WWYDW: Which of the Oilers’ second-tier defensive prospects will stand out this year?


Much has been made of Darnell Nurse starting the camp in the No. 9 hole on defence, but it’s worth remembering that there is a whole list of defensive prospects even further back, some of them pretty good and quite close to being NHL-ready.

In this week’s edition of WWYDW, we ask which of the Oilers’ second-tier defensive prospects stands the best chance of emerging as a real NHL’er in the near future.

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The Options

Davidson, Brandon

  • Brandon Davidson. Pros: He’s a physical stay-at-home defencemen with decent wheels and some ability with the puck. Cons: He may lack the upside of other candidates here.
  • Martin Gernat. Pros: He’s a mobile, puck-moving 6’5” defenceman who at his best has some offensive upside. Cons: He’s injured right now and he’s coming off a year in which he was passed like a house on the side of the road by seemingly every D prospect in the organization.
  • Brad Hunt. Pros: He’s a truly elite offensive defenceman at the AHL level; his shot and playmaking skill are pretty clearly the best on this list in the here and now. Cons: 5’9” defencemen can’t afford to be mediocre skaters.
  • Joey Laleggia. Pros: He brings similar offensive skill to the organization that Hunt does, but he’s also highly mobile. Cons: Defensive zone work can be a bit of an adventure for the undersized rookie pro.
  • David Musil. Pros: He’s extremely big and strong, and he just doesn’t get enough credit for his well-developed hockey sense. Cons: Mobility is an issue.
  • Jordan Oesterle. Pros: He’s a mobile, intelligent defenceman who impressed last year and can move the puck. Cons: He’s a little raw defensively and lacks the same upside in the offensive zone as a Hunt or Laleggia.
  • Dillon Simpson. Pros: He’s an intelligent, well-rounded defenceman who can do a little bit of everything. Cons: He lacks a standout quality and needs to get noticed.

The Question


Which of these players stands the best chance of having a real impact with the Edmonton Oilers at some point in 2015-16? Immediately getting into games is obviously a consideration – it’s impossible to have an impact without playing – but we’re also trying to identify the individual who over the course of the season is best-poised to win a job. It’s one thing to be first in line for a cameo in November; it’s another to be the guy who gets leaned on in March and April.

My pick would be Musil. He’s a little further along in his pro development than a lot of the other options, which helps, and I’m a believer in his long-term potential. I think he’s strong enough and smart enough to overcome his skating limitations.

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As always, though, the final decision goes to our readers. Who do you like to emerge from the pack in 2015-16?


  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    I found it fascinating what the coach said about the A&B groups and that he wanted to see if people in group B would push to get in to A. That was expected but the statement about people in A thinking they had made it and were OK insinuating that an attitude like that would get them in to trouble was what got me excited.

  • That list of prospects is suspect at best. None of these guys deserves to advance to the big show at this stage. If we can ultimately convert one of the 7 to a full time, multi-year career in the NHL I think that would be about par for the course.

  • TKB2677

    I understand that you want to see what a player has to offer and training camp is the place to do it. So they started camp, had a few practices, some have played in the Rookie tournament, some played vs U of A, some played in the split squad games. But at this point, have they not seen enough of the guys listed above?

    Unless there is a massive amount of injuries, Gernat, Hunt, Laleggia, Oesterle, Simpson are 100% on making the team.
    Gernat can’t even play full time in the minors when he is healthy.
    Hunt is an AHLer because he can’t skate.
    Laleggia is barely out of college and is small so he needs significant time in the minors to even have a chance.
    Oesterle needs more time as does Simpson.

    Of Davidson and Musil, they are probably close and would be 3rd pairings guys in the NHL. But again, they aren’t making the team. Fayne, Ference, Gryba, Klefbom, Nikitin, Nurse, Reinhart, Schultz Sekera are the 9 guys that are battling for spots. One of Nurse or Reinhart will be in the minors probably. SO get rid of 7 that have zero chance of making the team and use the time to find out who of the best 9 are you starting the season with. Reinhart and Nurse would benefit from not having the other 7 guys that have zero chance being around taking up time with the coaches and vets.

    Same goes for the forwards. None of the following will be making the Oilers.
    Chase, Kessy, Moroz, Platzer, Hamilton, Khaira, Pakarinen, Yakimov so why are they still here? I’m excited about Yakimov but no way he’s ready. He’s only played in North America for a year. Hamilton, maybe you keep him around for respect being he’s a vet. But the rest have zero chance.

    I left Slepyshev off the list only because maybe they need time to see what he is all about given he’s straight over from Russia. I don’t even see Miller making the team given his size but you keep him up because he showed well last year.

    But like the defense, get the numbers down quickly so you can focus on the team, systems, lines, etc.

    • Bandwagon jumper

      Umm, you seem to have missed the announcement that the squad has already been split into TWO components, A and B.

      A group will get more opportunity to play together and develop a familiarity before the season starts. Unlike the method used by Eakins

      • TKB2677

        I didn’t miss the point about the 2 squads.

        The players in the “B” squad are still in Edmonton. They are still doing ice sessions, they are still on the team using team resources, watching video. They will still be meeting with coaches, doing sessions with the coaches, etc. They are taking up time and resources that should be focused on the guys that will actually be in the NHL playing games.

        When an assistant coach goes and teaches a player like say Kale Kessy or Martin Gernat, guys who are most likely “never will be” Oilers. Is that time well spent by a coach? Or would it be better served giving say Yakupov a guy who is an NHLer but a LONG way from being a good one a little extra time?

        My point which you clearly missed is there are a lot of guys who aren’t even close to making the team. Basically the majority of the “B squad”. Most of those players are either brand new pros or need more development. So why are they still here? There might be a few on the “B squad” that have a small chance so if you want to keep them go ahead. But for the majority of the guys that have ZERO chance, all they are doing is taking up coaching, practice and potentially game time away from other players like a Yakupov of a Schultz who need all the extra time they can get.

        • billythebullet

          It’s called succession
          Management. The Oilers are gauging what they have in the system. They are measuring how players react to the competition. How well they take the coach’s criticism and instruction.

          They are prospects who need to develop. They need coaching at the highest level. The organization needs to build symmetry on system play at the AHL and NHL levels.

          Would you like the Oilers to miss the next Brett Hull, Cam Neely or Tikka Rask because they didn’t give their prospect the opportunity to develop.

          The A and B squad is a vast improvement over the last few years.

          • TKB2677

            I totally agree. I like the fact they split the squad. I also understand you need to see what you have in players. My point is, I don’t see a point in keeping these guys around when you know they have zero chance of making it.

            For every team, if you were to give the GM and the coach truth syrup, there is probably 5 or 6 guys at each camp – a combination of forwards and defense – who might have a chance to make your team or are your main call ups. The rest are either career AHLers, junior guys, first year pros or young pros who need more development in the minors. So keep the 5 or 6 guys that have an outside shot or will be call ups, send down the rest.

        • Bandwagon jumper

          Hey TKB, I see your points. You are right that most of the B squad do not have a hope in making the NHL roster. And last year is a perfect example of what can go wrong when the coach uses all pre-season to pick his team.

          However, I have to disagree about sending the AHLers away too soon. These kids are going to learn soo much more from being around the NHL coaching and yes, the NHL talent we have on the A squad. We are finally in a position where our coaching is legitimately NHL calibr. Let TMac imprint these kids with what it is going to take to make the big team.

          I applaud the A vs B squad approach. It is head and shoulders far superior to what we had last year. The AHLers, will be sent on their way soon enough.

          • TKB2677

            I guess that is where we will differ. I don’t see the NHL as the place for kids to be learning the game. That is what the AHL is for. In my opinion, the main purpose of training camp is figuring out who are the best players you have to play the upcoming season.

            There are going to be some high end prospects who are NHLers or borderline NHLers that you will want to keep up longer but keeping the Matt Fords, Brad Hunts, Kharia, Winquist, etc who are either years away or will never be NHLers past the first week is a waste of time in my opinion. We are well into week 2. Some of the guys like a Winquist have been with the team for weeks due to the rookie camp, etc.

            Case in point. This local kid, Chistoffer who wasn’t drafted by the Oilers or anyone, came to camp, impressed and has earn himself an AHL deal. Good for him. He’s playing tonight? Not because he has a legit shot because he’s played well and they want to give him another game for the hell of it because he “earned it”.

            Call me cold hearted but training camp is to find the best team out of the players you have, not to give kids freebies so they can get their buddies free tickets to watch them. I’m happy the kid came in, busted his ass and impressed. He earned himself a pro contract.

          • Bandwagon jumper

            I guess my point is that keeping them around the NHL coaches would be my priority. That doesn’t necessarily mean game time. For the Nurses of the team, absolutely, get him in a few games. The others, let them practice with the pros for another week.

            I agree that the emphasis should now be on ensuring the CORE group is ready to play.

          • Bandwagon jumper

            Having more than. 8 defensemen limits the opportunities to give those players with a real shot the necessary reps that TMac wants them to get (his words). If you send the players packing who won’t make the club, you don’t have enough bodies to even ice a second group. I don’t believe the Condors are on the ice yet so those guys released are not on the ice at all. I do agree that keeping roster players together for PP, PK and other system development is a priority. We were weeks behind other teams last year figuring out who our 14th forward would be at the expense of playing our top six in exhibition play.

    • bradleypi

      Couldn’t agree more. Not sure why oilersnation doesn’t agree but it’s par for the course. In my mind the forward group is basically set as is thd defence. The only way any players from coach McLellans group b are making the team will be because of injury or PC finding ways to make room by miraculously finding someone to take ference and nikitins salary. But if I had to pick someone from that list, I agree with JW that musil would be the best fit. Positioning and stick work can make up for lack of mobility. Davidson maybe an option but he didn’t blow anybodys socks off when he gets his chances with the big boys. I’m also a fan of big Ben Betker. He looked pretty solid at both ends of the ice in the little bits he played this fall so far.

      • TKB2677

        Exactly, fans don’t get it. The Oilers have been at the bottom or near the bottom for how man years? In my opinion, they should be using every last single second they have for the players that will actually be on the team and playing in the NHL to practice, learn the system, get to know the new players, get to know the coaches know them. Figure out lines, PP, PK, etc.

        What possible good does having career minor leagues or failed prospects up with the team longer than absolutely necessary do for the team? Case in point.
        Tonight’s line up.
        Slepyshev, Yakimov, Brandon Christoffer?
        Could Slep and Yakimov play in the NHL at some point this year? Maybe so I’m OK they are up. WIll Christoffer play for the Oilers in the next 3 or 4 years? Probably not. He’s destine to maybe play in OKC. He’s a local kid. so you play him in the split squad game, then send him down. Why is he still here?

        Oesterle is paired with Nurse tonight. Oesterle is not making the Oilers this year. There are at least 9 guys ahead of him either because they are better or contract. Why is Oesterle playing? In my opinion, a guy like Nikitin who has a ton to prove and a big fat contract, would be better served to get as much playing time as possible to see if he can even play for your team.

        If you want to give a guy a game, give him the split squad. Play the absolute bare minimum of NHL vets required then dress as many fringe/AHLers you can get in. I am sure the coaches have 90% of the line-up already written in pen. The last 10% is your 6th and 7th Dman and maybe 1 or 2 guys on the 4th line and your 13th forward. Why are the still wasting time on the Christoffer’s and Oesterle’s who have less than zero chance of being on the team.

  • Davidson as an injury callup. Solid replacement, but he’s pretty close to peak. Arguably better choice than Ference or Nikitin.

    Laleggia as the prospect with the most potential. He’s shown nice flashes already and I think he’ll push for top two minutes in Bakersfield by the end of the season. He’ll push Hunt down the depth chart 5v5 but Hunt will retain his top pp spot.

  • The real question is when at a minimum are Ference and Nikitin flushed from the Oilers.

    More useful to discuss how that happens in the few days.

    The opportunity cost of keeping these two around any longer is unreasonable.

  • Now that it’s established Nurse is still a bust , why did they not trade him to Bruins for Hamilton , someone we could use . He must be pretty bad not being able to crack the worst defence in league after a 3rd attempt .

  • Reasonableness

    I agree with your choice of Musil. There’s a solidness to his game that a lot of those other chaos defensemen (Oesterle, Hunt, Laleggia) lack. The other name I would hazard a look at this year is Davidson. Rarely do defensemen from his mould “stand out.” But to me, he doesn’t stand out, just like Fayne doesn’t necessarily stand out. It can be a good thing.

  • A-Mc

    Im getting hung up on the part where you say “Real Impact with the Edmonton Oilers in 2015-16”.

    My response? None of them. Why? Because of Nurse/Reinhart.

    One day when the Oilers Defense squad looks like this:

    Then i think someone like Davidson has the best shot at making the team.

    Having said that, Laleggia is my favorite of all of those D, but i understand that he brings a certain skillset that probably wouldnt be used in a #7 role. So he’d probably come onto the team if Schultz gets sent packing.

  • Bandwagon jumper

    Musil, size, smarts, nasty and more upside to learn.

    if AF and NN are our 7/8 dmen, we might have the best NHL ready dmen to cover the eventual injuries?

    Joe Morrow filling in for Seidenberg
    Tyler Wotherspoon filling in for Brodie

  • billythebullet

    Joey Laleggia is my bet. Yes he is small but that isn’t a deal breaker. What he does bring is something the rest of our current defense does not. He could become our pp specialist sooner rather then later if he lights up the ahl.

  • Bandwagon jumper

    The AHL coaches are participating as well. It’s an organizational exercise. I do agree you have to cut the chafe sooner or later. But you also have to evaluate what you have.

    NN should play in every pre season game. I hope he rebounds, or gets an injury that keeps him out of the line up.

  • Jaxon

    I’m betting on LaLeggia to make it either late this season or next
    season. If this wasn’t the season of McDavid, Nurse, Draisaitl,
    Reinhart, Sekera, Talbot, then LaLeggia would be huge news. Mike
    Rielly signing with MIN was big news, but Joey outperformed him (this
    was Rielly’s draft+4 season tied with Joey’s draft+3). His
    production puts him in some solid NHL company. And many of those
    players jumped right into the NHL and scored between a 30 & 50 pt
    pace in their rookie season. His closest comparables are John-Michael
    Liles and Alex Goligoski in terms of production (in their draft+3
    season) and size. Goligoski is LaLeggia’s best comparison. If
    MacLennan is looking for help on the PP, LaLeggia may be the man to
    step in. I’m all for him spending some time in the AHL, but most of
    his comparables spent very little time there before jumping to the
    NHL and producing at an elite rate and none of them spent a minute in
    the ECHL. Note: One caveat being that Laleggia was passed over in 2
    draft years so his Draft+ seasons are later which skews the data a
    fair amount. Even considering that, his numbers are very impressive.
    Commonalities with LaLeggia in bold.

    NHLEs of notable NCAA D in their Draft+3 or final College year if
    undrafted (ND):

    Carle (6’0”, 205lbs, Hobey Baker Winner)

    Draft+3: NHLE =
    NHL = 12gp, 6pts, which is 41pts/82gp with SJS (small
    Draft+4: AHL = 3gp, 2pts
    NHL = 77gp, 42pts, which is
    45pts/82gp with SJS.

    Liles (
    5’10”, 185lbs, Hobey Baker
    Draft+3: NHLE = 43pts
    AHL: 5gp,
    Draft+4: NHL = 79gp, 34pts, which is 35pts/82gp with
    Draft+5: Lockout
    Draft+6: NHL = 82gp, 49pts, which is
    49pts/82gp with COL.

    Smith (6’2”, 198lbs,
    Hobey Baker Finalist)
    NHLE = 42pts
    Draft+4: AHL = 63gp, 32pts
    Draft+5: AHL = 57gp,
    NHL = 14gp, 7pts, which is 41pts/82gp with DET (small
    Draft+6: AHL = 32gp, 20pts
    NHL = 34gp, 8pts, which is
    19pts/82gp with DET.
    Draft+7: NHL = 71gp, 19pts, which is
    22pts/82gp with DET.

    Schultz (6’2”,
    187lbs, Hobey Baker
    x 2)
    Draft+3: NHLE = 39pts
    AHL = 34gp, 48pts
    NHL = 48gp, 27pts, which is 46pts/82gp with EDM.

    Leopold (6’1”, 205lbs, Hobey Baker Finalist and Winner)

    NHLE = 37pts

    Draft+4: AHL = 3gp, 3pts
    NHL = 58gp, 14pts,
    which is 20pts/82gp with CGY.
    Draft+5: NHL = 82gp, 33pts, which is
    33pts/82gp with CGY.

    LaLeggia (5’10”, 185lbs, Hobey Baker Finalist)

    NHLE = 37pts

    Gardiner (6’2”,
    NHLE = 34pts

    AHL = 10gp, 3pts
    Draft+4: AHL = 4gp, 2pts
    = 75gp, 30pts, which is 33pts/82gp with TOR.

    Goligoski (
    5’11”, 179lbs) – this
    could be LaLeggia’s best model

    Draft+3: NHLE =

    Draft+4: AHL = 70gp, 38pts
    NHL = 3gp, 2pts
    AHL = 26gp, 18pts
    NHL = 45gp, 20pts, which is 36pts/82gp with
    Draft+6: NHL = 69gp, 37pts, which is 44pts/82gp with PIT.

    Reilly (6’1”,
    183lbs, Hobey Baker Finalist)
    NHLE = 27pts
    Draft+4: NHLE = 36pts.

    Shattenkirk (
    5’11”, 192lbs)
    NHLE = 25pts
    AHL = 3gp, 2pts
    Draft+4: AHL = 10gp, 0pts
    NHL =
    72gp, 43pts, which is 49pts/82gp with COL & STL.

    than 41gp in Draft+4, Pts/82gp pace:

    Carle: 77gp, 45pts
    pace, bigger
    *Liles: 79gp, 35pts pace, similar size
    82gp pace in shortened season, 46pts pace, same weight
    58gp, 20pts pace, bigger
    Gardiner: 75gp, 33pts pace, same

    *Shattenkirk: 72gp, 49pts pace, similar size

    than 41gp in Draft+5:

    *Goligoski: 45gp, 36pts pace,
    similar size

    shows close comparables in production and size

    Notable Final NCAA Season NHLEs:

    Torey Krugg (ND) –

    Brad Hunt (ND) – 23
    Jordan Oesterle (ND) – 17
    McDonagh – 14