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
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.