Each year, I look for the best minor league players (by position) with an eye toward future NHLers who are possibly under the radar. The lockout made ‘under the radar’ impossible, but there are true gems on this list and all six players this season could end up being legit NHL players. 


The Senators brought Lehner along slowly during his entry level contract (although he played in the NHL at least a little all three seasons) and at this point the club has an outstanding 22-year old ready for steady work. Now, they already have a veteran incumbent (Craig Anderson) signed for two more years, but I imagine Lehner will push him out of the way in one season. Lehner’s outstanding .938SP in the AHL is the best number in many years and the Senators look set for the rest of the decade at the position. 


Although Schultz played in just 34 AHL games, he led the league in points by a defenseman (34, 18-30-48) and won post-season 1st All Star honors for a phenomenal pro debut. He also finished very high in rookie AHL scoring despite being a defenseman and playing in far fewer games:

Schultz entered the NHL after the lockout and (as he admitted this week) the wear and tear of a long season (with monster minutes, especially in the minors) took its toll on him. This is an electric talent and we should look forward to years and years of offense from the blueliner, along with more effective defensive play. Won the Eddie Shore award as top AHL defenseman this season.


Won the Eddie Shore award one year ago, the TBay Lightning prospect is another outstanding puck mover who has improved his defensive play since turning pro. Got his first taste of NHL action this season and should be at the start of a long and productive NHL  career. 


Former Medicine Hat Tiger has transitioned nicely into pro hockey and would probably have some NHL games if not for the myriad quality LA Kings forwards ahead of him on the depth chart. He’s a player who can set up at center or wing, suspect he’ll have to find another NHL city. 


Bigger winger with hard work and toughness on his resume, Fraser played well enough offensively (62, 33-13-46 with Texas) to be considered an attractive NHL option moving forward. Boston liked him well enough to ask after him in the Tyler Seguin trade, so the Bruins have another rugged winger for the collection. 


Those damned Detroit Red Wings. Nyquist is another from the Motown factory, and taken in the bowels of the 2008 entry draft (4th round, 99 picks after Jordan Eberle). He’s probably going to see plenty of NHL action this season, as he’s already cleared the 40GP mark with the Red Wings after year two of his three year entry level deal. Nyquist’s skill set includes high end skill set, terrific wheels but he’s slightly undersized. Detroit. Rock City. Man.


It’s the usual suspects–Detroit, Los Angeles–but the Oilers have one of this year’s All-Stars and Justin Schultz has tremendous potential as an NHL player. I know he played in the AHL on a technicality, but hell boys I’ll take it! Last season’s All Stars are here, Schultz photo courtesy Rob Ferguson all rights reserved. 

  • DSF

    Less minutes for Schultz this year = a massive step forward to domination. If he’s used properly I expect to see his name in the mix for Norris for years to come.

    IF we don’t lean on him harder than we should.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Three things from the article that I have just come to realize:

    1) Mona Lisa Vito could be my favorite movie character – ever.


    2) I have been misusing the word “myriad” by putting an extraneous “of” after it.

    3) Linden Vey can play center. I thought he played on the wing in Medicine Hat, but he is a very good player and a guy the Oilers should target if there is no room for him in L.A. (Principe’s “Oy Vey” jokes on every Jewish Holiday would be worth the price alone).

  • The Soup Fascist

    @ Katzhater

    “myriad” can be properly used with “of” or without. The syntax is correct either way.

    So … double negative points to you for calling someone else pretentious and incorrect when, in doing so, you were pretentious and incorrect too. The irony is beautiful.

    Also, double negative points to me for talking about syntax on a hockey blog.

  • The Soup Fascist

    @grammar nazi

    Myriad can be used as a noun, or as an adjective. DSF obviously thinks it can only be used correctly as an adjective. That is why he complimented the author on using it ‘correctly’, as opposed to ‘incorrectly'(as a noun), like others on Oilersnation have.


  • Supernova

    As our group of forwards begin to come into their own, it would have been nice of all our blue line blue chip guys were doing so right around the same time. Unfortunately, barring a tremendous surprise, it still looks like our blue line core might still be a few years away from being one of the best in the league. J Schultz, Klefbomb, then anyone of Marincin, Fedune, Gernat, Musil. One of them is sure to excel and take a spot. If the Oilers are able to bolster the young core with some solid veterans, I really think we could have one of the best in the game.

      • 719

        Certainly someone like Andrew Ferrence. I know he’s on a 4 year contract, but it’s tough to see him as being still effective in two to three years when these kids are coming into their own. You have to think Nurse is two years away, Klefbomb two from being an impact player. J Schultz in two to three years will likely have the defensive side of his game a lot more solid. So with those three, you likely have to consider one of Smid or Petry to still be here, maybe both. That makes five. Thus, I think a new veteran top 2 guy and one solid depth guy are who we go after in a few years.

        I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Keith Yandle.

  • Supernova

    JS is one great offensive defenseman………..he will need to add another 20lbs if he wants to dominate in this league. His play on the other side of the puck will dictate just how good he becomes.

    I hope that he dominates this year with Ference helping him along.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Here we are a month away from camp and very few here, are comfortable/satisfied with the myriad (must use word of the day) of changes heading into the season. There’s little difference between Tambellini and MacTavish.

    Same ship, different year again……please, somebodyfnkillme.

    • Ducey

      MacT traded Horcoff and MPS;

      Dumped Peckham, Whitney, Fistric, Petrell, Smithson and Bulin;

      Brought in Belov, R. Hamilton, Acton, Perron, Gordon, Ference, Grebs, Joensuu, Larsen, Labarbara and Bachman Turner Overdrive;

      Fired the head coach and brought in a new assistant coach.

      That’s all in 4 months! (he was hired April 15th)

      Yeah. MacT and Tambo are the same guy.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Splitting hairs. I only see Perron and Ference, along with yet another rookie coach. The rest is rif raf like the summer of 2 yrs ago (Barker,Belanger,Hordichuk etc etc) Half expect Gordon to come in and lay an egg like Belanger did, only for double the money of course.

        Cool optimistic view though, have to give you credit for that.

        • Word to the Bird

          At the very least, at least he tried to upgrade the team.

          It is definitely a very real possibility that the Oilers could find themselves at the bottom of the standings yet again. But I have faith in MacT over the long haul over broken record Tambellini.

    • Ducey

      Are you? $#*ing kidding me. Little difference between MacT and Tambellini….. MacT says it and then follows through…In case you were in Siberia all summer…We have a new exciting coach, a new associate coach, the best d depth, including a recent Stanley Cup winner, we have had in years, 2 new Depth forwards, an improved backup goalie, will be selecting a new captain this year, a renewed RNH coming in November, and picked a hell of a future defenceman in the draft.

      Did you want MacT to trade the entire team for the Blackhawks or something.

      Would it be nice to patch up a few more holes? Sure, but MacT has had a hell of a start as GM.

      But I guess nothing will satisfy some people.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Quantity doesn’t always translate into Quality Tommy. Big difference between the two.

        Like I said, Perron and Ference are really the only on ice help going into this year. Another summer passing us by with not a lot of progress made. Tambellini did bring Smyth back, as well as turfing Patrick O’Sullivan. I don’t see much difference between the two. Back away from the Koolaid Tom, you’ve had more than your share.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            I guess Jim Nill is just a much better GM then. He doesn’t advertise what he’s going to do. He just goes out and does what needs to be done.

            Atleast he didn’t buy your There’s no way Seguin’s available BS from earlier this summer. Sometimes it’s best a fool remain quiet, than start to speak and remove all doubt.

            Good day Mr. Realist/Blow hard.

          • djc

            Wow did you suggest the Oilers trade for Seguin and then Seguin was actually traded?!? Well clearly then YOU should be a GM – it’s just so easy and you obviously have the talent to predict which players are available for trade. I hope your first trade is for Weber!!

            I’m flattered you’ve held me in your memory bank for so long waiting for this glorious opportunity to say I was wrong … but the only player I said wasn’t available was Weber … after your 1000th temper tantrum and crying fit about the Oilers not acquiring him. Of course numerous others posters have said the same thing, but it’s hard to convince someone with a toddler mentality.

            Keep obsessing though, it doesn’t seem like you have much else going on in your life besides complaining about the Oilers after each article day after day.

            I’ll go back to skipping over your comments like I normally do.

  • I think the biggest difference between Tambellini and MacTavish is, at least from a fan standpoint, there is evidence that he KNOWS the issues with this team and attempts to fill those holes.

    With Tambellini, there’s no way anyone could tell what he was doing, outside of possibly the other brass.

    Tambellini had too much of a “wait and see” attitude as well.. even in his final year, he still seemed to be of the mindset that if he waited long enough, some player would creep up out of the dark depths of the system to fill out important needs on the team. I’m not sure if he was too scared to pull the trigger on deals, unable to fully diagnose problems here, or just couldn’t make necessary trades. My thoughts were that it was a bit of #2, and a bit of #3.

    With MacT, I think he has a really solid grasp of what the team needs, mostly based on his coaching experience. Unfortunately though, I also think the trade market is slower than any of us would like it. This is something all GMs have to cope with though. I feel the team is in better hands though cause with MacT at the helm I at least can rest assured that he knows what the team needs and wants to acquire those pieces. That’s a step ahead of Tambellini who didn’t really seem to fully know what the team needed, nor did he seem to have a sense of urgency to acquire those pieces.

    • The fact that this got 4 thumbs down (so far at this point and likely more to come) just goes to show that a lot of you are grumpy sons of b’s. 😛

      Gave me a little chuckle. In all seriousness though, it kind of baffles me how easily people throw out the thumbs down here! (I will now get 20+ thumbs down)

      • G Money

        Well, I was going after the ‘little chuckle’ so I’m happy! Besides, your comment appears to have made some people feel guilty, now there’s suddenly 6 props!

        In any case, one supposes that after what we Oiler fans have been through the last seven years, a little grumpiness in the face of merriment is to be expected.

        That said, I kinda half expected some newbie to accuse me of being a troll for my ‘butter soft’ comment … Even though it’s totally true, albeit said (as a long suffering die hard fan) with love!

  • 719

    I think everyone can agree, a lot of things have to go right for the Oilers to make the post-season:

    Dubnyk has to be better

    The newly acquired D have to perform up to expectations

    RNH has to return to form

    Gagner has to be at least as good as he was during the first 40 games last year.

    Hall continues to progress

    Eberle breaks out of his sophmore slump

    Perron plays better than he did in St. Louis

    Yakupov doesn’t hit his sophmore slum

    Ryan Jones eye injury doesn’t continue to affect him

    Ryan Smyth can turn back the hands of time

    Gordon doesn’t follow the Belanger model

    Jonesuu can take a step forward

    Dallas Eakins is a better rookie coach than Krueger

    The list can go on, I personally am not very optimistic about the season as far as playoffs go.

    • 719

      Should the majority of this list goes right, the Oilers will be in the playoffs. Some items are more important than others, but I would be content with half of these being true.

    • 719

      I’ll fix this for you.

      Dubnyk needs to stay at same level, bonus if he plays better.

      RNH plays like he did in rookie year, bonus if he plays better

      Gagner has to play like he has in the past, better on D

      Hall just like last year, better on D

      Eberle needs to shoot more

      Perron same as before

      Yakupov doesn’t hit slump

      One surprise player plays ahead of what he should.

      I think this is what most teams would say of their own bubble team.

  • 719

    With a dynamic and speedy 9 pack Oilers will be flying this year ! Hall, Hopkins, Eberle . Followed by Perron , Gagner and Yakupov . Third wave to include Hemsky , Gordon and a multiple of options . It’s a recipe for success that other clubs simply do not provide . We’re on the move so watch out . Defence much more adequate , and a few surprises could be in store for us there as well . Everyone loves a parade , so maybe it’s time to start thinking about it as early as this coming season . How does that song go “Break out now , You gotta break out now ” ?

  • two smokes

    I’m So sick of people saying dubnyk needs to be better he played very well last season with poor defense in front of him. Get off the guys back let him play.

    • Spydyr

      Dubnyk letting in a week goal every second game was not the fault of poor defense. It was all on Dubnyk. If he lets in a weak goal every fourth game it would help the team immensely.That would entail Dubnyk playing better,