The Defencemen of the 2011 Draft

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One of the items not often commented on in the enthusiasm over the reworked Oilers defensive depth chart is the lack of established call-up options behind Oscar Klefbom. Edmonton is going to be leaning on the kids if injuries strike, and disproportionately those kids were taken in the 2011 Draft.

Edmonton has seven experienced NHL defencemen on the NHL roster, and the option of keeping Darnell Nurse out of training camp rather than sending him back to junior. When injury hits that group, as it always does, this is what the team is holding in reserve:

  • Oscar Klefbom, drafted 19th overall in 2011: 132 games professional experience, 17 NHL games
  • Brad Hunt, signed as an undrafted free agent in 2013: 148 games professional experience, 3 NHL games
  • Brandon Davidson, drafted 162nd overall in 2010: 106 games professional experience, 0 NHL games
  • David Musil, drafted 31st overall in 2011: 64 games professional experience, 0 NHL games
  • Martin Gernat, drafted 122nd overall in 2011: 60 games professional experience, 0 NHL games
  • Jordan Oesterle, singed as an undrafted free agent in 2014: 4 games professional experience, 0 NHL games
  • Dillon Simpson, drafted 92nd overall in 2011: 0 games professional experience, 0 NHL games

I’ve ranked these players by the amount of professional experience they have; arguably this shortchanges the college defenders who have been generally playing against older opponents than the skaters coming out of junior.

It’s an interesting list. Klefbom is a blue-chip prospect; we know he’s likely to make the jump to the NHL at some point next season and he’s a good bet to stay there for the next decade. Hunt is a veteran presence; an older offensive defenceman who at 5’9”, 188 pounds is a longshot to generate enough to offset his size deficiencies (though his offence and ability to play the right side likely factored into the Fedun decision).

The 2011 Draft

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It’s also a list that draws on the Oilers’ work at the 2011 Draft. Of the seven players listed above, four were taken in late June in St. Paul, Minnesota in the picks following the selection of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Aside from Nugent-Hopkins, these four represent the heart of that 2011 group; the other four players picked include two longshot prospects (Travis Ewanyk and Frans Tuohimaa), one unsigned bust (Samu Perhonen) and one player traded away for reasons that remain unclear (Tobias Rieder).

We’ve talked about Klefbom, the first round pick, but for me the more interesting names on that list are the ones taken deeper in the draft; not because they’re likely to be better but because they’re all tracking pretty well and represent an opportunity for the Oilers to get the kind of value deeper in the draft that they have yet to find during the Stu MacGregor scouting era.

David Musil is the most controversial player on the list, a big, strong defenceman who is one of those few lefties who fits naturally on the right-hand side of a defence pairing. His rookie professional season went pretty well, and his occasional troubles with mobility and speed didn’t cost him at the AHL level. There’s a pretty decent chance he sees his first NHL action in 2014-15 and right now he’s on track.

It’s impossible not to compare Martin Gernat with Martin Marincin; both are tall, lanky Slovaks and both played a fairly high-risk offensive game as rookies. I’d put Gernat a touch behind Marincin at the same age but he’s definitely a player to watch. With a good summer it’s not out of the question that he passes everyone other than Klefbom on that list above as early as next season.

Dillon Simpson is a fascinating player because he’s one of those guys who has a reputation for doing lots of things well, and because those complaints about his skating are getting both quieter and more infrequent. We’ll know a lot more about him a year from now, after we’ve seen how he’s adapted to the professional ranks; he could climb in a hurry or fall back just as quickly.

It’s a nice group of players and by next summer we’ll be in a much better position to judge the Oilers’ haul at the 2011 Draft.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • I tried it at home

    Honestly, I could live with there being some depth in the organisation. Far better to have to argue about who stays and who gets sent down, then to have 3 or 4 real NHLers and a stable full of… nothing. So we have a lot of real, actually promising players coming up? Sweet, fight it out for training camp invites, boys.

  • BobbyCanuck

    I really liked brad hunt. I think his offensive instincts and superior defensive prowess compared to Schultz makes jultzy expendable.

    It’s nice to know there’s finally some legitimate D prospects in the cupboards, but it gets sad knowing that the oilers are not only counting on them, but have every egg they could find in that basket.

    • pkam

      Really?

      I saw him in the show and he looked nervous and lacked poise

      nice potential , but he’d be lucky to be as good as Marc-Andre Bergeron let alone trade Schultz, geez that’s a stretch at best …

      • pkam

        He’s played 3 games so I’m sure he was nervous. He brings offense and more reliable defensively than Schultz(mind you laying a stick on the ice would be more defensively reliable than Shultz)

        Basically I just like taking shots at Jultz whenever I can as often as I can. But Hunt looked real good last preseason. I think he’d be a good 2nd unit pp option and easy minutes ozone starts bottom pair guy. Obviously you’d want better, but for an undrafted player I think hunt is a gem

    • Rdubb

      I have a question; where did you come up with your first paragraph? Can you please give something to back-up your claim? Because to me, this is just something that was thrown into right field without any real data to back it up…it’d be like me saying “Gagner shouldn’t have been traded because he was the most defensively responsible centre the Oilers had on their team”…now, how can I honestly say that without backing it up, I just sound silly is all, do you not agree with my assessment?

  • Young Oil

    I know there is a lot of criticism about the Musil pick, and possibly rightfully so, but I ran across this when looking at another player who is viewed as a much better prospect:

    David Musil: 6’4” 203 lbs

    Final Season of Junior: 48 GP, 7-16-23 (0.479PPG), 56 PIM, +29

    Biggest criticism is skating.

    Griffin Reinhart: 6’4” 204 lbs

    Final Season of Junior: 45 GP, 4-17-21 (0.467 PPG), 55 PIM, +20

    Biggest criticism is skating.

    It’s really hard not to see the similarities of these two players, and yet one was taken #4 OV and is considered by many to be a great prospect, and the other was taken #31 OV and is considered a bad pick. Now, I’m not sure if these numbers represents Musil well or Reinhart poorly (or both), but they appear to be incredibly similar players from a size and boxcars standpoint.

    • YakCity1039

      It’s only criticized because there were better players available: Boone Jenner, John Gibson (How he ended up with ANA at 39 is beyond me), Brandon Saad. I like Musil though, reminds me of Jason Smith.

      • pkam

        The same can be said about Reinhart because now we know there were better players available, Jacob Trouba at 9th overall, Tomas Hertl at 17th overall, Olli Maatta at 22nd overall. And by the same time next year, there will probably be more.

        This is what scouting is, sometimes you win sometimes you lose. I think Stu has been pretty good overall.

      • Craig1981

        You are right, and ironically not one person you listed is a dman……the position a lot of people were criticizing the Oilers were not taking earlier the last several years.

        Damned if you do, damned if you don’t

    • BobbyCanuck

      Griffin Reinhart is a good prospect by you gotta remember he NYI offered CBJ all 7 of their picks to move up two spots to pick Murray and CBJ said no. They don’t know much about Reinhart. Although a good prospect he isn’t predicted to be a top two defenceman. But all the same your comparison of him and Musil is interesting. Reinhart will be a better player but shouldn’t of went that high I’m going to guess.

    • YakCity1039

      You really have to see Musil play in person. It’s not pretty. He frequently gets blown by players when they enter the zone. I will admit this is based on 3 OKC games I watched and i’m no pro scout but he definitely stood out and not in a good way. Those boxcars look similar but Reinhart is miles away a better prospect.

  • YakCity1039

    I don’t understand why people continue to say Ewanyk is a longshot to make the NHL. I think he can be a defensive specialist, in the mold of a Boyd Gordon, Jay McClement, Manny Malhotra. A guy who will win key face-offs, kill penalties. If you take a look at Malhotra, he didn’t exactly put up points early in his career. It wasn’t until his 7th season in the NHL where he started putting up respectable numbers. Gotta be patient with Ewanyk.

    • Let’s make that comparison.

      In his draft year, Manny Malhotra scored 51 points in 57 games. In his junior career Travis Ewanyk scored 59 points in 185 games. Now, you’ll say ‘but these are defensive players’ and that’s the point – Malhotra was able to do all the shutting down Ewanyk did plus score at 3x the rate in junior.

      Now, Malhotra ended up mostly being a third-line player in the NHL, despite having 3x as much offence as Ewanyk. How is Ewanyk going to play that same third line role when he couldn’t hold a candle to Malhotra in junior?

      If you can’t check and score at the junior level, the odds are you aren’t a good enough hockey player to check in the NHL.

  • I tried it at home

    We are starting to see the results from better drafting and having our own system of development. Kudos to Todd Nelson and Oiler management for building a solid farm system to groom our prospects. It should payoff for the future although we are still suffering the effects from years of not having our own farm system. 2011 could end up being a vintage year.

  • YakCity1039

    The single biggest reason imo why we are taking longer to compete is because we never had a proper development system ie no farm team for years. The cupboard is getting stocked and within a couple of years there will be serious competition for jobs at every level. It is already there for the Defense and won’t be long before the forward cupboard is also stocked well .

    I thought Musil played really well in the playoffs this year and will defiantly be considered for call up this season. Gotta say though I am high on Gernat and really liked that pick. I remember watching his skating ability at a young age and said we have a great prospect there. He is the one D I hope we don’t trade.

  • YakCity1039

    As someone else pointed out that results of drafting have improved in the last couple of years, only if Katz would keep his nose out of the choices and stick to peddling drugs, might be further ahead.

    I think that Nurse will be the star out of the bunch. Second coming of Pronger.

  • pkam

    David Musil and the other defensive defenseman need to be celebrated in Oilerville as much or more than the so-called offensive defensmen. Without defensive D this team could have 4 superstar forwards all named Sydney Crosby and we will not win enough. In all of this change and growth these guys have to get a fair chance to succeed!

  • Craig1981

    Is it worth while waiting for our system to produce a 1-2 defenseman ? Very few overpays play up to contract expectations . We have been fortunate a majority of times that major players we have gone after never ended up signing her . Example: Heatley and Nylander whose careers have plummeted . Vanek I doubt would have lived up to what we offered . So i’d be prudent not to take an older veteran that are likely on the downside . We should go after one that has an upside still to come . Phaneuf is one that maybe should be avoided as he does not appear to be getting any better . Nurse , Marincin and Klefbom may fill that void in next year or two . Perhaps J.Schultz and Petry can elevate as well . Big names do not always turn into better results.

  • Spoils

    This article really drives home the point that any future picks on D are a LONG time away. If we consider our “core” and the timeline they are on, we will need to make a BIG acquisition on D (UFA or trade).

    Look at most cup winners and you will find HUGE D stars:

    – Doughty, Keith, Chara, Lidstrom, Pronger

    This long term D move and the immediate need for depth at center are really huge.

  • That D isn’t very deep at all. I can’t even imagine it without Nikitin and Fayne. It points to the fact that trading Petry (or ANY real live flesh and blood NHL d-man) right now would be counterproductive.

    I vaguely remember reading somewhere that a typical club uses 11 or 12 d-men throughout the course of a year.

    Who knows, maybe the AHLers will stand up and be counted like Marincin did.

    Still, rolling the dice like that and hoping everything turns out for the best surely isn’t a winning strategy…

    But hey, whattyagonnado?

    • I just don’t think it’s that easy to build a complete team in the new cap era. LA is probably the best example of a complete team, but you have guys like Gaborik taking less than full value to stay on the team. On the other hand a team like Chicago is already in real trouble, but next year is going to be a disaster.

      Edmonton has some holes, but so do most other teams in the west. Dallas for example now has two great top two lines, but a quick look at there back end shows that team has some big holes. And their goalie is certainly a starter, but is by no means a Vezina.

      St Louis is another great example of getting better during free agency, but now has to rely on Elliot as their number 1. And the ducks arguably lost everything young and developing after getting Kesler.

      I just see a lot of holes everywhere, and the Oilers are no different I suppose.

        • The Last Big Bear

          That’s fine, but bing loaded with young developing talent is not the same thing as being loaded with actual NHL players, ala the Kings. By my eye they replaced Bonino and Perreult with Kesler and Heatly. I’m not completely sure that’s an upgrade.

  • The Last Big Bear

    I had assumed that this is where Kieth Aulie was going to slot into the depth chart.

    He’s big, cheap, and while he’s questionable as an NHL-level talent, he can fake it for brief periods if nobody looks too closely.

    Good call-up material.

    Ever since first seeing him in the YoungStars tourney a few years ago, I’ve always been very high on Klefbom. The couple of OKC and Oilers games where I’ve seen him since then have reinforced that impression. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say he’s a blue-chip guy, but thats mostly just semantics, he’s got NHL-level talent for sure.

    If it were up to me, I’d be giving Klefbom the depth minutes in the NHL, and Aulie would be the call-up. I think Klefbom would be better served honing his game during “easy” minutes in the big show, while Aulie has very limited upside at the NHL level. It’s hard to shelter defencemen at the NHL level, and think those sheltered minutes are a precious resource for developing players which would be mostly wasted on Aulie.

      • The Last Big Bear

        To be honest, I don’t really see that as much of a problem.

        He can get 10-15 mins/night when somebody is injured (which will be much/most of the time), and 5-10 ish minutes of spot duty when the whole roster is healthy.

        And unlike many others, I think that if all other things are equal a defenceman is probably better off playing shorter minutes in the NHL, than big minutes in the AHL. They face better competition, they train and practice with better players, better facilities, better staff, better schedule, etc, and they have the security of a roster spot in the big show. For a position where you want calm people, I think the security of a roster spot is a good thing.

        I also think defencemen are the ones who suffer the least from being rushed.

        Just my opinions on the topic.

        • pkam

          Not sure how you get to the conclusion that defensemen are the ones who suffer the least from being rushed.

          What devastates a player most during development? I would assume that the puck is in your net when you make a mistake. So I think the closer to the net the worse. Vase on this assumption, the goalie would suffer the most from being rush, then the defensemen, then the centers, and wings are last.

          A 7th D probably gets to play a game every 3-4 games and get about 10-12 min TOI. 10 min every 3-4 games works out to be 3-4 min a game. How is this going to help his development? 3rd pairing, not 7D, will be much better scenario for development, IMO.

          • The Last Big Bear

            Different players respond to different things, some hate getting scored on, some hate losing battles, some hate being embarrassed, etc. But if they’re being rushed or played over their head, they all have the same effect.

            The result is that they either a) become more conservative and overy cautious, or b) get numb and stop caring..

            Both of these are terrible for forwards. And both of them are catastrophic for goalies.

            But getting an ingrained habit of being overly conservative is not really much of a handicap to a young defenceman, because its probably what he should be doing anyways.

            It can still ruin defencemen, for example I think it’s what happened to Ladislav “flip it ahead” Smid. But I think it’s less likely to result in a truly high-end talent ending up playing in Zagreb.

            Again, just my take. Worth what you paid for it.

        • That’s an interesting take.

          Klefbom’s probably going to average 20-25 minutes per game in the AHL as the Barons’ top left D. He’ll get time on the penalty kill, and he’ll probably get some time on the PP too. He’ll be relied on in critical situations – in the last minute of a game, pushing for a lead or defending one.

          The facilities in OKC are quite good, and the coaching staff has had good results and has an existing relationship with the player.

          All else being equal, I like the idea of Klefbom starting the year in the AHL.

    • The Last Big Bear

      Really good points, klefbomb did say he found the NHL easier because it was more predictable as to where the other players would be. I think he is better suited for the NHL, but we shall see.

  • The Last Big Bear

    Oh, and I agree 3rd pairing is the best place for Klefbom’s development, which is where the #7 guy will be any time there is an injury.

    I’m really only saying that he should be getting NHL minutes in preference to Aulie, even if there is some question as to which player is currently better.

    And I’m sure if you asked Klefbom, he’s rather be playing #7 mins in the NHL than #1 mins in the AHL. Keeping players happy has a role to play as well.

    A side benefit of keeping him happy is the leg workout he’ll get from carrying an extra couple of hundred thousand dollars in the wallet, which never hurt a long-term relationship.

  • The Last Big Bear

    As a 19 year old David Musil was pushed down to a 5-6 defenceman with the Oilkings in the late season and thru their playoff run. His skating was horrible even at the junior level. Having Frank as a scout got him where he is more than his playing ability.

    Has everyone forgot Brad Hunts 3 games last year already? I actually felt sorry for him, he was in so far over his head it wasnt funny.

  • Young Oil

    Hunt/Fedun

    Thanks for that reference. I didn’t understand why they let Fedun walk. I thought maybe his performance stalled and I’m hoping he makes it to the NHL some day.