hunt ferguson

Brad Hunt found a home with the Oklahoma City Barons in 2013-14, and this season he may do a little better than that with the Oilers organization. A team that ran through 14 defensemen a year ago will probably use close to a baker’s dozen this time. Who is most likely to see NHL time?



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The order doesn’t matter for our purposes, but the seven (eight) names are clearly projected to play in the NHL this season—ahead of the other defenders on the team’s 50 man list. As you know, Darnell Nurse has special circumstances, it’s NHL or OHL and no in between.


barons 14-15 blue

There are men who are not on the 50-man list that will be vying for AHL playing time this fall, but this is the group who should be in contention for NHL time.


When it comes to replacing (for injury) a player like Mark Fayne, NHL equivalencies can’t help. Fayne’s ability to make a difference in games is defensive, and NHLE measures only offense. That said, running all the prospects through the NHLE gives us a good idea about the most able offensive players who play the defensive position.

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As was the case with the forwards, I normally use two sources, Gabriel Desjardins and Rob Vollman.
Desjardins’ version of equivalencies have been around for over a decade
and are the standard. Rob Vollman’s came to the forefront after his
Hockey Abstract book was released last summer. For our purposes, I’ll
use .3 for the CHL, and Vollman’s guide for college, AHL and Europe.

Forwards NHLE is here.

NHLE FOR D 2014-15 (per 82gp)

  1. Brad Hunt 6-22-28
  2. Darnell Nurse 5-14-19
  3. Dillon Simpson 6-12-18
  4. Martin Gernat 3-13-16
  5. Jordan Oesterle 1-11-12
  6. David Musil 1-8-9
  7. Oscar Klefbom 1-8-9
  8. Brandon Davidson 3-5-8

Hunt is clearly the top offensive option, but that doesn’t mean he’d be the first callup. If Justin Schultz were injured, or the team needed a different look on the power play (remember Phil Larsen a year ago?) Hunt would certainly be the go-to guy.

Nurse’s NHLE suggests he’s going to be able to move the puck (which matches his resume) but the question surrounding his future is being NHL-ready. Dillon Simpson is closer, and college defensemen often spend less than a full season in the AHL after graduating from the NCAA, so he’s a possibility. Oesterle is in the same family of players, but is probably behind Simpson (we’ll see).

After that, it’s Gernat, Musil, Klefbom and Davidson. Gernat’s offensive ability is clear, but if he doesn’t get a lot of power-play time then the offense is going to look pedestrian (true of all Oilers defensemen this side of Paul Coffey).


Taking NHLE into consideration, but also understanding defense is so much more than the boxcars, here’s my guess for recall order:

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  1. Darnell Nurse (either he makes it or is back to the OHL)
  2. Oscar Klefbom
  3. Brad Hunt
  4. Brandon Davidson
  5. Martin Gernat
  6. David Musil
  7. Dillon Simpson
  8. Jordan Oesterle

We’ll take another look at this around Christmas, to see if men like Simpson and Oesterle have been able to move up the depth chart and become legit recall options. From Matt Greene to Jeff Petry, those college blue usually don’t take long.

(photo by Rob Ferguson, all rights reserved)

  • Jayz

    I have a feeling Shultz won’t be an Oiler when they drop the puck on the regular season.

    Problem with small d men as well as small forwards, if they aren’t generational talents and just play good enough to get by they are classified as tweeners. If puck skill, speed, and off/def ability is a wash between a guy that’s 5’9 180 pnds and someone else that 6’3 210pnds it doesn’t take a Tambo to know which player to have a roster spot for.

    • Jayz

      I think a pair of nikita and schultz will do better with fayne and ference together for defensive duties.

      When was the last time the oilers even remotely had a decent shutdown pair of D? Plus nikita is a lot bigger then ference. Which from what I saw was one of the problems with the ference/schultz pair last year. They got pushed around a bit.

      • Jayz

        Nikita’s #’s don’t lie. He has been on a steady decline for the last two years. Looking back on this year I think we will see this signing to be MacTs worst since Grebs except much worse since it’s a 2 year deal. I’m not saying to give Shultz away but teams pay for potential and why not move him along and get a solid name/names back before he has another sub par year that sees his value drop to Gagner levels.

    • billythebullet

      The fact that you so boldly state you expect Klefbom to outshine Marincin is enough in itself. You should go watch training camp and pay some close attention because your prediction has little merit. Marty does everything pretty well, and when he fills out into man size he’s going to be a handful for many a winger for years to come. Klefbom has nice size and strength but needs more time seasoning. He got absolutely lit up against the Golden Bears last fall…and I do mean lit up. Not convinced he’s as good as was projected on him, but is still young. I bet we see him traded.
      Fedun is imo, a legit NHL’r. Maybe not what the Oilers need, but I’m sure someone will see value in the smart steady game he plays. Puck movers have value, and he can pass. That was a terrible injury he suffered, and amazing he’s recovered. He was our best looking defender in the preseason prior to that injury.

      • Bob Cobb

        I like Marty and Klefbom but I think Klefbom is better and looked better at the end of the year. At the beginning of last year you are right, Marty was better. But no way he was at the end of last year. I hope both end up being solid dmen for us down the road but I think Oscar will pass him after getting a taste last year. If you want to talk about “when Marincin fills in” then we are talking a few years from now so I don’t see the relevance.

        As for Fedun, I don’t know what you were watching. He overcame a horrible injury. I’m glad he did and good for him for doing that. That doesn’t make him a better defenseman and he couldn’t play on a playoff team in this league.

        • 2004Z06

          The good news is we will get to find out if Fedun is an NHL player. The sharks signed him (if you didn’t know)…

          The facts are none of us know if he’s an NHL player. 4 games in the bigs with 2 goals is too small a sample size to say. I would suggest the Sharks will give him a shot and then we’ll know.

          Out of curiosity, what were you watching that makes you sure he ISN’T an NHL defence man?

        • 2004Z06

          It is very rare to see players become top pair D in NHL unless they produce at least 0.4 PPG at AHL level. Legit number 1 D do that while having a solid positive +/-. In the AHL Klefbom is 0.2 PPG (-8) in 48 gms, Gernat is 0.4 PPG (-12) in 57 gms, Marincin is 0.4 PPG (+30) in 94 gms.

    • billythebullet

      Disagree. I think Fedun was one of the most cerebral players in the Oilers organization and will find a home in the nhl. He even showed well in his call up stint last season scoring goals in back to back games. I was dissapointed to see him left unsigned by the club but my money is on him being an nhl defenceman.

  • Sevenseven

    So many people under estimate j Schultz. Peeps have to understand that without having the right guys to play with him his development will be slow. D take a long time. This yrs crop will be better for that, not much but enough. Give him time he’s a beauty! They trade him their trading a future Duncan Keith.

  • bazmagoo

    i liked the idea that was brought up about pietranglo, play nurse the 9 games but spread it out over 20-25 games, send him back for the world juniors and finish in the Soo. i’m a big fan of klefbom but moving back and forth between the ahl and nhl is probably his best path forward.

    nice to see a couple solid prospects and if we start to turn the corner this year, i think it’ll start getting easier to draw bigger named UFA’s next year to continue building a solid foundation

  • Sorensenator

    Schultz is the Oilers most gifted defenseman, to give up on him after 1.5 seasons is absurd. He is currently the only Oiler D man that can contribute offensively and that is crucial. Brad Hunt looks to be a good up and comer but we don’t have a sample size with him at the NHL level. Stay the course.

    Who were you going to get for J Schultz anyway?

  • Spoils

    again with Schultz as the last pair!

    I’m not saying he should be the top pair, but last year Marincin was getting 15min when Schultz was getting 25min (consistently first or second most time of any D).

  • Bob Cobb

    Fedun is an NHL defenseman just like Philip Larsen. Overcoming his injury was amazing but that doesn’t make him a better defenseman. Good for him for overcoming that but I am very glad he’s not on our blue line this year.

  • The Last Big Bear

    The only thing (as far as I know) that the 9 game limit impacts is whether or not you burn a year of ELC.

    If I was managing prospects like the Oilers have had, I’d place a much higher priority on developing them properly than I would on whether or not I can squeeze an extra year out of their ELCs.

    I don’t even think burning a year off the a player’s ELC is a bad thing. It means you are going to be renewing that player’s contract before he has accomplished as much.

    Let’s assume Nurse plays 9 games and goes back to Junior this year, followed by depth minutes in the NHL next year, middle pairing minutes in 2015-16, and top-pairing minutes in 2016-17. Strong and steady progression.

    They will then be offering a contract to a 24 year old top-pairing defenceman with 3 years of NHL experience. That will be expensive.

    If they started the clock on his contract this year by giving him 10 games, they would be renewing a 2nd year, middle pairing defenceman. That will be cheaper.

    If they had started the clock last year, they’d be renewing a bottom-pairing rookie. .

    And if the player doesn’t pan out, he either doesn’t get renewed, or he’ll be cheap to sign anyways.

    All I’m saying is, don’t sweat the ELC.

  • bazmagoo

    Loving the prospect depth on the blueline right now, such a bright spot in the organization. Oesterle was a nice freebie. Way to build some future depth MacT!

  • billythebullet

    J. Schultz has not impressed me yet, but he is still young and he really hasn’t been playing in an actual NHL quality lineup yet.

    I am very curious to see what happens this season with the addition of a serviceable NHL defence around him and some genuine puck possession players in the fwd ranks.

    If MacT actually lands a 2/3 centre before the season the Oil will have balance in the lineup. Im very curious to see what that will look like over 82 games… especially for players like Schultz.

  • I was rather underwhelmed with Brad Hunt’s cameo last year. I would think he is probably 10th on the Oil depth chart. Aullie, Klefblom and Davidson seem ahead of him at this point at 7,8 and 9. I put Davidson this high based on Rocky Thompson’s comments.

      • Jayz

        Well. We all know how to measure a winning team. More wins than loses, standings, and maybe playoffs.

        But clearly for all those Lowe and Mac T supporters, measurement of management has nothing to do with value.

        Here’s to another season in the basement.

      • Wax Man Riley

        That is a. Excellent question.

        I saw a scene on Mad Men, probably first episode, where they could no longer market the health benefits, so they didn’t know how to market it. Turns out there was a huge opportunity to market cigarettes as anything they wanted. This kind of reminds me of that scene.

        I’m not into it enough to do it, but to measure a defensive defenseman, you could make up any system you want. Corsi did it for a better plus/minus. A rating system comprised of size, +\-, Corsi, hits, blocks etc…

        It could be the Mitchell defensive scale.

      • Sevenseven

        Hell, if lt doesnt know it cant be solved.

        At the start of last season, I never read a single article about the oilers. 10 games in I was like most fans, calling for everyones head. The whole coaching staff, management, the scouting department, every one. I stumbled on oilers nation one night, and haven’t missed an article since. Guys like lt have really put it in perspective for me the perfect storm of errors this orginization has made, and what they are doing to try and fix it. They have some depth on the wings. They have a bunch of defensemen, albiet not a number 1. They have an Ahl team now, with some legitimate nhlers coming up (Marincin) They are also weak at center and I still believe goaltending could be a question mark.

        Thanks for making the last 8 years of suck a little better. And for giving me a realistic expectation for next year. Playoff here we come 2016.

      • billythebullet

        Pass completion percentage. Blocked shots vs shot on net, even strength goals against vs even strength goals for, scoring chances against vs scoring chances for, quality of comp and possession maybe a few things I might look at to rate a defence man.
        I would have included hits, but hits are probably the most inaccurate stat ever.

      • There are so many things to consider when evaluating defenders but I’d consider the most important to be:

        Possessions Ended (breaking up the opposition’s OZ possession and exiting the zone with possession)

        DZone Entries Prevented

        Ozone Entries completed

        Ozone Breakouts Prevented

        (All stats counted /60 mins)

  • Bob Cobb

    The Oilers have no plans of keeping Nurse past the 9 games this year. That’s why they brought in Nikitin, Fayne and Aulie, so they wouldn’t have to push young guys before they are ready. Marincin will be a regular, Aulie will be the 7th defenseman and Klefbom or Hunt will be the first call-up’s this year as needed.

    Nurse will go back to the Soo and than join the Barons once the Greyhounds season is over, much like last year, he’ll start next year in OKC and than will be the first call up a year from now.