After graduating an exceptional cluster of forwards over the last three seasons, the Oilers have the kind of prospect depth you’d expect: miles and miles of blue. With the likes of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov arriving in these seasons, there’s not a lot of room for top end skill forwards. The blueline is a very different matter.
- #20 L Kale Kessy (#19 in the spring): Big, tough winger whose skill set is a perfect match for a major need in the organization’s pro ranks. Kirk Luedeke details Kessy’s strengths: "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." Projection for 13-14: 4th line role and 15-20 points in Oklahoma City. Anything more than that and he’s going to zoom up this list.
- #19 D Erk Gustafsson (#18 last Sept, #13 in the spring): 49, 7-16-23 +12 in the Allsvenskan (league below SEL). The Oilers have so much depth at the position it’s a good guess he’ll never play in Edmonton. Gustafsson has some nice things (Corey Pronman says "has a fair amount of skill and mobility, a little undersized which won’t help him, but considering that I thought he defended at an ok level as his reads were fine”) but the road is long now for any defensive prospect and Gustafsson is now 21 and there are many with a wider range of skills ahead of him. Projection for 13-14: Another solid year in Sweden, and then a trip to North America to see where he stands.
- #18 C Andrew Miller (#17 in the spring): Boxcars at Yale (37, 18-23-41) and NHLE (82, 16-21-37) suggest he has enough offensively to play in the NHL. 5.10, 180 and 24 years old, Miller has (along with all of the other C’s on this list) a terrific opportunity to move up smartly in the organization. Corey Pronman: 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.” That’s a nice resume, and he could end up getting 4line minutes with NHL vets like Smyth and Jones. That’s not a bad way to start. Projection for 13-14: He should be close to a point per game player in the AHL and if he can post that kind of number he’ll get some consideration for NHL work.
- #17 D Brandon Davidson (#19 last September, #15 in the spring): Played well in OKC (26, 2-3-5) and NHLE (82, 3-4-7) when healthy and then turned it on in the post-season. Davidson did a lot of good work this season, and did it despite some health issues that slowed but did not stop him. He’s a thinking man’s defenseman, makes the smart play without a lot of fanfare. A bit of a throwback type, I don’t think we’ll see big offensive numbers from him in pro, but he’ll always be part of the PK rotation. Projection for 13-14: Another season of shutdown work in the AHL to establish himself as a strong defensive option.
- #16 D Taylor Fedun (#20 last September, #10 in the spring): Fedun is in a tough spot now, he’s a solid AHL defenseman of some ability (he’s a good defender and can move the puck too) but he’s surrounded by youngsters pushing up the depth chart. His OKC (70, 8-19-27) and NHLE (82, 4-10-14) suggests he should be in the conversation, but Craig MacTavish has increased the competition on defense all summer long. He does have one advantage: he’s RH. Projection for 13-14: AHL regular at all three disciplines and possibly a callup for his first NHL games. Time is not his friend now, the Oilers are rolling in defense.
- #15 L Mitchell Moroz: (#14 last September, #9 in the spring): 69, 13-21-34 numbers with the Oil Kings have him well below the kind of offense that will be required for him to play at a high level when he turns pro. Moroz NHLE (82, 5-7-12) has him in line to become a modern Zach Stortini–well below what was hoped for on draft day 2011. Projection for 13-14: A strong finish to his junior career is vital, he’s playing for a pro contract.
- #14 L Daniil Zharkov: (#9 last September, #7 in the spring). 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. His NHLE 82, 10-8-18. Projection for 13-14: Some good totals in the KHL. The Oilers prospect chart has a distinct Russian flavor now, Zharkov is 6.04 212 and is only 19 years old.
- #13 C Greg Chase (NR, the first of the 2013 drafts): 69, 17-32-49 with Calgary (WHL). NHLE 6-11-17. This is a very interesting prospect. Chase at even strength last season (69, 13-23-36) posted superior numbers to Moroz in all three disciplines combined. Pronman: scouts praise his offensive mind and vision. He can slow the game down when he has the puck, hit targets through small lanes, and move the puck quickly when need be. He also has good hands, and when he is on, his offensive upside is apparent.Projection for 13-14: A big offensive season for the Hitmen.
- #12 R Jackson Houck (NR, one of the 2013 drafts): 69, 23-34-57 with Vancouver (WHL). NHLE 8-12-20. Houck is physical and skilled, a nice combination, and he led his team in scoring so it isn’t like the stats were being zoomed by a better player as we see every year at the NHL draft. Cody Nickolet: an energy forward for the Giants. He’s quick, plays aggressively all over the ice and has a good shot. His best asset is that he never takes a shift off, knows his role and fills it to a tee. Put up a good year offensively, but he will need to continue to work hard on that part of his game if he wants to carve out a top 6 pro career. Projection for 13-14: He should improve offensively this season and the Oilers must love the physical element to his game.
- #11 D David Musil (#12 last September, #8 in the spring): We’re finally going to see what he can do at the next level. Musil is a very good WHL defender but there have been questions about his foot speed since draft day. We’ll know this fall, as the scouting reports on this player are as wide as I’ve ever seen (some see him as a reasonable bet to arrive in the NHL within a year or so, others don’t think his speed will allow him to compete at the AHL level). Projection for 13-14: I have none that are reasonable. The range is so wide, I’m just going to sit back and watch. Someone is wrong, I’ll say that much.
THE TOP 10
- #10 D Anton Belov (NR, undrafted free aqent signing) Outstanding KHL stats (46, 9-17-26) and his NHLE (82, 13-25-38) suggest he could have a major impact on the offense this season. 26 years old and 6.04, 216. He could be a major addition to the Oilers. Projectioned for 13-14: I rate him as an NHL regular this season.
- #9 L Anton Slepyshev: (NR, one of the 2013 drafts): KHL numbers (11, 4-2-6. NHLE 18-6-24) give an idea of the offensive potential. A very talented winger who appears to have enough skill to run with the really good players. Pronman: He is an above-average skater, with agility and free movement, as his shiftiness makes him hard to check. He has a plus shot and he knows it, as his mentality is often shoot-first, even from distance. He can still make plays, and he does not have tunnel vision, but his playmaking skills are not his best element. His physical game has progressed, and he has added strength since last season. He can protect pucks moderately well. He will display physical effort, although it could be better at times. He also needs to work on his defensive game. Projected for 13-14: More progress in the KHL, and it would be nice to hear about improved play away from the puck.
- #8 C Bogdan Yakimov (NR, one of the 2013 drafts): Finally! A big (6.05, 202) center with offensive potential. And he’s from Nail Yakupov’s hometown: Yakimov: “I’m extremely happy, because I’ve been waiting to be selected. I was already at the edge of my nerves, so this was a huge relief to be selected by anybody, particularly by the Edmonton Oilers. In Nizhnekamsk, the most favourite team of anybody is Edmonton Oilers, because Nail Yakupov is from the same town.” More than anyone on this list, I’m projecting Yakimov on little evidence.Why? Ryan Pike: He’s big. He’s physical. He’s willing to battle in the major traffic lanes to score. His game is not without warts, though. He could be a better skater and he lacks elite play-making ability. But he’s arguably more consistent than a lot of players, lacking huge peaks to his game but lacking massive valleys." Projection for 13-14: A strong season in Russia, with lots of KHL play and some offense. Yakimov turns 19 in October, the time to show well is now.
- #7 D Dillon Simpson (#15 in September, #6 in the spring): Simpson’s a trending player, now 6.02, 200 and playing a major role in a big time NCAA program–and he’s 20. The early concerns over footspeed appear to be gone, his offense (42, 5-19-24; NHLE: 82, 4-15-19) have him near the top of the Oilers D prospect table in that area. This guy was taken in the fourth round of the 2011 draft–that’s not exactly prime time real estate for uncovering NHL players. He’ll need to be signed after college. Projection for 13-14: He’s improved every year since he was drafted, why stop now? Good enough to force his way into a very deep pro depth chart when he turns pro.
- #6 L Jujhar Khaira: (#16 in September, #4 in the spring): Michigan Tech boxcars (37, 6-19-25) and NHLE (82, 5-18-23) are interesting and suggest he’s going to have a chance to be a top 6F down the line. Khaira is the last (and the highest ranking) of a group of possible "power forwards of the future" on the top 20. Khaira (according to Redline) “does the dirty work in the corners, bangs bodies and wins battles, and loves to initiate heavy contact. Powerful stride with great balance and gets leverage on his hits. Has surprisingly soft hands and puck skills with playmaking ability.” Projection for 13-14: It looks like he’ll be a WHL Silvertip, and based on his NCAA numbers he should top 65 points in a full WHL season. This is going to be a big year for him.
THE TOP FIVE
- #5 D Martin Gernat (#5 in September, #3 in the spring): Had some injury issues this year but was effective when healthy. His Oil King numbers (WHL reg/playoffs combined: 45, 9-21-30, NHLE 82, 5-11-16). I spoke to an NHL scout about him (an eastern conference team) and he told me Gernat’s game has developed well defensively, his footspeed and size will be his pro calling cards and we should not expect a lot his offense to come with him to pro hockey. Projection for 13-14: This season may be difficult, there’s no clear spot for him in OKC. Gernat may end up spending time in the ECHL or even Europe. His long term potential is impressive.
- #4 R Marco Roy: (NR, the 2nd highest ranked of the 2013 drafts): This young man is a fascinating prospect. Skill, grit and a work ethic have me very interesting in tracking his progress. Redline Report: While thought of as a grinder who brings passion and intensity to each shift (which is accurate), that is short-changing his skill level. Good skater with speed and balance, and accelerates well. Wins a lot of races for loose pucks and is always 1st into corners. Works his bag off every shift and comes back hard on the backcheck. He’s an absolute buzzsaw with a motor that never quits. Projection for 13-14: He went 65, 29-38-67 last season, those are very good numbers. If Roy can post something north of 80 points in a full year Oiler fans might be looking at a future NHL top 6F.
- #3 D Martin Marincin: (#4 in September, #2 in the spring): It’s really important to remember how difficult it can be to transition to pro hockey via the AHL. Over the last decade, Oiler fans can count on one hand the number of defensemen who have been developed through the minors. For every Jeff Petry, there’s a dozen Alex Plante’s and Taylor Chorney’s. Marincin isn’t there yet, but his OKC numbers (69, 7-23-30) and NHLE (82, 4-12-16) suggest he’ll bring some offense to the show–although playing with Justin Schultz padded his numbers. Todd Nelson: “As long as his body keeps maturing, he’ll be able to sustain the game at the NHL level. He’s rangy and green still, but there’s tremendous upside. Everybody is looking for 6-foot-5 defencemen with offensive ability. I think he has great opportunity to see games in the NHL.” Projection for 13-14: This is a terrific prospect who may be less than a year from NHL ready. Marincin’s continued development gives the organization a lot of options.
- #2 D Oscar Klefbom: (#3 in September, #1 in the spring): A nice range of skills and he’s close to NHL ready. The only thing keeping him from being #1 in health, and that is (imo) the big concern with this player. Based on a number of reports and anecdotal evidence (the MacT monologues), this player is absolutely part of the future and will be in the NHL the moment he’s ready. Projection for 13-14: Complete health is vital, extended NHL time is likely.
- #1 D Darnell Nurse: (NR, the highest ranked of the 2013 drafts): This year’s 1st round pick is shy of the recent #1 overalls but leaps to the top of the charts on the strength of a wide range of skills and emerging offense. This is a quality 2-way defense prospect. Kyle Woodlief: is the most naturally physical defender (in the draft). He made good strides in his offensive game and has a heavy shot that is an asset on the power play. He likes to dish out punishment along the walls and easily separates his check from the puck. Nurse also scores off the charts in both his character and intelligence levels, and at a gangly 6-5, already has the footwork of a much smaller man. Finally, we have anecdotal evidence that he was playing some tough opposition. Projected for 13-14: A significant improvement in boxcars (68, 12-29-41 OHL last season) and a strong push for a WJ roster spot on a deep team.
- Nail Yakupov has graduated from the prospect list, but his impact on the current list is impressive. The Oilers spent a couple of draft picks at the 2013 edition on Russians, signed Belov and Zharkov is also a potential member of the Russian invasion. This is historic in Oiler terms, and comes fully two decades after the rest of the NHL. It makes sense–they’re familiar with the climate!
- Defensemen are all over the list: 4 of the top 5, 6 of the top 10 and 10 of the 20 are blueliners.
- The 2010 draft has had a lot of heartbreak. Kristians Pelss was an up and comer, Drew Czerwonka, Tyler Bunz and Brandon Davidson have experienced injury. The trio of forwards (Pitlick, Hamilton, Martindale) taken in the 2nd and early 3rd rounds are no longer among the 20 best prospects in the system. Taylor Hall is in the NHL, and two 2010’s (Marincin, Davidson) remain on the list.
- Oilers need a goalie prospect.
- KHL regular season begins this week. Oilers have a lot of prospects over there this season.
- The spring 20 is here.
- The September 2012 top 20 is here.