It’s been a long 52 weeks for Oilers fans but if things break right we should be able to mock at least one division rival by Halloween (knock wood, salt over shoulder, Hail Mary full of Grace). As I do every August at the august Oilers Nation, here’s the current top 20 prospects bubbling under. Some of these young men are going to rock the NHL soon. VERY soon!
- No. 20 C Jujhar Khaira (No. 9 last summer). He is big, strong and has speed, wonder if he gets time as the F who blocks out the sun on the power play. There needs to be an offensive spike this year.
- No. 19 G Eetu Laurikainen (Not ranked last summer). He’s an option for the Oilers and they need good ones. No idea where he plays but remain convinced he’s a good bet.
- No. 18 R Tyler Pitlick (No. 13 last summer). In an era where the Oilers specialty seems to have been drafting players who look the part but can’t deliver, Pitlick’s double whammy (scoring and injury issues) have him perennially somewhere in or around this list. He looks good to me, hope he can put it all together this season.
- No. 17 D David Musil (No. 15 last summer). The Rodney Dangerfield of the Oilers prospect list, he’s continues to gain fans with a simple style and smart defense. His entry-level contract has seen mostly good arrows, he just might make the NHL.
- No. 16 D Brandon Davidson (No. 19 last summer). I don’t know anyone who cheers against this young man, and he has emerged as the best AHL defenseman in the system. I expect he’s going to get a strong chance at the roster this fall (waiver eligible) and may well push some of those overpaid veterans out of the way.
- No. 15 D Jordan Oesterle (Not ranked last summer). He’s a little higher than he should be based on performance, but the man has wheels and in today’s game that’s a big deal. Oesterle has to learn all kinds of things (his retrieval skills aren’t good enough) but he’s a good prospect.
- No. 14 R Andrew Miller (Not ranked last summer). One of the older prospects to ever appear on this list, Miller’s spike offensively in the AHL and impressive showing in an extended NHL look have him here. If the Oilers are looking for speedy wingers to play with all of these impact centers, Miller has to be on the list of options.
- No. 13 D Ethan Bear (Not ranked last summer). One difference between the ON August list and my top 20 at Lowetide: New picks tend to score lower at Oilers Nation. That said, I think this is a substantial NHL prospect with a range of skills and believe he’s going to surprise this coming season. A great draft pick for the Oilers.
- No. 12 D Dillon Simpson (No. 8 last summer). His adjustment to pro hockey took a little longer than some expected, but Simpson was showing well by spring and should take on a more significant role in 2015-16. One thing facing all blue in the system: There are SO many of them! Tough competition.
- No. 11 D Joey Laleggia (Not ranked last summer). I’m normally against ranking one dimensional types high on this list, but Laleggia is an exception for two reasons. First: What an offensive player! Fantastic numbers in college have me excited to see him in Bakersfield. Second: His college coach made a point of talking about JL’s progress defensively and that’s a very big item. There’s no clear sailing here but he’s got the kind of talent that gives a player lots of chances.
- No. 10 G Laurent Brossoit (No. 20 last summer). What a season! Edmonton’s lack of depth in goal has been addressed (with more to go) but Brossoit merely needs to keep going. Impressive player.
- No. 9 C-R Greg Chase (No. 6 last summer). The Oilers badly need Chase to turn out because he brings a lot of things that are unique on this list. An agitator of the first order, his skills make him capable of playing (potentially) on a scoring line eventually. A very significant player for the future but he’s going to have to work at it because the competition will be immense.
- No. 8 C Kyle Platzer (Not ranked last summer). A young man with a range of skills, he could end up on a checking or scoring line in pro. As is the case with Greg Chase, a lot of what happens for Platzer will depend on offensive output. If he brings his offense to pro, he could have a solid career.
- No. 7 R Anton Slelpyshev (No. 16 last summer). He’s been up and down this list like a yo-yo but at this point he has a real chance to impact Bakersfield (and make it to Edmonton) in 2015-16. Slepyshev is fast, skilled and slippery, can’t wait to see him in TC.
- No. 6 W Iiro Pakarinen (Not ranked last summer). A delightful addition to the Oilers prospect group, he flew past several highly touted prospects in OKC like a rocket-sled on a rail (thanks, C.W. McCall). He brings a rugged style, speed and some skill to the game and is absolutely in the NHL mix. Unlike many on this list, Pakarinen’s time is now. He’ll need to pass (and stay ahead) men like Andrew Miller and Tyler Pitlick to make the grade.
- No. 5 C Bogdan Yakimov (No. 5 last summer). It looks like he’s running in place but nothing could be further from the truth. A strong TC led to an average start in Ok City but he found the range when Anton Lander got the NHL call. Great expectations for this player.
- No. 4 D Griffin Reinhart (Not ranked last summer). Peter Chiarelli didn’t trade two valuable picks in a deep draft to watch this young man wilt in Bakersfield. He’s a big defender with one year in the minors (and some NHL games) to his credit. It’s hard to keep a good man down, suspect any demotion lasts like a snowflake in a hot place.
- No. 3 D Darnell Nurse (No. 2 last summer). He’s grown (up to almost 220 now) and he’s matured (I’m not buying this urge to roam business, Nurse will play the style dictated by the coach) and we are going to be witness to a fantastic career. Darnell Nurse was tailor made for the Edmonton Oilers fan base. We love him already.
- No. 2 C Leon Draisaitl (No. 1 last summer). I know he’s no longer No. 1 and he didn’t spend the entire season in the NHL, but lordy what a talent. It’s easy to overlook the size, the skill, the straightaway speed, but it’s an enormous skill package. Draisaitl will be overshadowed at TC but make no mistake: THIS is a big part of Edmonton’s future.
- No. 1 C Connor McDavid.If he plays all 82 games, I think 75 points is reasonable and if he loads up on carbs and power-play points, we may see a point-per-game. Incredible luck, once in a lifetime lottery. Music!