could be the steal of the draft .

  • Truth

    I think Smyth will be back in the same capacity that he was with the Oil Kings during the lockout, practicing with the team. Great guy, used to be a great player, will work as a depth player fill in but probably a healthy scratch quite often. At this point in his career I can’t see him calling it quits when he just has to sit around and make $2.25M this year.

    Give Rajala a shot in training camp unless someone really wants him. I would set his value as comparable to Hartikainen. If you can’t get that value in return, don’t pull the trigger yet, the Oilers might have a hidden gem on their hands.

  • Truth

    Ha. Stauffer tweets that Russian defenseman Anton Belov is of interest of the Oilers. 2 minutes later it is announced by the Oilers they have signed him. Why not just come out and say they signed him if he already has the inside scoop? He even mentioned Pittsburgh also had interest.

  • I would love to see Rajala get a legitimate shot,or see Omark back again for another shot.I like what both of them bring to the table from a compete perspective.Their sizes dont concern me because neither deserves a shot unless their system knowledge and ability is there,so hopefully Nelson is giving Rajala the right direction as I am sure he is,and hopefully Omark can get on the right page immediatly and they can give themselves a shot at the NHL.

    Mac-T has defined us as a skill driven possesion team,so who of the draft picks has a positive career faceoff record that can support the possesion part of the equation,no flashes in the pan here,we need someone who has always been naturally good at winning draws,having never played hockey I dont know what skillset the job requires but it doesnt matter,we want natural ability not a work in progress.

    Or a d-man who fits our physical template that can provide standup checking and recovery skills and support the possesion aspect that way by creating turnovers in our favor at the blueline.Puck possesion support doesnt just mean skating passing d-men,it also means stand-up d-men who can take the puck back for us or help the forwards do so by generating turnovers at the blueline.

    Always issues man,listen we need to know how Mac-T plans to support the possesion aspect,is he going to use a mobile defense and rag the puck or a standup one that needs forwards supporting in a very different manner useing a lightening transition game catalysing high on the blueline or shallow in the n-zone as opposed to deep in our zone.The faceoff need must be addressed on an organisational scale,and we need more data to define the d-men we might be looking at.For the hell of it if there is a nuttier goalie than normal anywhere we need one of those,maybe a psycho hothead,or some mad slasher or smoe type of kook,but hes got to be off the charts somehow mentally as we are looking for an anomaly,if you are gambeling why not go all in right?