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


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 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.