We were discussing Brandon Davidson’s signing on my show earlier today, and I ranked him #10 on the Oilers depth chart. One of our listeners, David, texted in and asked me to rank the Oilers top-nine.
It was a good question, and one I’m sure will cause much debate.
Here are my rankings, but with an explanation about the system I am ranking them on.
This is not a projection ranking on where I think they will be at the end of the year, it is solely based on where I rank them today. It will be hard to separate what we think they will become, but as of today, this is how I see it.
#1. Andrej Sekera. This one was easy. He is strong, smart with and without the puck and, when given the opportunity, he can help on the PP and can produce 5×5.
#2. Oscar Klefbom. I’m very bullish on Klefbom. He is the entire package. Big, strong, skates well, moves the puck and has good instincts. At the end of the year, I think many will consider him a legit top pairing defender. He isn’t now, but in my eyes, today, he is #2 on the Oilers.
#3. Mark Fayne. He is smart defensively. He proved in New Jersey he can play well against top forwards. His stats weren’t great last year, but I think that was a product of the system and the overall inexperience around him. He should get a heavy dose of defensive zone starts and be on the PK.
#4. Justin Schultz. Stop yelling. This is based on today. Schultz has NHL offensive instincts, is a good skater and has a very good snap shot. His defensive instincts are a concern and so is he consistency. Schultz was overused last year and that hurt him. He is still their best pure offensive D-man and that’s why I have him ranked here.
#5. Eric Gryba. He is a solid third pairing defender. He is physical in the corners, in front of net, will block shots and kill penalties. He played 16 min/game for the Senators in the playoffs last year. He is not flashy, but is reliable and should give them a consistent, reliable third pairing defender.
#6. Andrew Ference. I have him ahead of Nurse, today, only based on experience. Ference thinks the game well, can move the puck okay and is highly competitive. The concern is can he skate well enough? Playing fewer minutes (18:52/game last year) should help, but we will see early in the year if last year was just a case of him struggling with the system and team, or if he has indeed lost a step.
#7. Darnell Nurse. He has the most raw ability of any player on this list. He’s a phenomenal skater, he is mean, physical, aggressive, competitive and he is only 20 years young. I expect him to make the team, and I could see him near the top of this list by the end of the season, but I have him here because he still needs to prove it at the NHL level.
#8. Nikita Nikitin. His biggest issue is when he is bad he is so bad that even when he plays okay, all you think about are the horrendous plays he made the previous game. At certain times last year, he looked like he couldn’t turn, and others he looked like a competent third pairing defender. He has the most to prove.
#9. Griffin Reinhart. He didn’t dominate in the AHL last year. At times he was in the third pairing in the AHL. He has excellent hockey sense and his cardio is always off the charts, but he needs to improve his strength, especially in his lower body.He loves Edmonton and he will feel comfortable coming back to Edmonton. He is only 21, and will continue to improve, but he needs to improve his first two steps to play in the NHL.
#10. Brandon Davidson. He has potential to be a steady third pairing defender and a PK specialist. “I felt I could handle the size and strength of the players, but I need to get a step quicker,” Davidson told me today when I asked him what he needs to improve on to make the big club.
What are your rankings? Remember: not projections, just how things are today.
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