Organizational Sketch: Fringe Prospects and Suspects

Yesterday we looked at the top half of the Oilers’ prospect depth chart; today we review the bottom half.

As before, the brief bios below are presented in alphabetical order, and are divided into two groups: this time fringe prospects and suspects. Some were surprised yesterday that I would write off players like Tyler Pitlick and Mitch Moroz, but that was never the intent; rather, I wanted to draw a firm line between players who project to have a decent shot at significant NHL minutes and players who have a lesser chance of playing those minutes.

I use Calder Trophy eligibility as my definition of what a prospect is. Reasonable people can absolutely disagree on the boundaries here; players like Moroz, Erik Gustafsson and Olivier Roy just narrowly ended up in this camp rather than one tier higher, and at the low end the gap between players like Ben Betker and Aidan Muir is entirely arguable. As with yesterday, the idea here is to outline the Oilers’ overall system, rather than to key in on individual rankings.

Fringe Prospects

There’s definitely something valuable in these players, but either excessive risk or limited upside knock them down the rankings.

  • Ben Betker: Left-shooting defensive defenceman needs to work on his skating
  • Evan Campbell: Left winger with decent size has struggled the last few years but emerged in the BCHL this season
  • Travis Ewanyk: Average sized centre plays a physical, shutdown role
  • Erik Gustafsson: Left-shooting defenceman who plays an intelligent game
  • Curtis Hamilton: Big left winger plays a strong defensive game and scored in junior but has mostly been consigned to depth AHL minutes
  • Kale Kessy: Big, mean left wing had a second-half offensive breakthrough in the WHL at age 20
  • Joey Leleggia: Tiny left-shooting defenceman had an off-year but can score
  • Ryan Martindale: Big, gifted centre with subpar skating has struggled as a professional
  • John McCarron: Big right wing with a grinding game and decent college numbers
  • Lee Moffie: Left-shooting defenceman is a bit of a mystery man; the Oilers still need to sign him if they’re interested in keeping him
  • Mitch Moroz: Big, tough as nails winger who has yet to deliver scoring
  • Tyler Pitlick: Right wing has good physical tools, but he has yet to put his game together in the minors
  • Kyle Platzer: Centre with abysmal draft year numbers but who was also buried on a very talented team
  • Olivier Roy: Smallish goalie struggling to distinguish himself in the AHL
  • Frans Tuohimaa: A decent but unspectacular European netminder who needs to show more
  • Daniil Zharkov: Big, talented left wing has not scored as expected and is now off to Russia

Suspects

Until they show otherwise, there isn’t a lot of reason for optimism with these players.

  • Cameron Abney: Enforcer prospect was displaced in the AHL by a Central Leaguer last year; the Oilers subsequent re-signing of that same player shows their view of Abney
  • Tyler Bunz: Virtually no goaltender with his ECHL numbers as a rookie pro ever evolves into a prospect of interest
  • Kellen Jones: Pint-sized winger has posted mediocre college scoring numbers
  • Aidan Muir: Left wing has a projectable frame but lousy offensive numbers last year in a league top prospects destroy at the age of 15 or 16 is a major concern
  • Antti Tyrvainen: Feisty, filthy Finn can mix it up with the best of the agitators but takes a ton of penalties and adds little else

The Depth Chart

The real trouble with the Oilers’ forward depth is the performance of post first-round, top-100 picks between 2010 and 2012. That’s the group of Tyler Pitlick, Curtis Hamilton and Ryan Martindale from 2010, Travis Ewanyk in 2011, as well as Mitch Moroz and Daniil Zharkov in 2012. Ignoring Jujhar Khaira, the 30-100 slots in those three years were used on six players that should currently form the backbone of the Oilers’ forward prospect group; the former three haven’t scored as pros while the latter three aren’t scoring in junior. None of them should be totally written off at this point, but they all face long odds to play top-nine roles in the majors.

The only complaint on defence is the total absence of right-handed shots; fortunately the Oilers have three young players (Jeff Petry, Justin Schultz and Phillip Larsen) who could be in the plans for the long haul. Help is needed on the left side, and help is on the way. There is top-end talent, good depth, and players ready both very soon and a few years from now.

Tyler Bunz had the kind of season that kills careers, while Olivier Roy and Frans Tuohimaa are milquetoast prospects at this point.

Recently around the Nation Network

A great piece from Kent Wilson at Flames Nation explains exactly why the selection of monster defenceman Keegan Kanzig got such poor reviews 

[N]one of this means Kanzig won’t be that rare outlier like Chara because sometimes you win the lottery. From the available data, though, it currently seems like the Flames converted a 10-15% chance at an NHL player to a less than 1% chance for the privilege of wishing on that outcome.

Click the link to read more, or alternately, feel free check out some of my other pieces here:

  • Czar

    Still early in the game, but right now the Oil seem to be hitting below average with their 2nd round picks. Should be able to develop an NHL calibre player approx 50% of the time in the 2nd round. Of the 2010 to 2012 group, the only one I have high hopes for is Marincin.

    But I should also look at the drafting record as a whole. There’s been some very good 4th round selections that are trending high. Khaira, Gernat, Rajala all look good. Omark was a 4th rd selection too and some fans still are high on him.

    So overall, pretty decent, but they’re not ahead of the game. If the Oil were batting around .500 in the 2nd round, that would make a huge difference for the outlook of this prospect group.

    • Rambelaya

      50% of 2nd round picks making it? Where in the world did you get that number? I think most fans would be ecstatic if Edmonton was hitting on 50% of their 2nd round picks.

      Many studies have been done, (here’s one from Gregor awhile back http://oilersnation.com/2011/2/25/value-in-acquiring-draft-picks) that show you’re lucky to hit 30% of 2nd round picks being “useful”. Obviously that drops even further in later rounds.

      So yeah, to hit nearly double that percentage, that would be great. But let’s not make it the expectation.

      • HardBoiledOil 1.0

        You’re right. I pulled those numbers off of a hockey discussion panel I watched somewhere that I think included Brian Burke. 70% 1st round, 50% 2nd rd were the numbers floated around. But it is pretty high now that I think about it.

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    Willis :Is there a reason Hartekainen , Arcabello , Omark and Reddox are not on a list . Do we not still own their rights ? How would you rate them in comparison to your lists ?

    • From above: “I use Calder Trophy eligibility as my definition of what a prospect is.”

      All those guys are out either due to games played or age, and once they reach that point it isn’t really fair to compare them to up-and-comers because we have a pretty good idea of where their ceiling is.

      I think Reddox has played his last NHL game (I’m actually not sure if the Oilers still own his rights; I think they don’t), I have time for Omark but think he’ll have to wait for expansion to get his shot, and I’d put Arcobello in the same range as Andrew Miller.

      As for Hartikainen, I think he can play now; obviously the organization saw something with him that they weren’t wild about, though.

  • geoilersgist

    It is too bad about Bunz. A year ago our goaltending prospects looked great, now not so much. Hopefully he can have a bounce back year and recover.

    What was the team like in general in Stockton this year? Was the whole team poor or was it just him?

  • 24% body fat

    Off topic: the quality of articles presented by Nation writers is fantastic. If the product on the ice matched the product of this blog we would blessed!

  • Czar

    I know a lot of people are upset with trading Rieder for Kessy,but if he works on his skating and a couple years with Nelson in OKC,he could be just the kinda prick we need on the 4th line. He’s one of those guy’s you hate on the opposition, love on your team. He’s not afraid of anyone and will do anything for his team.

  • Ducey

    Leleggia was a 1st team All Star/ Rookie of the Year in 2011/12. This last year he was a second team all star. Thats still pretty good.

    The only complaint on defence is the total absence of right-handed shots; fortunately the Oilers have three young players (Jeff Petry, Justin Schultz and Phillip Larsen) who could be in the plans for the long haul.

    Why do you hate Taylor Fedun? He shoots right and was in the top pairing for OKC in the playoffs.

    I have no hope for Curtis Hamilton or Ryan Martindale. The knock on Martidale in junior was effort/ committment. He has not changed any minds in the AHL. Hamilton can’t stay healthy and when he does play, he doesn’t generate shots or even PIM’s. He is invisible.

    Willis, your “depth chart” is a little misleading as you have excluded the non- Calder types. Guys like Ryan Hamilton, Marc Arcobello, and Wil Acton bring important depth.

  • You know what would be neat to find out? How did the Oilers Nation roster do in evaluating these players when they were first drafted? When Tambo was picking, every prospect was a future NHLer, though now we’re seeing that is not the case.

    With all of the picks MacT made, what’s the over/under on players making the NHL and playing at least 100 games? I’d guess three, max. And that isn’t a slight of MacT. Nobody gets all their picks on the roster.

    • LinkfromHyrule

      whether or not a prospect succeeds has nothing to do with the scouts really. it is the scouts job to pick the prospects they think best suit the team need or are most skilled etc, but I guess it would be up to the farm team coach to develop the prospects that are chosen

  • The Soup Fascist

    Jonathan, how much are you compensating for anticipated need on the Oilers? By that I mean given the age of the top 6, there is likely less opportunity for a skill guy to break through than a bottom 6 player, where there appear to be a few opportunities in the next year or two.

    Therefore, while not as skilled offensively, would guys like Ewanyk and Moroz have more opportunity to contribute in a bottom six role, than a Marc Roy or Tony Rajala? I realize trying to guess what the needs will be two years down the road is a dangerous game but I just think it is way more likely to see a grinder make the team than a flashy skilled guy.

    • Not a lot. Toni Rajala’s a good prospect; he may not get an opportunity in Edmonton but that doesn’t change what he is.

      Here’s the thing: the vast majority of guys who end up as grinders were skill guys down the line. Roy, for instance, has a good two-way game and (in my opinion) projects more as a third-line forward than a top-six option, despite decent scoring numbers.

      It’s also exceptionally rare for a guy like Ewanyk – with virtually no scoring in junior – to make it as a legitimate third-line forward. Looking at this year’s Cup finals – Bolland had 130 points in the OHL, Kruger had Omark-like numbers in Sweden, Frolik was drafted as a scorer out of the ‘Q’, Peverley was PPG guy in college, Paille and Kelly and Campbell were near-PPG guy in their draft years. Heck, even Shawn Thornton had a 59GP/32PT season in the AHL.

      So when I see a guy like Ewanyk who can’t hit 30 points in the WHL, and Mitch Moroz who barely did, I have trouble seeing more than fourth line minutes in their future.

      • The Soup Fascist

        I would agree with your comments. If your depth chart is evaluating individual talent I would agree it is very fair. I just think a Moroz or Ewanyk have a better chance of playing a fourth line role in Edmonton than Rajala does of playing in Edmonton as a top 6 guy (which he would have to I think). Doesn’t mean they are individually as talented, just able to fill a niche that exists. Right place, right time is as important as anything in the crapshoot that is an opportunity to play in this league.

  • Oil72

    Going back to the start of the Kevin Lowe era there were 10 second round picks by the Oilers from 2001-2007 (Kevin Prendergast was Head of Amateur Scouting). Of those 10, 3 have had success in the NHL; Matt Greene and Jarret Stoll drafted in 2002, Jeff Petry drafted in 2006.

    That’s a 30% hit rate however two were drafted in the same year. In fact in 2002 the Oilers had 3 second round picks. JDD was also picked that year in the second round.

    In the Stu MacGregor era (2008-present) there have been 7 second round picks, only Anton Lander has seen any NHL ice time. Plus it’s to early to judge any player drafted in 2011-13 yet.

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    Good article thanks for the update.

    One question for you JW……can you give some insight into your ranking some newbies ahead of some players who seem more proven……example ..where you rank Kharia ahead of Slepyshev….or Marco Roy Ahead of Rajala….when Slepy and Rajala have Pro experience……….or am I misreading the chart …..

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    i have wanted the Oilers to draft a high end goalie for the last couple of years, and i must say that, even though i haven’t given up on Bunz, Roy and Franz, i’m less than happy with those 3 being the top goalie prospects, all the while passing on guys like John Gibson and Magnus Hellberg in 2011, as well as this year’s crop which included Jarry, Comrie, Martin etc. it might come back to haunt us unless we continue to sign UFA goalies.

    and why draft a slow footed d-man like Betker when we just released another in Alex Plante? and Muir, Campbell and Platzer don’t look like great pick so far, there were others that the Oilers passed on that have a better chance to make it.

    • 24% body fat

      You are way off in your value of a 2nd Round Pick.

      The average 2nd Round Pick has a 46% chance of playing more than 1 NHL season. If you want a serviceable NHL player.

      The average 2nd Round Pick has a 36% chance of playing more than 2 seasons.

      To me to be a decent NHL player you have to make the 5 season mark – 400 games which is a 27% chance for the average NHL player.

      So I would suggest if the Oilers can be above 1 in 4 NHL Calibre Players from their 2nd Round Picks it is about on par.

  • 24% body fat

    A problem with these second round picks is OKC was signing veterans taking away ice time from the others. Fourth line minutes and being scratched can really hinder development.

    That being said the players is still responsible for their development (although I assume Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers would have an opinion on that).

    Hopefully one of Pitlick, Hamilton, or Martindale can take a step forward this year now that the management team is focusing on development in OKC.

    Ryan Martindale had another year of CHL eligibility and should have played their as apposed to AA.

  • LinkfromHyrule

    This kind of article, both parts actually, and the discussion it engenders is the reason I keep coming back to this site. My only question is why the concerns about Moroz and Ewanyk do not apply to Chase. Are you giving him another year in junior to prove he can score?

    • The Soup Fascist

      Chase seems to have a little more offence in his game. He certainly plays with sandpaper. My only question about Chase – is he only an agitator and annoyance to other teams or does some of his truculence rub teammates the wrong way too?

      Stuff like blowing kisses to the other team after a shoot out goal a) fires up the other team and 2) sometimes hangs teammates out to face the music the next game. There is being an instigator and there is being an agitator. Some guys can’t turn that personality off in their own rooms.

      Chase is a player no question. My only question is what is his shelf life on a team? All in all a good gamble – as late as the Oilers picked him.