We are (pretty much) through the season for prospects, so it’s time to look back on the year and see about progress. I believe a team needs to wait five years after a draft before giving up on a player, and recent development timelines by Brandon Davidson and Tyler Pitlick suggests six or more may be wiser. For our purposes this spring, I’m going to concentrate on the 2012-2016 drafts, beginning with last year in the first installment.
JESSE PULJUJARVI, NO. 4 OVERALL 2016
- Played in the NHL (28gp, 1-7-8) including a goal in his first game and 7 even-strength assists (all first assists by the way, he had more first assists than Patrick Maroon).
- His NHL shots-per-60 total (7.27) was in the range with Anton Slepyshev and Zack Kassian. You’d like him to be higher (Eberle was 8.30) and that may come in the coming years.
- At the AHL level Puljujarvi went 39gp, 12-16-28 and was very productive with Anton Lander (when they played together).
- Puljujarvi is currently dressing (but not playing) for Finland at the WHC’s. It sounds like he will see action soon, possibly tomorrow in the team’s second game of the series.
- Summary: JP did not impact the NHL in year one but remains the top prospect in the system. There may be a job waiting for him this fall, but we are still trying to figure out what he is as a player. He may not be the sniper envisioned on draft day, but rather a big two-way type who can chip in across the spectrum. Good, not great, arrows.
TYLER BENSON, NO. 32 OVERALL 2016
- Went 33, 11-31-42 this season, solid boxcars and a fine NHL equivalency (28).
- Back in November, he was healthy and posting good numbers (14, 8-9-17)
- He began to score fewer goals, going 19, 3-22-25 before injuries flushed his season.
- The exact injury hasn’t been released (that I have seen), but Jim Matheson reported a ‘hernia concern’ being mentioned in an article in the Edmonton Journal on February 12.
- Summary: This is two seasons in a row for substantial missed time due to injury. There was a lot of hope for this player and we hope he is able to play a complete season. Development time has already been lost and that has an impact. We may be looking at a Marc Pouliot calibre career with this player.
MARKUS NIEMELAINEN, NO. 63 OVERALL 2016
- After a reasonable draft year (Niemelainen’s even-strength numbers were actually superior to Ethan Bear’s in his draft season), his offense disappeared (59gp, 3-6-9).
- He is a LHD whose value will come on the defensive side, so the Oilers can wait for him to develop (this is the deepest position in the organization).
- Niemelainen will play 2017-18 in Finland, perhaps suggesting his situation in the OHL was less than ideal. Saginaw has cool uniforms, though.
- Summary: We are looking at a longer term development path, that’s going to be a theme as we move down this draft. The talent gap between 2015 and 2016 makes itself obvious early, and I think Niemelainen may be more than one year away from AHL play in Bakersfield.
MATTHEW CAIRNS, NO. 84 OVERALL 2016
- Played in the USHL (Fargo Force 17gp, 0-4-4) and BCHL (Powell River Kings 18gp, 2-14-16) this season.
- Cairns is a big defender with a booming shot, his skating and overall defensive resume best described as raw. Another work in progress, somewhat similar to Niemelainen (but farther away based on league and results).
- He wasn’t playing enough in Fargo so moved to Powell River. A nice article appeared in the local paper in January that explained the situation.
- Summary: He will attend Cornell this fall and will likely spend two years, possibly four. His skill set (size, defense, big shot) fits the Chiarelli template and I expect we’ll be hearing from him down the line.
FILIP BERGLUND, NO. 91 OVERALL 2016
- Played in the SHL, a very good league, at age 19. That’s a very good sign. He went 47gp, 0-9-9 during the regular year and played sparingly in 7 playoff games.
- One of the ways to measure prospects is to compare them with familiar players of the past. Berglund averaged 9:30 a night playing time in the SHL this season; Oscar Klefbom averaged 17:27 at the same age. Not quite the prospect as Klefbom, but this is a fine prospect.
- Summary: I would guess that Berglund’s potential is higher than any player beyond Puljujarvi and Benson. We should expect at least one more season in Sweden and then an entry-level deal and time in North America. Good arrow.
DYLAN WELLS, NO. 123 OVERALL 2016
- No Oilers prospect in this draft did more to improve his standing than Wells in 2016-17.
- Petes goalie Coach Andrew Verner: “The advanced stats showed, I think, what he was dealing with on most nights, as far as number of shots and the quality of those shots. That doesn’t slip past us here. We know we rely on him heavily to maybe do a little bit more than some of the other goalies in the league. A lot more pucks are hitting him, especially what I call a ‘second-tier scoring chance’ not that ‘grade A’ chance, but not from the blueline, either.” Source
- Goalies are voodoo and we can’t project him too far, as this past season was his first top flight year (.916).
- He was even better in the playoffs (.930).
- Summary: The Oilers are suddenly drunk with legit goalie prospects, and Wells is the most promising among men bubbling under pro hockey. Another strong season in Peterborough should prepare him for the pro game. We don’t know what we don’t know, but he posted a very good arrow.
GRAHAM MCPHEE, NO. 149 OVERALL 2016
- McPhee was an obscure pick but had fans on draft day, including Corey Pronman who mentioned his potential on draft day.
- His scouting report on draft day: Strong skater with two-way ability, he was strong at the U18s (7, 2-3-5) for Team USA. Described by one scout as a ‘dump and chase’ winger, that’s an attractive option for Todd McLellan’s teams.
- He was drafted from the U.S. National Development Team, the Oilers don’t use many picks on that team despite overwhelming evidence of quality. Perhaps McPhee begins a trend.
- His first season with Boston College (39gp, 2-8-10) may suggest pedestrian offense, but college freshmen check and check and check some more. He will establish his offense in the years to come.
- Summary: He had a good year considering the Boston College depth chart. With Colin White, Austin Cangelosi, Matthew Gaudreau and Ryan Fitzgerald moving on, there should be opportunities on the skill lines.
AAPELI RASANEN, NO. 153 OVERALL 2016
- Rasanen is a Finnish RHC who possesses a complete skill set. He played for Sioux City of the USHL (38gp, 7-18-25) and has appeared for Finland in the last two WJC’s.
- Rasanen: ‘ I’m a 200-ft player. I can contribute on both ends. I’m good at face-offs and am an all-around center. I’m more of a playmaker.’Source
- Corey Pronman had him inside his Top 60.
- Will attend Boston College (and become a teammate or McPhee) this fall.
- Summary: He progressed well, the big issue is going to be offense (a theme in this Oilers’ draft). We’ll get a better read on him in the coming year.
VINCENT DESHARNAIS, NO. 183 OVERALL 2016
- Desharnais was drafted after his first college season with Providence. He went 32gp, 2-1-3 in his draft+1 season.
- He is 6.06, 207.
- Steve Kournianos (via the Lowdown): Very big, skates awkward but makes good first pass. Not physical, no way on the PP. Best thing he does is stand people up, use long stick to jar puck loose during board play. Doesn’t have Paigin’s shot/skill.
- It is difficult to get scouting reports on eastern seaboard college men, but what we heard this winter about Desharnais was positive.
- Summary: He is an unusual prospect, turns 21 in May. His numbers tell us he is a giant defensive defenseman with very little offensive upside, but sometimes the boxcars are dictated by handling (no power play). He seems a distant bell.
Up next: 2015, the Connor McDavid draft.