Timetable for the defence

There’s no secret that the strength of the Edmonton Oilers prospect group can be found on the blue line. That’s good on the one hand because it’s the area where the team needs high-end help. On the other hand, an NHL team can only break in so many rookies at one position at a time, so it’s worth asking when these players will be NHL ready and in what order.


The chart above shows the season I expect a player to be in a position to play 25+ games in the NHL (assuming, of course, that they make it at all). It’s based on recent Oilers’ history, which has mostly seen defencemen graduate in the 20-24 age range, with the average around age 22.

Oscar Klefbom is the prime candidate for time this year; the organization has been extremely upbeat about his progress, he has draft pedigree, and it would be unsurprising in the least if he were to graduate to Edmonton after half a season or so in the AHL. Taylor Fedun goes here, too, because he’s last year’s top right-side AHL’er and at the age of 25 he’s at the point where most players either make the jump or start looking for a second opinion.

After a strong first AHL campaign, Martin Marincin would be in the mix too except that the Oilers are loaded on defence and Klefbom is in front of him. Another year in the AHL won’t hurt and he’s likely to make the jump next year. Brandon Davidson also lands here, after two and a half AHL seasons and at the age of 23; he established himself as an AHL’er last year and this gives him a full season to push up the depth chart and then most of another to wait for an opportunity. Brad Hunt, meanwhile, is in a similar position to Fedun.

I have assumed that Darnell Nurse will be returned to junior twice to mature physically before cracking the Oilers’ roster. This timetable has him making the team at age 20 – early, yes, but given his draft position expected. Martin Gernat and David Musil are both essentially on the Marincin track here, with two seasons of AHL play before competing for NHL time at the end of their entry-level deals; a slow pro debut could push this back a year but either could start strong and challenge a year earlier, too. Dillon Simpson finishes his college career and gets a full year in the AHL before pushing for playing time at age 22. Erik Gustafsson gets one more season in Europe, one season in North America to establish himself, and is then pushing for NHL time.

Finally, Ben Betker gets penciled in at age 23; that’s at the long end for an Oilers’ defence prospect but he was a late pick so it makes sense to give him some time.


Obviously, things won’t work out exactly this way. Some players will be traded, some may not sign (or be signed), and others won’t develop into NHL’ers. There’s no way to know with any certainty who will make it and who won’t. Looking at Lowetide’s top-20 list from five seasons ago is instructive – of a group of four real prospects, Theo Peckham eventually made it in a depth role, Jeff Petry turned out very well, Taylor Chorney got 42 games on a terrible 2009-10 team that look to be the heart of his NHL career, and Cody Wild did nothing. Peckham and Petry and Chorney all got looks at the highest level, though.

Klefbom, Marincin and Nurse look to be the first guys in line for NHL work over the next three years, and the Oilers could conceivably rework their depth chart to include all three at the major-league level (though it’s both a squeeze and that’s an awfully young group). Gernat, Simpson and Musil are the other three guys who look like they have the best case for NHL employment, but the timeline is rough – especially if the Oilers plan to be contending for the Stanley Cup in 2015-16 (which they absolutely should be). I really wonder, just looking at this, if Simpson signs an entry-level with the Oilers.

Outside of Klefbom and Nurse (key guys the team seems to want to build around), a lot of these players look like candidates for the ‘team trades top prospect for immediate help’ kind of move good clubs make at the deadline.

Recently around the Nation Network

Brian Burke is joining the Calgary Flames hockey operations group, and at Flames Nation Book of Loob has already decided what he’s looking forward to most: 

If this all comes to fruition, my favourite part of his tenure will be whatever synonym for "Aggressive" he uses to coin the direction of the team (Truculent is so played out). My personal favourites are Bellicosity and (my personal favourite) Scurrilous. Damn that sounds hip.

Click the link above to read more or check out some of my recent work:

  • Spydyr

    Defense fist wins in the playoffs.

    On paper the Oilers look like they have a great nucleus of young defenders rising up. If half of them make it .Wow, that’s would be a good young defense for years to come.

      • djc

        I wouldn’t be surprised if you spend the rest of the day gushing about Burke with maybe a couple of random posts about how Granlund and Wellwood are superstars.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Not sure if Burke has anything the Leafs need. He does have draft picks. Surrendering a 1st and a 3rd rounder may be the bargain Brian can afford. Should be an interesting next month.

        Looks like that Flames rebuild plan ended crumpled up in the garbage can. Good on them not forcing the fanbase to endure the ship we’ve had to go through the last 5 yrs and counting. Dare we say BOOK IT, in regards to the Flames making the post season before our Oilers.

        • extroy

          The flames have the cap space to make an offer on kadri, I don’t think the leafs have the room to match…. And the oil making the playoffs before Calgary , but could be interesting if they do pickup kadri

        • DSF

          I doubt the Leafs will move Kadri although stranger things have happened.

          The Flames could certainly use Cody Franson, though, and it was Burke who acquired him.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            Monahan for Kadri? Would solve some cap issues for the Leafs. They could afford to hang onto Franson.

            One way or the other, Burke with get a couple guys out of Nonis this coming season.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            I know where you’re coming from, but Nonis has left himself exposed on Fanson and Kadri. Not sure Burke cares at all about the biotching that would ensue in TO.

            Might be like pounding a square peg into a round hole, but Burke is going to pizz someone off soon with his latest challenge.

          • Wax Man Riley

            i’m watching the young stars game and wondering if you said Monohan is a better player than Gagner. i know you said that about Horvat, but do you think that about Monohan?

          • Tikkanese

            Yes for sure a mistake. As well I assume they turned down Corey Schneider for the same pick as Schneider was traded for a lower pick from NJ, though there are no reports of that happening.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            I was thinking the exact same thing too EHH Team. I don’t think that’s at all true. Tikk probably only believes this is true.

            Kadri could just be a better player than Seguin. Outside of 2 finals appearances for Tyler, there hasn’t been much else. Nazem could also just be a better person, perhaps.

            Should be interesting to see what Burke does this coming season.

      • pkam

        That’s great.

        Now Lowe and MacT can offer sheet the Flames RFAs and don’t have to worry about payback.

        More fun when it is Burke and the Flames than any other GM and team.

  • Batfink

    As for Defence, I still think it’s possible to get a bonafied top flight defender in here over the next few years. A depth chart with Smid, Petry, Schultz, Klefbomb, Nurse, Ferance, and a top 2 guy looks pretty spectacular. Nurse would be pushing in as the number 7 guy in this scenario.

      • John Chambers

        Agreed. Salary and value will move Smid – which seems bizarre.

        The Oil still need a top-pair Dman from outside the org. My hope is for a Smid+ for Ehrhoff deal, with Kbom and Marincin as the 6th and 7th guys next year.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      I wouldn’t be so sure Ference is the type to let himself go in his mid 30’s and fade off into the sunset. He looks to be more like a guy who has the commitment to play into his early 40’s. 6 yrs from now.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    Burke as a Flame? This means the battle is back; starting with the fight in the barn? I think Lowe would kick him as bad as we’ll beat the Flames on the ice this year.

  • vetinari

    My gut tells me that either there will be some 2 for 1 trades coming down the pipe or else MacT will be using some of the defensive prospects as bait to fill some holes in the lineup.

    Also, with the older defenders, will we see some movement there soon? Since Nick Schultz is in the last year of his contract, is he be trade bait? Would Potter and Larsen land you anything in return?

      • 2004Z06

        What cap pressure are you referring to? The cap will be 70+ next year and with upcoming TV contract renewals and possible expansion/relocation fees likely close to 80 mil the year after.

        Why do people keep using the cap as a point of argument?

        Simple math for you…Top 6F @ 6 mil per, top 2D @ 5 mil per, top goalie at 4.5 per = 50.5 mil.

        This does not account for players coming off the books. I.e. Hemsky, N.Schultz etc.

        Where is the problem?

        • pkam

          TV contract is part of the HRR, but I doubt expansion/relocation fees are part of the HRR. If I recall correctly, it was not and the NHLPA wanted to add it into the HRR in the last CBA negotiation. Is it included in the HRR now?

          And top 2 D will not be 5M per, more than 6.5-7.0M or more today. It may be even more a couple years later if the cap reaches 80M. If our young defensemen are good enough to be top 2 D, they will demand the market value.

          Top goalie price varies between 5.5M to 7.0M. And I heard Linquist is asking 8+M. If Dubnyk shows he can be the number 1, I believe he will demand at least 5.5M.

          So I would say the top 6 F, top 4 D and our starting goalie will average to 6M each, that is 66M for 11 players, not 50.5M for 9 players.

          • Czar

            Your 66M cap hit suggests top 4 D averaging 6 Mil/year? Smid is at 3.5 until 2017, Petry will likely be re-signed at a similar number.

            Nurse and Klefbom will have a combined cap hit of about $3 Mil total until 2016. There is plenty of time before we’re worrying about 6 million dollar cap hits for our D.

            If Jr. Schultz, Nurse and Klefbom all re-sign for 6 million within the next 4 years, that’s a problem I’ll be extremely happy to deal with.

          • pkam

            At the moment, UFA No. 1 will be around 7-8M. No.2 will be 6-7M, the no. 3 will be 4.5-5M and no.4 around 4M, total around 20-22M. I believe this will go up 10% in a couple of years and make it 22-24M.

            Our situation may be a little different because of the lack of true top 2 D and the number of ELC and RFA in our top 4 D. It makes it less costly but the result is we are one of the weakest defense.

            When our young defense player are mature enough, we will have to pay them fair market value. Just watch how much Pietrangelo gets this year and Subban get next year. And these are RFA contracts, not UFA contracts.

        • DSF

          Expansion and relocation revenues are not part of HRR and instead go directly into the owners’ pockets thus having no impact on the cap.

          With the relative drop in the value of the Canadian dollar (currently 95 cents U.S). I doubt you see the cap break $65 million next season.

          It will certainly keep rising but not at the rate you’re predicting.

          James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail has studied the issue and made some educated projections:

          2013/14 $64.3M

          2014/15 $64.3M

          2015/16 $66.1M

          2016/17 $69.5M

          2017/18 $73.1M

          People tend to forget that the cap is based not only on HRR but also the player’s share of HRR which has now dropped to 50% from 56%.

          This season’s cap is artificially higher than it would otherwise be and is only at $64.3M because the union and league negotiated that number to prevent a huge number of players being forced out of the league.

          If you recall, the league wanted a cap of $60M which is likely close to what it would have been if not artificially inflated.


          • pkam

            I have read from another source that even at 50% of HRR, the cap will be around 70M in 14-15 and close to 80M in 16-17. Not as rosy as 2004Z06 believes, but better than James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    Ference is here for 4 years, J.Schultz will sign with the Oilers long term after this year (sorry Canuck fans, he’s NOT signing there), and it remains to be seen if N. Schultz stays beyond this year, or even part of it. and Smid and Petry aren’t a guarantee either, though you can’t replace all the vets with kids, so i’d like to see Smid stay. the Oilers will make room for Klefa and Nurse, but eveyone else in the system is likely trade bait, though not all WILL be traded.

    i don’t know if Fedun, Simpson, Davidson, Gustafsson or Laleggia have futures here or not.

  • 916oiler

    Nurse and Klefbom. Their names kinda sound like good cop bad cop. Except they’ll both destroy you and your face. The Canucks will be diving from 10 feet away.

  • The Soup Fascist

    JW, how much of a concern is it that ALL the high end D prospects are lefties?

    As the speed picks up from junior to minor pro to the NHL – the less time you have to make a subtle body turn to change an angle, or the little less mustard on a backhand pass or time it takes to reposition a puck – can bite you in the a$$.

    Am I over-valuing the fact that at the next level we are going to need some “righties”. One saving grace is two younger guys, Justin Schultz and Petry are righties and should be around awhile.

  • The Soup Fascist

    I fully agree about elder Schultz. It would suprise me to see him here after 2014 trade deadline. Thats when they would move Klefbom up to the Oilers. My thoughts though were who gets moved to make room for Marincin and Nurse. In 2015-16 I can fully see Ference getting moved down to third paring. I don’t think thats out of line at all.

  • Tikkanese

    Can someone explain all the Petry love? I just don’t see it. I hope I’m wrong on him but he seems to be the prototypical Mac-T “at best he’s a non-factor”.

    I’m sure there will be a cherry picked advanced stat or two to “prove” me wrong though.

  • oilerjed

    @ Jonathan Willis

    Off topic of this article but nowhere else to ask the question, and you would probably have the better oppourtunity to voice a suggestion.
    With the news of Burke in Cowtown, the battle of Alberta probably just got a little more interesting. How about the two AB teams put some stakes on the season series? Say the team who loses the series the previous year has too fly the winning teams flag at thier HQ on EDM/CGY gamedays. Or something like that. Shame sometimes is a great motivator, good for marketing as well. Who knows?

  • ubermiguel

    Burke hates RFA offer sheets…when they’re used against him. Any GM in the league would use one if it’s to their advantage. The loss of high picks is rarely worth it though.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Maybe now that there’s a new chief in Calgary, all Oil/Flames history could be out the window.

    Monahan probably won’t be making the Flames this season now. What would the Oilers have to give up to get their hands on Monahan afterall…..Gags and N.Schultz, since we’re a couple yrs from making the post season anyways.

    Burke will be all about making a significant impact his first year in Calgary. He could do something silly.

    • 719

      I don’t understand the constant desire to trade a bird in hand for two in the bush. How many 23 years olds have done what 89 has done, let along an 18 year old who was drafted a few month ago. The road from draft pick to bonafide NHL player is long and perilous. Once you reach the end with one player, why restart with another?

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    This attitude that you absolutely need an elite top-tier goalie to win games continues to baffle me.

    Corey Crawford has made it to the conference finals twice in the past 3 years and he’s – for all intents and purposes – identical to Devan Dubnyk.

    Sure it helps, but some people here seem to think that icing a team with an average goaltender is the hallmark of a GM who’s letting the fans down.

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

    I’m thrilled that Burkie is running the show in Calgary ….Helps bring back the Battle of Alberta in a big way…Right at a time when we’re poised to dominate….

  • Spydyr

    Battle of the Barn can finally happen between Lowe and Burke. With the Chitshow in Cowtown and Torts in Vancity the Oilers sideshow can hide under the radar for awhile.

  • pkam

    I like the idea of Nurse spending two more seasons in the minors. He is still a raw talent with lots of room to fill out. This also gives us an opportunity to sort out the pretenders and contenders in the pipeline of defensemen. Having a top 4 dman on an entry level contract in a few seasons could be a real big help for us when it comes to staying under the cap.

  • otter2233

    Caught the Oilers feed and felt starved for Oiler action . Got our butts kicked , and final score flattered us . Best Oilers were Bunz and Ewanyk , followed by Gernat and Musil . Klefbom and Nurse duo was terrible unfortunately , with Marincin equally as bad .Flames rookies showed a lot better than ours did . Depressing to watch .

  • 719

    In relation to the cap, we know this past season:

    Renaud Lavoie reports via Twitter “Escrow for NHL players should be around 17 % for the 2013 season. HRR estimate at $2.2 Billion

    Based on these numbers, for the 2013-2014 nhl season the cap for each team would have been 58.2 million (rather than the negotiated 64 million) taking into account the new CBA and the 50/50 split for HRR.

    What kind of growth can the NHL legitimately expect with the Canadian dollar dropping? I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the cap next year (2014-2015) stays at the 64-66 million range (this would require 10% growth in HRR over the lockout shortened year), and moves up roughly 10% a year at maximum each subsequent year

    FYI in the 2011-2012 season, the NHL made 3 billion. Which means each team would have had roughly a 50 million cap for the 2013 lockout shortened season.

    The growth during the lockout shortened season coincides nicely with the 10% growth rate a year.