Who are the Oilers’ best prospects, and what positions do they play? The following is intended to give a general outline of where the team can expect to get internal help, and what positions need to be shored up.
The brief bios below are presented in alphabetical order, and are divided into two groups: blue chip prospects and legitimate prospects. Unsurprisingly, with so many first round picks in the NHL, the Oilers are low on blue chip pieces – by my count they have two – but they do have some legitimate talent in the system, most of it on decent (and, since so much of it is from the most recent draft, most of it also years away).
I use Calder Trophy eligibility as my definition of what a prospect is, which is why players like Taylor Fedun, Teemu Hartikainen and Anton Lander aren’t included below. Reasonable people may disagree on the boundaries here – some might prefer to see Oscar Klefbom listed as a legitimate rather than blue chip prospect, and the reverse for a player like Martin Marincin – but as a general overview this should give us a good idea of the system’s depth.
Blue Chip Prospects
These are the best of the bunch – top prospects who would be a boon to any NHL system.
- Oscar Klefbom: Left-shooting, two-way defenceman with superb skating
- Darnell Nurse: Left-shooting defenceman with a range of skills and toughness
A hair below the blue chippers, these players have legitimate value but either have more risk or lack the top-end ceiling that would make them top prospects.
- Greg Chase: Well-rounded, tenacious centre without top-flight offensive ability
- Brandon Davidson: Left-shooting defender who does many things well and had a tremendous season battling back from a cancer scare
- Martin Gernat: Left-shooting defenceman with size and a two-way game
- Jackson Houck: Competitive forward who can score a bit with average size and skating
- Brad Hunt: Undersized left-shooting defenceman lit up the AHL as a rookie professional
- Jujhar Khaira: Big left wing with offensive ability and an emerging power game who needs to improve his skating
- Martin Marincin: Huge left-shooting defenceman who can skate and move the puck
- Andrew Miller: Small centre with puck skills who was pursued by multiple teams as a free agent
- David Musil: Big, smart, defensive defenceman who could improve mobility
- Toni Rajala: Small winger can play on either side, has wicked puck skills and doesn’t back down
- Marc-Olivier Roy: Averaged sized right wing with grit and a range of skills
- Dillon Simpson: Left-shooting, two-way defenceman with smarts
- Anton Slepyshev: Left wing with decent size and good scoring who may not be overly interested in the NHL
- Bogdan Yakimov: Huge centre with a power game and skating issues
The Depth Chart
On defence, the system is well-stocked; exclusively with left-shooting defenders, but stocked all the same. The Oilers’ best prospects and best depth occurs at the same position, and there’s a nice range of readiness with some guys in junior or college, some getting their feet wet as professionals, and others knocking on the door to NHL employment. It’s a good group.
Up front, the picture is much less rosy. Five of the eight players were drafted this summer (and it’s entirely possible not all of them will be on this list a year from now) so they’re early in their development; add in Jujhar Khaira and there are only two guys relatively far along. Unfortunately for Andrew Miller and Toni Rajala, they’re both smallish players who aren’t necessarily an ideal fit for the Oilers’ needs at the present. This isn’t an especially good group and while the Oilers have done a good job re-stocking since the hiring of MacTavish (only Rajala and Khaira were inherited from the previous administration) it’s likely going to take a year or two to get the proper mix here.
In net, there is no picture. The Oilers swung hard for European free agent Antti Raanta and missed, which leaves them without a single compelling goalie prospect in the system.
Recently around the Nation Network
On basically every team there seems to be some level of dissatisfaction among fans with the current state of the roster. In Edmonton, it’s mostly been depth positions that some (inluding me) have critiqued, so it can be interesting to contrast what the hometown team has done with another squad – like the Toronto Maple Leafs. Cam Charron has their projected opening night lineup here (check out that bottom six) and it’s worth a look.
Click the link to read more, or alternately, feel free check out some of my other pieces here: