The Edmonton Oilers are going to be doing some juggling soon, as Oscar Klefbom nears NHL readiness. There’s some pressure for Klefbom to graduate too, as a fairly substantial defensive queue is forming. "Stack ’em and Rack ‘Em" only works for so long, and after that you’ve got to play these kids, and the idea of three rookie blue (Nurse, Klefbom, Marincin) beginning at the same time is not an attractive one. How can Edmonton bring these guys in without going through an extreme period of transition?

(Martin Marincin. All Barons photos by Rob Ferguson, all rights reserved)

Back in September, I posted the top 30 prospects in the organization and noted the plethora of defenders at the top who are close to NHL ready. Looking at the top 5, four are defensemen and three of them (Nurse, Klefbom and Marincin) may be less than one year from being NHL ready. 

Nurse was a late cut from Oilers camp, having impressed a great deal and pushing for NHL employment. It isn’t a stretch to believe Nurse could be an NHL defenseman by this time next season. Nurse promised to go back to junior and dominate, and he’s added powerplay impact to his already impressive resume. 

  • Nurse when he was cut from the Oilers: "I was fuelled by the fact that so many people said I wasn’t good enough to keep up at this level. I proved a few people wrong, but I still have a lot of room to grow as a player and as a person." 

If we can agree there’s a chance Nurse makes the big club next September, then graduating Klefbom and Marincin to the NHL should (ideally) be staggered to allow each player a 20 game window before the next rookie blue arrives. For instance, if Klebom is called up after the trade deadline (a time for offloading veterans) that allows the club to graduate Nurse in September and Marincin would still be able to make the NHL grade during his entry level deal (although trades are certainly possible). 


This is the easy part. Whenever there’s an imminent graduation from the farm/junior, Oiler fans can easily identify the endangered players. The Oilers will offload:

  • Soon to be UFA’s: Nick Schultz, Anton Belov, Denis Grebeshkov, Corey Potter

The club is very likely to sign their two RFA’s (Jeff Petry, Justin Schultz) to lucrative deals and then add Ladislav Smid and Andrew Ference. Anton Belov is playing his way into the future, but after that things are less certain. 

The men unlikely to return? It’s perhaps too soon to tell in regard to Grebeshkov, Potter could return as an inexpensive 7D option and Nick Schultz is unlikely to return if we look at the depth chart and the salary cap side by side.



In writing this, I’m being unfair to men like Taylor Fedun, Brandon Davidson, Martin Gernat, David Musil and even college player Dillon Simpson, all of whom could impact the NHL depth chart in the next 12 months.

However, as I see it there are three arrivals we should be looking for on the blue in the next year: Darnell Nurse September 2014, Martin Marincin later in the 2014-15 season, and Oscar Klefbom some time this season.

Likely after the snow flies.

  • Jay Gray

    I know it was a small sample size, but I was not impressed with Klefbom in the preseason. But I’ll reserve judgement on account of the rust he must’ve had from missing so much time due to injury. I want to believe the hype.

    Nurse on the other hand I simply cannot wait for. He’s worth the price of admission, I subscribe to the hype surrounding this kid, he’s gonna be a beast.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    It will be 4 yrs since the Oilers drafted Simpson. Does he have the freedom in the spring to go to free agency like Justin Schultz did?

    See him along the lines of Keegan Lowe. He may want blaze his own trail, out for under dads shadow here in Edmonton.

  • Zarny

    Nurse should spend some time in the A for sure. Let Klefbom and Nurse duke it out next season for a third pairing spot.
    Petry Smid
    Belov Jshultz
    Ference Klefbom
    Larsen/Grebeshkov/potter/Nschultz/ I don’t care

    Bring marincin in to fill in for injuries. At some point a D will likely be out for twenty games or more, giving him a chance to stick. If he proves himself, move One of the bottom D out and rotate him clef and ference in and out of the lineup.

    Nurse arrives 2015, and finds a spot with Jschultz on the new first pairing. Patience is the key, it’s what detroit would do.There is a chance klefbom can replace smid by 2015, in which case you keep Belov.
    Nurse Jschultz
    Petry Smid
    Klefbom Marincin

    Keep in mind there is still alot of D talent that will be fighting for work. I still want to see a Slovakian Martin Twin Towers Pair. Gernat, Musil, Simpson, could all be pushing for work in 2015.

  • I like the order to be more like;

    Marincin – older, one more year as a pro
    klefblom- February so he can play lots of minutes in the AHL
    Nurse – 2014


    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      Holmgren does that trade he will be hung from the rafters. Its tantamount to giving up the season and admitting to a full on rebuild. Not going to happen in that market.

      Yaks value to me will grow as he learns to play all 3 zones. The OVi goal the other night was a prime example of how far Yak needs to grow.

      You be patient with a guy like Yak. He is so much different than RNH its like night and day. RNH had the fundamentals of defensive zone hockey already imbedded into his game. Whoever asked Yak to play in his own end?

      I love the progression were seeing. Even after a loss to Washington. The compete was there. The result was skewed imo because Holtby was enormous in net. Eberle is still wondering how he did not score. Dubnyk was fine. The D needs work. And don’t tell me the PP won’t score ever again. Better times ahead.

  • Eulers

    I’d like to see Nurse gain another year of experience in the AHL and do his growing pains there.

    On another note, I’m starting to feel like a New York Islanders fan.


    When’s the first peak at the lottery draft potentials column coming out, LT?

  • Mullet Man

    I see alot of comments on Nurse proving himself in the AHL next year.. As far as I know, Nurse would be to young for the AHL. He would either return to Junior whiched worked pretty good for Alex Pietrangelo (4th overall pick) and St. Louis or make the Oilers. I find myself asking, “What would Detroit do?”

    Let Nurse dominate juniors for 2 years, he’ll develope into the real deal..

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    “if Klebom is called up after the trade deadline (a time for offloading veterans)”

    Yes to both propositions.

    It is essential that Klefbom not be called up with a chance he can click by 40 games (regular season). This will preserve an extra year of RFA status.

    Not to mention it won’t hurt to have him spend some quality time in the AHL.

    One of Tambo’s big mistakes was not offloading dead weight for spare change at the deadline last year. With any luck we’ll see if MacT can stack the cupboards for the draft or find a useful NHL player.

    “The club is very likely to sign their two RFA’s (Jeff Petry, Justin Schultz) to lucrative deals and then add Ladislav Smid and Andrew Ference. Anton Belov is playing his way into the future, but after that things are less certain. ”

    Petry, Schultz and Belov are top priorities. I’d be meeting with their agents right now.

    “In writing this, I’m being unfair to men like Taylor Fedun, Brandon Davidson, Martin Gernat, David Musil and even college player Dillon Simpson, all of whom could impact the NHL depth chart in the next 12 months.”

    Simpson needs a contract. Fedun is call-up ready. I expect he stays with the team in that capacity (unless another team rolls the dice on him… unlikely). Davidson is in the same camp as Fedun. Gernat and Musil are still too far away to worry about IMO.

    The one other guy I have a question about is Larsen. He looked very good in preseason and seems to be playing well in OKC. He might get another contract (unlikely, but you never know).

    The wild cards are Hunt, Lalegs and Gusty-son. The Swede comes over next year IIRC. Unlikely he gets beyond the AHL level (might not ever get a contract), but you never know.

  • Spydyr

    So three rookie defencmen next year huh.Are you also predicting another lotto finish?What would that be nine in row?

    Must be some kind of record in futility.

  • Spydyr

    I can’t see more than 1 rookie next year because the Oilers defensively are pretty bad…4 goals per game against!!!!
    Can any of those AHL rookies play better than N Schultz? That would be the measure to force someone from OKC to the big team.

  • Spydyr

    For Sale – any offer accepted
    1 round trip flight from Charlotte, NC to Phoenix, AZ
    2 Edmonton Oiler vs. Phoenix Coyotes game tickets
    Rental car to and from phoenix and Los Angeles – gas and snacks included
    2 Edmonton Oiler vs. LA Kings game tickets (free beer)

    Must wear Calgary Flames hat due to giving up on your team for the 2735Serious inquiries only as owner is fragile state of mind …

  • Spydyr

    Belov is definitely in the mix. He has earned a 2 year deal IMO. N Schultz will be gone at the deadline. How many expiring contracts will be gone this spring? That is a factor when considering the plan for many of these kids. ‘Stating the Obvious’ alert – there are less defensemen signed per team as only 6-7 dress per night. The Oil are top heavy so can’t commit contracts to all of them. Need to have a few dress rehearsals to separate the wheat/chaff. I like Lowetide’s timeline/approach. Makes sense from this perspective.

        • Romulus' Apotheosis

          No way. 2 years at 2.75. He has done what? He and JS are on the same level and it is not a 4 million dollar level yet. JS and Petry need to be more consistent. JS is a wreck in his own zone. He gives away as much he gets in points. Petry has shown better arrows this season so far. More willingness to jump up into the play. But 4 million? No way.

          The Oilers can’t spend cap space on “might score” they need to spend cap space on will score.

  • Zarny

    File under first world problems.

    The Oilers have to look at trading some of their D prospects.

    Schultz still hasn’t played a full season and we’re talking about adding a raw rookie and another 2 D effectively still in their rookie campaigns to start next season?

    4 of 7 D with less than 130 games experience in a position that takes longer to develop? And it’s not like Petry is some grizzled vet with 167 games played.

    That’s insane. The D would be younger than the F; talk about putting the cart before the horse.

    I suspect Klefbom and Nurse are close to untouchable unless for a big name. Everyone else should be trade bait.

    The Oilers can’t afford to wait 4 years for the D core to be able to compete against real contenders.

    MacT needs to look at moving Marincin, Simpson and some of these prospects for a Braydon Coburn or some other D that brings similar physical skills but is 3-4 years further along in development.

    Aside from the fact all of the Oilers top 6 F are smaller than the league average; they struggle because they are young and inexperienced.

    You can’t couple them to an equally inexperienced D and expect them to finish anything but 12th.

  • OttawaOilFan

    Hey Lowetide, I know I’m late to the party so not sure if you (or maybe someone else) could answer this question: Is there a reason that “rookies” cannot play in the AHL due to age but CAN play in NHL? It would seem to me that an 18/19/20 yr old should be playing in the AHL if they would be too dominant for junior. I would think that maybe the NHL needs to look @ having young kids play in the AHL as opposed to OHL in order to grow more. And that the NHL would then have to grant “special permissions” for someone of that age to play in the bigs. Always perplexed me why it was ok to play in the NHL but in a “developmental” league like the AHL is off limits. For example, I would think that Nurse might benefit a more from playing in the A this year rather than in OHL. Even though he’s getting big minutes he’s (for lack of a better phrase) playing against lesser opponents. Just my $0.02. Wondering if you (or someone else) had some insight into this. Thanks. Sorry for the long post.

    • Zarny

      I believe it is actually the CHL that prevents this from occurring. There is a historical agreement that prevents a NHL team from sending a junior eligible player to the AHL. The CHL is big business and they don’t want all their talent in another league. Another case of ‘the suits’ determining what is best for the development of young men. Tragic.

  • Zarny

    Can’t come soon enough but your order maybe a bit different . No gurantee Nurse comes next Sept and not sure Klef beats Marinchin .Still expect a deal for a “D” by McT .This city is going to explode if we are a lottery team again .