A year from now, Tyler Bunz (in photo by Rob Ferguson, all rights reserved) will have completed his entry-level deal. Edmonton will make a decision on Bunz and several other free agents—restricted and unrestricted—as they clean house and get ready to add another group of entry level players. Here’s a quick look ahead at what might happen with Edmonton’s ‘bubbling under’ prospects in 2015.
- Tyler Bunz, contract expires at end of the 2014-15 season (RFA). Bunz has played 50 ECHL and six AHL games during the entry level portion of his contract (two seasons gone). Bunz recently made news by starring in an Australian (yes, Australian) hockey tournament. (Source)
- Bunz has struggled during his pro career, but goalies are funny in that development can sway wildly during the formative years. A strong 2013-14 is vital to his future, and he’ll need to perform very well in training camp (Oilers have miles too many goalies ).
- Frans Tuohimaa, contract expires at end of the 2014-15 season (RFA). Finnish goaltender performed well at lower levels in his home country a year ago, but struggled in the SM-Liiga. Played one AHL game and impressed, but he’s a complete wildcard. Edmonton will need an answer before making a decision on him next summer.
- Brandon Davidson, contract expires at end of the 2014-15 season (RFA). The hardest thing for fans to do is project defensive defensemen moving forward. Anecdotal information is the best we can do, with Jason Gregor’s recent conversation with Rocky Thompson an idea opportunity.
Jason Gregor: Last week, Rocky Thompson said that of the other D-men who played in OKC
last year, Davidson is the next in line for a promotion. He liked his
defensive game and expected Davidson to get some PP time this year to
show off his offensive talents. Source
- Brad Hunt, contract expires at end of the 2014-15 season (RFA). Hunt is a really interesting prospect, kind of under the radar but with a helluva story. After scoring 50 points in 66 AHL games (fifth among defensemen in the league), Hunt certainly showed enough to get an NHL look (and he did play in three Oiler games). Another season like 2013-14 and Edmonton will have to take a long look at Hunt as a legit NHL puck-moving option.
Other minor league RFA’s on the 50-man list who may be vulnerable a year from now include:
- RW Andrew Miller
- LW Curtis Hamilton
- RW Tyler Pitlick
Roman Horak would be on that list, but his jump to Europe means Edmonton retains his rights without sweating his presence on the 50-man list. It’s anyone’s guess about Horak as an NHL option, Edmonton traded Teemu Hartikainen this spring when he was in a similar position.
That’s six minor league rfa’s for 2015 offseason.
NHL/AHL UFA’S NEXT SUMMER
- L Jesse Joensuu
- D Jeff Petry
- G Viktor Fasth
- C Will Acton
- R Steve Pinizzotto
- G Richard Bachman
- L Ryan Hamilton
Added to the six minor league rfa’s that’s 13 slots that could be available (if Edmonton flushes all players, which is extremely unlikely).
POSSIBLE 2015 PRO GRADS
- D Darnell Nurse. 2013 first-round selection will turn 20 and Oilers will need to make room. He’s already signed—his contract will slide if he doesn’t make the team this fall—and he’ll be in the NHL or AHL in 2015-16.
- C Leon Draisaitl. 2014 first-round selection is unsigned, but that could change at any minute. Draisaitl has a great chance of making the Oilers this fall.
- L Marco Roy. 2013 second-round pick will turn 20 in November and will be ready to turn pro in the spring. This time next season, we’ll likely be discussing his AHL future.
- L Anton Slepyshev. 2013 third-round selection is 20 and may be ready to come over a year from now. Will there be room?
- R Jackson Houck. 2013 fourth-round pick turns 20 in February. He scored 34 goals in the WHL this past season and looks on track as a prospect.
- C Kyle Platzer. 2013 fourth-round selection turns 20 in March. Platzer is a lesser offensive player, but does have a strong reputation as a two-way center. A strong season in the OHL may mean Edmonton signs him.
- D Ben Betker. 2013 sixth-round pick took a step forward based on reports and boxcars. Interesting prospects, I bet they sign him.
- R Greg Chase. 2013 seventh-round pick looks rock solid as an NHL prospect. Hard to imagine Edmonton passing on signing him.
- R John McCarron. 2012 sixth-round pick turns 23 next spring. What’s more, he’ll graduate from Cornell and be eligible to turn pro with the Oilers. Will they sign him?
- D Joey Laleggia. 2012 fifth-round selection turns 23 in June 2015. He’s entering his season year in college at U. Denver this fall, and will be ready to turn pro next year.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
For Bunz, Tuohimaa, Davidson and Hunt, there’s one more year to show enough to get another contract. If they do—and there are signs that Davidson and Hunt are already accomplishing some of these goals—the Oilers will be forced to cull the herd in a different manner.
Perhaps they’ll trade some players for picks, or maybe let Bachman go if Bunz or Tuohimaa perform. When I looked at things one year ago, it was fairly certain Ales Hemsky, Ryan Smyth, Nick Schultz and Cameron Abney would be gone from the roster by now.
I also stated Devan Dubnyk and Toni Rajala needed to ‘keep doing what they’re doing’ which is, perhaps, the kiss of death. Last year’s story
(all photos by Rob Ferguson, all rights reserved).