And we’re back! It seems like only yesterday (that’s a lie) we gathered together to count down the best prospects in the Oilers system heading into fall. A year ago, the three best prospects were defensemen and six of the top 10 patrolled the blue.
A lot has changed in 12 months.
- No. 20 (not ranked last summer) G Laurent Brossoit, Oklahoma City Barons AHL. Posted a .923 SP in Bakersfield, and has earned the right to push Richard Bachman in OKC this fall. Goalies are like knuckeballs, you just have to wait for them to land. Jury is out.
- No. 19 (#17 last summer) D Brandon Davidson, Oklahoma City Barons AHL. Turned a corner mid-season and appears to have a chance to make some inroads in the NHL. He’s fighting an uphill battle (there are a large number of D on this list) but there’s a chance.
- No. 18 (not ranked last summer) G Zach Nagelvoort, Michigan Wolverines, NCAA. Nagelvoort had a .929SP in a damn good league last season, and he could be one year away from turning pro. I have him ranked as the best goalie in the system—which should concern the Oilers—and we can probably predict additional goaltenders being added via college free agency and the draft in 2015.
No. 17 (not ranked last summer) D William Lagesson, Dubuque Fighting Saints USHL. Described as being physical and
defensively sound, Stu MacGregor made special note of his ruggedness in the moments after the draft. The Oilers need that player, but this fellow is miles away from the NHL.
No. 16 (#9 last summer) L Anton Slepyshev, Ufa KHL. The slick Russian winger
needs to play more this coming season and post some boxcars. It’s
frustrating to see a talent like his not getting to see the light of day
as an everyday player. I hope the Oilers bring him over next season.
- No. 15 (#11 last summer) D David Musil, Oklahoma City Barons AHL. I spoke to an NHL scout when Musil was a member of the Oil Kings and he expressed doubt Musil could play a full season in the AHL with his lack of foot speed. Well, Musil did it first time out, and drew positive reviews across the board. The skating is an issue, but this man can play defense and is very physical. He may be an NHL player by the end of his entry-level deal.
- No. 14 (#15 last summer) L Mitchell Moroz, Oklahoma City Barons AHL. Moroz arrives at the pro level after a strong final year in junior. He scratches an organizational itch for a big, physical forward and could surprise in his first year in Oklahoma City. The competition on the wing at the AHL level is less than overwhelming.
- No. 13 (not ranked last summer) R Tyler Pitlick, Edmonton Oilers. He’s such a strong ‘saw him good’ prospect even some of the math people are onside despite lukewarm results in pro hockey. I’ve always liked him, and believe he’ll begin to establish himself as an NHL player this season.
No. 12 (#12 last summer) R Jackson Houck, Vancouver Giants WHL. Big power
forward is a year behind him, but may end up out-Morozing Moroz when all is said and done. He’ll be playing under a new coach this season and could post 40+ goals if things break right.
- No. 11 (#4 last summer) C Marco Roy, Quebec Remparts QMJHL. He’ll come to rookie camp without a contract, and it’s likely he’ll play an overage season in junior. For a second round pick that’s unusual, but the injuries a year ago played havoc on him, and the Oilers may feel they sped up the process too quickly on Pitlick and Hamilton in a similar situation. Absolutely needs a killer season.
- No. 10 (#5 last summer) D Martin Gernat, Oklahoma City Barons AHL. One of my favorite prospects in the system, watching him grow as a player with the Oil Kings was a pleasure. Posted a solid rookie AHL season and is now a legitimate pro prospect. It’ll be a grind, but he has a very nice range of skills and (based on anecdotal evidence) significant determination.
- No. 9 (#6 last summer) C Jujhar Khaira, Oklahoma City Barons AHL. I badly want to place him higher, but Khaira’s lack of offense appears to be real. I’d guess that he’s more likely to play in the NHL than some of the men ahead of him on this list, but he projects as a 3-4C at the top end. He’s a perfect fit for the Oilers as the heir apparent to Boyd Gordon.
- No. 8 (#7 summer last summer) D Dillon Simpson, Oklahoma City Barons AHL. Dillon Simpson makes the list this year at a very high number. Credit his development as a complete defenseman while in college. It’ll be interesting to see where he starts and ends on the Barons’ depth chart.
- No. 7 (not ranked last summer) C Mark Arcobello, Edmonton Oilers. Arcobello clearly has the confidence of management, reflected in the fact the club refrained from adding a potential 2C or 3C this summer. There’s significant evidence he can play a solid two-way game, with offense being the major red flag from here.
- No. 6 (#13 last summer) C Greg Chase, Calgary Hitmen WHL. Appears to be on a mission to make NHL scouts look like idiots. Taken in the 7th round of the 2013 draft, he flourished in his draft +1 season and earned an invite to World Junior camp. He scored twice in the first exhibition game of the 2014-15 season and is absolutely a quality NHL prospect.
- No. 5 (#8 last summer) C Bogdan Yakimov, Oklahoma City Barons AHL. He was Bogdan when Bogdan wasn’t cool. Big Russian impressed a lot at WJ’s and in the KHL last season, and will attempt to do the same in the AHL in 2014-15. I’m not certain the KHL and AHL are on the same level, but we’re about to find out.
- No. 4 (#2 last summer) D Oscar Klefbom, Oklahoma City Barons AHL. I have him here, suspect the Oilers like him more because of his defensive acumen. Klefbom is strong, physical, can move the puck and is an outstanding skater. Since his skills don’t lend themselves completely to the numbers, and since my list relies heavily on them, there’s a chance he’s underrated here.
- No. 3 (#3 last summer) D Martin Marincin, Edmonton Oilers. Marincin arrived in the NHL before first-round pick Klefbom and flourished. The question now: How long can he hold the lead? I’m guessing it’ll be for some time, and Marincin will have the better career but this is going to be close.
No. 2 (#1 last summer) D Darnell Nurse, Sault Ste. Marie OHL. If you look at the NHL
Oilers today, this young man has a spot waiting for him in the ‘complete
defenseman’ portion of the roster. The only question left is when will he arrive? I’d guess at least nine games this fall, and then we’ll see from there.
No. 1 (not ranked last summer) C Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers. This is going to be fun. Jason Gregor
has him at 215 pounds now, that’s one monster teenager. There are no
guarantees in life, but this young man has an enormous chance to make
the fall Oilers. He’s in the city working on making that happen, and you
have to love the work ethic.
- Graduating from the list: Anton Belov
- Demoted from the list: Daniil Zharkov, Andrew Miller, Erik Gustafsson, Kale Kessy
- No Longer in the organization: Taylor Fedun
- Total Goaltenders: 2
- Total Defensemen: 8
- Total Centermen: 6
- Total Wingmen: 4
- Areas of strength: defense, center (the organization has done well addressing these weaknesses)
- Areas of weakness: goaltending, two-way wingers
All Barons’ photos by Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved.